Liberal groups threaten primaries over Obama budget

Progressives, furious with Obama's proposal to cut Social Security and Medicare, put Democrats on notice

Topics: Chained CPI, Barack Obama, Social Security, Medicare, Democrats, Liberals, ,

Liberal groups threaten primaries over Obama budget (Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Today may mark a nadir in the often strained relations between President Obama and the “professional left,” as Robert Gibbs derisively called the progressive movement, which has been pushing for months to prevent Obama from endorsing cuts to the social safety net. When the White House released its budget today, it was clear the president hadn’t listened to the increasingly urgent threats and pleadings from the people who helped elect him, as his spending proposal includes a change to the way Social Security benefits are calculated, called the chained CPI, as well as changes to Medicare.

The cut is anathema to liberal activists and lawmakers, who have gone all in to oppose the cut, warning Obama would face a “huge backlash” from his own base if he endorsed it. Now they’re threatening primary challenges against any Democrats who vote for their president’s budget.

“You can’t call yourself a Democrat and support Social Security benefit cuts,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group which endorses liberals in primaries, sometimes against establishment picks. “The president is proposing to steal thousands of dollars from grandparents and veterans by cutting cost of living adjustments, and any congressional Democrat who votes for such a plan should be ready for a primary challenge. Social Security is the core of the progressive and Democratic legacy. The President has no mandate to cut these benefits, and progressives will do everything possible to stop him.”

You Might Also Like

Over 100 Democratic House members — more than half of the caucus — have already signed a letter pledging to vote against any bill that includes entitlement cuts, meaning Obama may well have to rely on Republicans to pass his budget.

“Millions of MoveOn members did not work night and day to put President Obama into office so that he could propose policies that would hurt some of our most vulnerable people,” said MoveOn.org Executive Director Anna Galland. “Just as we fought and defeated President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, we will mobilize and stop this attempt to diminish the vital guarantee of Social Security… Every member of Congress — Democrat or Republican — who votes for this proposal should expect to be held accountable.”

Most of all, the left feels betrayed. Alex Lawson, the executive director of the advocacy group Social Security Works, noted that Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union Address that he wouldn’t cut Social Security. “Today we learned that his budget breaks that promise and risks the legacy of Democrats going back to FDR by offering to immediately cut the earned benefits of those least able to afford it,” he said.

Last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive hero, told me, “‘Chained CPI’ is just a fancy way to say ‘cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled, and orphans.’ Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle-class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch.”

While chained CPI has been called by some the least bad way to cut the social safety net, even liberals who support it often say it should only be used as a major concession to Republicans to get something Democrats want. But by putting it on the table now, Obama has already pre-conceded to demands that no Republicans have specifically made, and finds himself in the awkward position of being the only major player in either party to suggest cutting Social Security.

UPDATE: Democracy for America communications director Neil Sroka told Salon that any Democrat who votes to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits would run afoul of his group as well and should expect a primary challenge. “Plain and simple, siding with the president in support of these cuts is tantamount to declaring war on the Democratic base, which helped elect each and every member of the Democratic Party,” he said.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>