Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare have long been considered untouchable in politics, but with budget showdowns looming at the state and federal level, some moderate Republicans are joining with like-minded Democrats to call for a change.
"We are teetering on the edge of disaster,” New Jersey governor Chris Christie told the conservative American Enterprise Institute yesterday, adding that it had become a "political strategy" for Republicans to avoid reforming entitlement programs. "Stop playing the political games. Stand up and do the right thing and speak the truth. Or join the long parade of leaders who have come before us and failed.”
"You're gonna have to raise the retirement age for Social Security," Christie said. "Oh ho. I just said it and I'm still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpeting, and I said it."
In the Senate, a bipartisan group that includes budget hawks like Tom Coburn along with prominent Democrats Dick Durbin and Kent Conrad is at work on a legislation that will trigger new taxes and budget cuts if Congress fails to meet its spending targets and fiscal parameters for reducing the federal deficit.
The plan would break the task of deficit reduction into four pieces: a tax code overhaul; discretionary spending cuts; changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements; and changes to Social Security, aides said. The Social Security system is on firmer financial footing than other major entitlement programs and raises political sensitivities that lawmakers want to deal with separately.