The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Election 2012

October 13, 2012

READ THE TRANSCRIPT: On paper, a different debate emerges

(Continued)

WHILE WE’RE DOING WORD COUNTS

The word “tax” (and its variations, like “taxes”) gets mentioned more than 100 times. “Job” and “jobs” get mentioned about 50 times. Moreover, the debate focuses tightly on the candidates’ tax plans and almost never gets into their jobs plans in any great detail. In my read of how the debate progresses, this is largely because Obama makes an early decision to focus on Romney’s tax plan even though the question was about jobs.

OBAMA ON SOCIAL SECURITY

This didn’t get the attention it deserved:

“You know, I suspect that, on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker — Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is — the basic structure is sound.”

This is basically right. Both Obama and the Republicans have simply refused to name major Social Security cuts, taxes or reforms in their budgets. But insofar as that hides a consensus, it’s a procedural consensus: Both sides believe that changes to Social Security are too dangerous to attempt without bipartisan cover. Whether a bipartisan process would lead to agreement on how to change Social Security remains an open question. But this answer does get at one truth: Obama is a lot more open to cutting Social Security as part of a “grand bargain” than many liberals would like.

OBAMA ON THE WORD “ENTITLEMENTS”

This should cheer liberals a bit:

“You know, my grandmother — some of you know — helped to raise me. My grandparents did. My grandfather died a while back. My grandmother died three days before I was elected president. And she was fiercely independent. She worked her way up, only had a high school education, started as a secretary, ended up being the vice president of a local bank. And she ended up living alone by choice.

“And the reason she could be independent was because of Social Security and Medicare. She had worked all her life, put in this money, and understood that there was a basic guarantee, a floor under which she could not go.

“And that’s the perspective I bring when I think about what’s called entitlements. You know, the name itself implies some sense of dependency on the part of these folks. These are folks who’ve worked hard, like my grandmother, and there are millions of people out there who are counting on this.”

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