The White House today flatly ruled out raising the Medicare eligibility age as a means to reduce the deficit and tackle the looming sequester cuts. The measure, which President Obama once embraced, is no longer on the table, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told ABC News:
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Can you clarify for me very clearly? Is the president open to raising the eligibility age for Medicare?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No.
KARL: Absolutely not?
CARNEY: The president's made clear that we don't believe that that's the right policy to take. The president's made clear, in the proposals he put forward to John Boehner that John Boehner walked away from late last year, that he's willing to make tough choices with regards to entitlement reform.
KARL: But not that choice?
CARNEY: That's correct.
KARL: What about reducing the annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients?
CARNEY: Again, as part of a big deal, part of a comprehensive package that reduces our deficit and achieves that $4 trillion goal that was set out by so many people in and outside of government a number of years ago, he would consider the hard choice that includes the so-called chained CPI - in fact, he put that on the table in his proposal - but not in a cherry-picked or piecemeal way.
That's got to be part of a comprehensive package that asks that the burden be shared, that we don't, as some in Congress want, ask seniors to bear the burden of further deficit reduction alone, or middle-class families who are struggling to send their kids to college, or parents of children who are disabled, who rely on programs to help them get through. That's just not fair, and it doesn't make economic sense.
So - because the choice would be, let's do that but hold harmless the wealthy; let's do that, put the burden on seniors alone, but not close loopholes in our tax code that are available to wealthy individuals or corporations but not to average folks or small businesses. And that doesn't make any sense. How do you explain to a senior that we're doing this, asking you to sacrifice, but we're not saying that corporate jet owners should lose their special tax incentive; we're not saying to oil and gas companies, who are making record profits, that they should forgo these huge subsidies that taxpayers provide? That's not fair, and it's not good economics.
KARL: But I just want to be clear what you said at the beginning of that answer, which is the president, as part of -
CARNEY: It is not our -
KARL: - as part of an overall balanced approach, he does not rule out effectively reducing benefits for Social Security recipients.
CARNEY: He has put forward, as a technical change, as part of a big deal - and it's on the table that he put forward to the speaker of the House - the speaker of the House, by the way, walked away from that deal. Even though he met the Republicans halfway on revenues and halfway on spending cuts and included some tough decisions by the president on entitlements, the speaker walked away from that deal. But as part of that deal, a technical change in the so-called CPI is possible and is on offer as part of a big deal.