Before Matt Lauer sat down with President Barack Obama for an exclusive one-on-one interview, TODAY solicited your questions for the president. Viewer Jeff Espeland, a 42-year-old building engineer from Barnesville, Minn., sent in the following question:
"Mr. Obama the CBO just issued a statement this past week that Social Security has reached the tipping point a full 6 years earlier than they originally had estimated, with that said how can we believe their figures on your healthcare plan that says we will save 138 billion in ten years?"
In his interview with Matt Lauer, President Obama responded to Espeland:
It is an interesting question. Here's the answer. Social Security, the reason that the tipping point was reached a little bit earlier is because the recession was so devastating. And presumably, if growth picks up-- then you'll see that adjustment made again. Now Social Security, generally, has to be reformed to ensure long-term sustainability. But in any given year or any given period, it might end up being way off from estimates because of something like the financial crisis. Here's the interesting thing though. The CBO has historically has actually underestimated the savings whenever Medicare has been reformed. Whenever we've made changes. And that was true the last time it was done. So we actually feel pretty optimistic that not only is 138 billion dollars going to be saved in the first ten years, but more significantly a trillion dollars will be saved in the second ten years. And the CBO was very conservative in estimating the kinds of cost savings that are gonna acrue...I am absolutely convinced that we're gonna save money.
TODAYshow.com checked in with Espeland to get his reaction to the president’s comments:
My only response back would be what are we looking forward to doing in the next 20 years? What happens if there is another crisis or financial downturn? It’s easy to be optimistic, but there’s always a chance that something unforeseeable comes up, particularly if unemployment continues to be at such a high rate.
I talk to some of the elderly guys at work about social security being insolvent, and worry about what’s going to happen to them few years. The writing is on the wall and we need to be discussing this.
President Obama’s answer sounds like just another politician answering another question – if things stay the same, then we’re looking good, but if things go bad, then there’s no plan. I just have a problem with everyone complaining about health care reform, complaining about tea party organizers – people badmouthing each other from both sides, meanwhile we aren’t really dealing with reaching the social security tipping point.
President Obama ran on the assumption unemployment would be 8 percent , but that turned out not to be the case either. So I’m not very comforted by his statement that we will save money.