Focus on Jobs, Don’t Mess with Medicare and Social Security

In anticipation of President Barack Obama’s speech to Congress on the job situation this coming Thursday, pundits are heatedly debating whether the president should go big or small in his recommendations for action. Given Friday’s dreadful jobs report—no net new jobs created—and the stated priorities of the American public, it would seem like going big is in order.

Right after the debt ceiling deal last month, the public was asked whether creating jobs or cutting spending should be our nation’s highest priority now. By an overwhelming 62 percent to 29 percent margin, the public prioritized job creation. Sounds like a cue for serious action rather than small-bore proposals that won’t have much of an effect on the problem. (see chart)

chart 1

That’s the public’s priority. The American people also have some priorities about what they don’t want to happen as Congress continues its deliberations about the long-term budgetary situation. By a lopsided 64 percent to 35 percent, they say they don’t want major changes in Social Security and Medicare included in future deficit reduction proposals. (see chart)

chart 2

Create jobs and don’t mess around with Social Security and Medicare. A simple recipe for Congress if only they could be induced to follow it.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.