President Obama is betraying his own promises and his Democratic base by agreeing to cut Social Security.
In 2007 and 2008, while running for president, candidate Barack Obama said, "I believe that cutting benefits is not the right answer."
On another occasion, he said that his opponent Sen. John McCain had suggested "that the best answer for growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut cost of living adjustments or raise the retirement age. I will not do either."
In his 2012 race, Obama called Social Security an unshakeable bedrock commitment.
These were unambiguous statements that reflected an empathy with the challenging economic circumstances that many seniors face.
Unfortunately, this sensitivity appears to have vanished in thin air. In the budget he submitted to Congress, Obama proposed an accounting technique aimed at Social Security and Medicare known as "chained CPI." This would reduce the cost-of-living-increases to the Social Security program over time, cutting the income of seniors and people with disabilities.
Even some Republicans are tagging Obama for attacking seniors.
And his most faithful constituents are bailing on this one. From Congress to the streets, the backlash has been severe.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote a strongly worded letter to the president to keep his "campaign promises to strengthen Social Security."
Members of the fiercely loyal Congressional Black Caucus, who rarely air their disagreements with the administration in public, have not hesitated to make their hostility to the proposal known.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., called the proposed cuts a "non-starter."
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., stated that caucus members had "practically pledged in blood" to reject any cuts in the programs.
Leaders of the AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women, MoveOn.org, the Campaign for America's Future and other liberal groups protested in front of the White House. They brought along with them more than 2 million signatures on petitions demanding that Obama drop the chained CPI idea.
Perhaps there are those in his administration who feel they can diss his base with little consequences. But if Obama has any hope of achieving a fraction of his second-term agenda, he will need to mobilize that base to fight the Republican hard-liners in Congress.
If seniors and the poor and all those who fight with them feel betrayed this early in his second term, Obama might as well spend the next three years playing with the White House dog.
Clarence Lusane, Ph.D., is the program director and a professor of comparative and regional studies at the School of International Service at American University. He is also the author of The Black History of the White House. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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