Retirement costs factor into fiscal cliff talks

Continued negotiations to attempt to avert the fiscal cliff continued to move at a slow, slow pace this week, though - as feared - the delicate issue of cutting America's retirement benefits to help pay the way has finally been broached.

According to the Washington Post, while Democrats complain that the Republicans have yet to offer their own solution that would preserve tax cuts and raise revenue from the richest wage-earners in the country, Republicans counter that President Obama has yet to figure out a way to effectively hold back costs for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

Thursday is scheduled to see the first major negotiations on the issue, though representatives of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said they hoped that Democrats would also appear with their own ideas on how to control retirement benefit spending.

"We accepted this meeting with the expectation that the White House team bring a specific plan for real spending cuts - because spending cuts that Washington Democrats will accept is what is missing from the balanced approach that the president says he wants," said Michael Steel, Bohner's spokesperson.

In response, the White House says it has already offered to cut some $340 billion from federal health programs by charging more for Medicare benefits for higher-income seniors, and that the Obama Administration is indeed open to more ideas to change those entitlement programs.

As for those negotiations producing tangible results, a go-between enlisted to try to aid both sides in reaching an agreement admits that chances are very low, especially on the issue of retirement benefits programs.

"I think it's at most a one-third possibility we'll get something done before the end," said Erskine Bowles, former Democratic White House chief of staff. "There has been no serious discussion yet about entitlement reform."


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