Entitlement programs are no longer off limits for cuts.

President Obama called for Medicare and Medicaid reform in his jobs speech to Congress. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” in the previous night’s Republican debate.
It looks like everything could be up for grabs in the bipartisan race to dismantle our Federal government’s social safety net.

A Bipartisan Move to Tackle Benefits Programs

by JACKIE CALMES, nytimes.com
September 8th 2011

At the same time, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill expressed a willingness to wring savings from the long-untouchable programs during the first meeting of the special committee that is charged with recommending $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions over the decade. Then President Obama, in his address to a joint session of Congress on spurring job creation, reiterated his call for a plan reducing long-term debt with both changes in entitlement programs and taxes from the wealthy.

To the chagrin of many in his party, this summer Mr. Obama proposed changes in Medicare and Social Security that once would have been unthinkable for a Democratic president during his unsuccessful talks with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, for a “grand bargain” on cutting deficits. In return for the Republicans’ agreement to raise taxes after 2012 for the wealthy, Mr. Obama indicated that his party would support slowly increasing the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65 and changing the formula for cost-of-living increases in Social Security to a less generous one that some economists consider more accurate.

Until Mr. Perry’s recent entry into the Republican contest, the debate over reining in the projected growth of the entitlement programs focused on the health programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Their projected costs, given the aging of the population and fast-rising medical expenses, are greater and growing faster than those for Social Security.

The turn in both parties toward tackling the cost of the entitlement programs has been building. In 2010, Congressional Democrats approved about $500 billion in future savings from Medicare to help pay for the new health care law, though Republicans attacked them for it in last year’s midterm elections. But the onset of the new deficit committee’s work and Mr. Perry’s scathing critique of social spending has added a new dimension.

At the first meeting of the House-Senate committee on deficit reduction, which is to make recommendations by Nov. 23 for a quick up-or-down vote in Congress, several Republicans said that entitlements were the main cause of annual deficits and should be the panel’s focus.

James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a House Democratic leader on the panel, said that he was for “smart and compassionate budget cuts” and “ending military adventurism,” but that Congress must not shred Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Separately, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Sander M. Levin of Michigan, circulated a memo listing two dozen options that could squeeze more than $500 billion out of Medicare in the next 10 years. Aides to Mr. Levin said that he was not endorsing the ideas but helping other Democrats understand the sorts of actions that could be taken.

Read more at

 

A look at freedom and liberty in the US ten years after 9-11-01

A recent poll revealed some surprises about how Americans feel about their constitutional rights after ten years of changes in how the Fourth Amendment has been applied in their lives. They still care a great deal about civil liberties protections, even in the face of the need to deal with increased government surveillance. They have differing levels of tolerance for intrusions however, depending on the circumstances.
Readers are encouraged to read the full WaPo article for the details of this truly fascinating poll.

Amplify’d from www.washingtonpost.com

Poll: Americans open to trading off some liberties _ within limits _ to fight terrorism

By Associated Press, Published: September 6

WASHINGTON — Surveillance cameras in public places? Sure. Body scans at airports? Maybe. Snooping in personal email? Not so fast.

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks led to amped-up government surveillance efforts, two-thirds of Americans say it’s fitting to sacrifice some privacy and freedoms in the fight against terrorism, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

A slim majority — 54 percent — say that if they had to choose between preserving their rights and freedoms and protecting people from terrorists, they’d come down on the side of civil liberties. The public is particularly protective of the privacy of U.S. citizens, voicing sharp opposition to government surveillance of Americans’ emails and phone calls.

The poll asked people to grapple with some of same quandaries that the government and the courts have been wrestling with over the past decade, and even before the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Two-thirds of those surveyed believe the resulting policies are a mish-mash created in reaction to events as they occur rather than clearly planned.

The AP-NORC poll found that about half of those surveyed felt that they have indeed lost some of their own personal freedoms to fight terrorism. Was it worth it? Close to half of those who thought they’d lost freedoms doubted it was necessary.

Overall, six in 10 say the government is doing enough to protect Americans’ rights and freedoms as it fights terrorism. But people may not even be aware of what they’ve given up. The extent of government eavesdropping and surveillance is something of a mystery.

