By Barry Grey
November 29, 2012
As the deadline for the so-called “fiscal cliff” grows nearer, the indications mount that, behind the smokescreen of deficit talks and media hype, the artificial fiscal emergency is the starting point of a process for making deep structural cuts in basic social programs that previously would have been considered politically impossible.
Scattered press reports and statements by some Democrats as well as Republicans make clear that any deal to avert the fiscal cliff will only be a down payment on fundamental attacks on social entitlements. In discussion are such moves as raising the eligibility age for Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly, cutting benefits for recipients of Medicare and Medicaid (the health program for the poor), and ending Medicare’s status as a universal program by instituting means-testing.
While the Democrats are proposing that Social Security, the government pension program for the elderly, not be included in a short-term agreement to be reached before the end of the year, they are not excluding structural changes in Social Security further down the road.
At the same time, both parties and the White House are agreed in principle on a revamping of the tax code to cut taxes for corporations and the rich and increase the tax burden on the vast majority of Americans.