Those of us concerned with the fate of Social Security watched President Obama's State of the Union address closely. We expected to learn whether the president would signal support for the proposals put forward by the bipartisan Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. But instead of commenting directly on the group's proposals—to change the benefit formula, the tax base, and the retirement age—Mr. Obama mentioned Social Security only long enough to issue vague warnings against "putting at risk current retirees" and "slashing benefits for future generations."
The president's admonitions were perplexing given the Social Security reform plans on the table. Neither Republican nor Democratic plans, nor the plan put forward by the commission, would cut benefits for today's seniors or for the poorest workers. Whether the status quo remains or the system is reformed, Social Security benefit levels will grow substantially from this point forward. That makes the president's warnings confusing at best.