Read more at www.washingtonpost.com

 

From President Obama:

This is the Email sent to me from Organizing for America/President Barack Obama.  I am posting it today because it provides a good summary of the main points of his State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday night , the 25th.  I have omitted any interactive elements.

Carol —

Tonight I addressed the American people on the future we face together.

Though at times it may seem uncertain, it is a future that is ours to decide, ours to define, and ours to win.

I know we will.

Because, after the worst recession in decades, we see an economy growing again.

Because, after two years of job losses, we’ve added private-sector jobs for 12 straight months — more than 1 million in all.

Because, time after time, when our resolve has been tested, we, as a nation, have always prevailed.

Overcoming the challenges we face today requires a new vision for tomorrow. We will move forward together, or not at all — for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

Yet the story of America is this: We do big things.

Just as the progress of the past two years would not have been possible without your hard work, we will not realize the agenda I described tonight without you.

So as we continue this great mission together, and we set out the plans for how far we can go, I need to know that you are ready to work side by side with me once more.

The last two years have been marked by unprecedented reforms and historic progress.

But there is much more work to do.

Moving forward, America’s economic growth at home is inextricably connected to our competitiveness in the global community. The more products American companies can export, the more jobs we can create at home.

This vision for the future starts with innovation, tapping into the creativity and imagination of our people to create the jobs and industries of the future. Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s. It’s why I challenged Congress to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.

It means leading the world in educating our kids, giving each of our children the best opportunity to succeed and preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow.

We must build a 21st century infrastructure for our country, putting millions of Americans to work rebuilding roads and bridges and expanding high-speed Internet and high-speed rail.

We must reform government, making it leaner, smarter, and more transparent.

And we must take responsibility for our shared debt, reining in our long-term deficit so we can afford the investments we need to move our country forward.

That is the vision I laid out tonight. That is how we win the future.

It is going to take a lot of work — but I have no doubt we are up to the task.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.

But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets. We unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.

Please stand together with me.

It is because of each of you, who define the will of a people, that the state of our union is strong in the face of tough challenges. You are the reason our future is still bright in the face of deep uncertainty.

And you are the reason I believe that future is ours to win.

Thank you,

Barack

Obama tells students to dream big

By Shirley Jinkins Eva-Marie Ayala and Sandra Engelland

Star-Telegram staff writers

President Barack Obama’s second annual back-to-school welcome to the nation’s students didn’t create as much controversy in North Texas schools as last year, with fewer parents objecting to their children viewing the address and more districts making it available.

Speaking to students at an elite school in Philadelphia, the nationwide speech lasted about 20 minutes. The president told students that “nothing — absolutely nothing — is beyond your reach. So long as you’re willing to dream big. So long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education.”

At Arlington’s Shackleford Junior High School, about 750 students viewed Obama’s address, either live or taped depending on their lunch periods.

Only two parents requested that their children be exempt from watching the speech, Principal Andy Hagman said.

“It’s just part of the school day,” Hagman said. “I have sensed no controversy about this at all.”

Students in Angelique Bell’s seventh-grade math class sat quietly during the address, though a couple of girls put their heads down on their desks as soon as the room darkened. . .

Keller district students, too, watched Obama’s address with little fanfare or controversy on Tuesday.

All 32,000 students in the district had the opportunity to view the speech, either live or on tape.

A year ago, many Keller parents objected to their children watching the speech during the school day, with about 5 percent of parents requesting that their children opt out of listening to Obama’s address. . .

Obama said students today may have many challenges to face, as the war in Afghanistan continues and the economy struggles. He said some students may be working to support their families and feel that they should scale back their dreams. But he encouraged students to follow their dreams no matter how hard they seem to accomplish.

“Nobody gets to write your destiny but you,” Obama said. “Your life is what you make of it.”

syjinkins@star-telegram.com, eayala@star-telegram.com, sengelland@star-telegram.com

Looking for comments?

It is a very good thing that fewer parents are choosing to deprive their children of the opportunity to hear their President’s annual message. In my day it would have been unheard of for any parent to object, as far too many do these days. If that makes me an “old fogie,” so be it.