In 2008, Obama repeatedly attacked John McCain, arguing that, if elected, his Republican opponent would slash social security. Obama, by contrast, said he would preserve benefit levels by raising the income cap on payroll taxes that finance social security payments. Obama's relentless attacks on McCain regarding social security helped to shore up support from elderly and traditional liberal voters.
Nevertheless, while candidate Obama criticized McCain, he conceded that he would consider cuts to social security as well. During a 2007 Democratic candidates debate at Dartmouth College, for example, Obama stated that he believed and that he had previously stated that everything should be "on the table" in order to save social security. Obama has made similar statements since his election. During a 2010 interview on MTV, for example, Obama affirmed his earlier position that all options with respect to social security "are on the table."
Democrats should consider the substance of any proposal that Obama makes. Perhaps cuts are necessary. Maybe raising the retirement age is fiscally sound. Or maybe eliminating the cap on payroll taxes is the best solution. But Democrats should not act surprised by Obama's negotiating position. As usual with Obama, the substance is in the fine print for those who pay attention.