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Progressives Want a Stronger Focus on Protecting the Safety Net | The Nation

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George Zornick

George Zornick

Action and dysfunction in the Beltway swamp. E-mail tips to george@thenation.com

Progressives Want a Stronger Focus on Protecting the Safety Net

The Democratic Party platform released this week ahead of the national convention in Charlotte laudably opposes any privatization of Medicare and Social Security, and doesn’t mention those programs in the section on deficit reduction. But it doesn’t explicitly say Democrats will protect those programs from cuts—only that trimming them can’t be the “only” solution. That’s an important distinction, given the upcoming fiscal cliff negotiations and recent willingness by the administration to discuss, for example, raising the Medicare eligibility age.

I asked Representative Keith Ellison, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, about the platform language yesterday. Speaking outside a church on the outskirts of downtown after a Progressive Democrats of America forum, he told me that nobody should worry too much about what the platform left out, but that he still wished it included stronger language on the safety net.

“I would prefer that it would say we won’t cut Medicare, Social Security [and] Medicaid. I’d prefer that,” he said. “But just because it’s not in a platform, doesn’t mean we’re not going to fight for it. Certainly the Progressive Caucus is absolutely dedicated, and I believe there’s way more people than just the Progressive Caucus believe in that idea, so I’m not too worried about it.”

The Progressive Caucus’ “People’s Budget,” unlike the official Democratic platform, straightforwardly promises to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from cuts. I asked Ellison if he was worried the administration would once again offer benefit cuts during the upcoming negotiations. “Well, it might be put on the table, but we’re going to take it right off the table,” he said.

Meanwhile, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has an op-ed in today’s USA Today urging President Obama to explicitly promise to protect Social Security during his acceptance speech tomorrow night.

“In order to win support from the American middle class, it is absolutely imperative that the president provide a strong agenda that speaks to their needs, and that makes clear he will fight to win those proposals against the right-wing extremists who now control the Republican Party,” Sanders wrote. “The president must make it clear to the American people that he will not cut Social Security.”

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