White House debt-reduction plan coming together

In his speech to Congress last week, President Obama briefly touched on the issue of debt reduction, urging the so-called super-committee to be even more ambitious in its goals in order to cover “the full cost of the American Jobs Act.” He added, “[A] week from Monday [Sept. 19], I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan — a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.”

One could hear an audible “uh oh” from much of the left, which was left to wonder what such a plan might entail.

The concerns about how far Obama might go — and just how much he’d give up — were more than reasonable. As part of an effort to strike a “Grand Bargain” with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in July, the president was prepared to go way too far with concessions on entitlements. Fortunately for all of us, too much wasn’t good enough for House Republicans, and the offer was rejected.

But now that the president is prepared to present his own “ambitious” deficit-reduction plan, how nervous should the left be? As it turns out, there’s actually some cause for optimism.

Jilted by Republican leadership during the deficit-reduction talks that accompanied the debt ceiling debate, the Obama administration is now pulling back an offer to put Social Security reform on the negotiating table.

The president will not include changes to that program in the series of deficit reduction measures that he will offer to the congressional super committee next Monday, administration officials confirm.

In July, Obama considered a plan to change the inflation formula of Social Security to chained consumer price index, which would have reduced benefits. With Republicans unwilling to accept the overly-generous offer, the CPI measure is apparently off the table.

White House Spokesperson Amy Brundage told Sam Stein the president’s plan “will not include any changes to Social Security because, as the president has consistently said, he does not believe that Social Security is a driver of our near and medium term deficits.” In case that wasn’t clear enough, she added, “There will be no Social Security in the recommendations.”

This is, to be sure, very good news.

And what about the possibility that the president might recommend raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67? Both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal report today that the White House doesn’t intend to recommend this, either. It’s more likely Obama’s plan will call for cuts to providers and/or higher premiums for wealthier recipients.

In other words, President Obama, burned by Republicans who rejected his outreach, apparently intends to keep up the fighting spirit we saw last week with the introduction of the American Jobs Act. If the reports today are accurate, the White House’s debt-reduction plan will be largely in line with what much of the left has wanted him to do all along.

Oddly enough, perhaps the most important progressive victory of the summer came when House Republicans turned Obama’s Grand Bargain offer down. Nevertheless, it appears the president learned a lesson from the ordeal, and isn’t inclined to make the mistake again.