Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made headlines yesterday when he publicly rebuked lobbyist Grover Norquist, saying that he was willing to violate his pledge against increasing any taxes. (Graham actually broke with Norquist's pledge back in June.)
What the news coverage of Graham's remarks missed was why this staunchly right-wing senator was breaking Norquists pledge.
For months, Graham has been working with a group of senators who want to implement the Bowles-Simpson plan to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits and lower corporate tax rates. This plan does end some tax deductions and loopholes, which is why Norquist opposes it, and, by extension, Graham.
Like Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) before him, Graham thinks it's more important to gut our social insurance programs than it is to uphold Norquists's pledge. That is not cause for celebration among progressives.
In fact, Graham is asking for cuts in Medicare benefits that are even more severe than what Bowles-Simpson proposed. Here's what he said on ABC's This Week:
GRAHAM: It goes to 66, 67 here pretty soon for Social Security. Let it float up another year or so over the next 30 years, adjust Medicare from 65 to 67 over the next 30 years, means test benefits for people in our income level. I don’t expect Democrats to go for premium support or a voucher plan, but I do expect them to adjust these entitlement programs before they bankrupt the country and run out of money themselves.
Going from committing to Grover Norquist's pledge to never increase taxes to a promise to gut Social Security and Medicare is like going from out of the frying pan and into the fire. Social Security and Medicare are not going bankrupt.
Seniors on Medicare and Social Security did not cause the Great Recession, Wall Street did. And they should not be asked to pay for the resulting debt.
We should look instead to Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren for a credible approach to dealing with the deficit over the long term.
Warren has an alternative, truly "balanced approach" to tackling the deficit. During a campaign debate last month, she laid out a popular vision for dealing with the deficit: cut back on wasteful military and agriculture subsidy spending, and make the rich pay their fair share. Watch Warren explain: