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Maddow vs. Axelrod On Social Security Cuts: Is Obama Losing Touch With Left By Reaching Out To GOP?

David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama, talks with Rachel Maddow about whether President Obama risks losing support from his base by capitulating too much to Republicans on Social Security and Medicare.

RACHEL MADDOW: I feel like the argument -- you're answering my question implicitly by wanting to argue this on policy rather than talking about its political impact. I feel like what the White House must want is a fight with the left, because if it really was about the sustainability of Social Security, you can get there without benefit cuts.

You know that people stop paying the payroll tax contribution on Social Security at $110,000 or $113,000. You raise that by $100,000, you're only affecting people who are making that much money and you put Social Security on a path towards solvency. That makes more sense than cutting old people's benefits right now. I think this is a fight they want on the politics.

DAVID AXELROD: I agree with you, and I think it has great appeal and a combination of those things would be great. Probably not salable, but good. We should mention that my understanding is the president's budget builds into it protections for older seniors, for people who are vulnerable, for people who are on the lower end.

But, you know, I know that I'm a political guy, right? I spent my whole life working on elections, two years in the White House. But you asked me what is the president thinking, and I don't think that he's sitting there thinking, 'How can I get some advantage by picking a fight with the left or picking a fight with this constituency or that?'

I honestly think what he's trying to do is pass a budget that keeps us from decimating our economy as the Republican budget would. That restores the sequester cuts that need to be restored, that makes investments that need to be made in things like education and in research. The things we know, infrastructure, $50 billion more in infrastructure. These are things that would help our economy in the short run, you know, expanding the earned income tax credit would help deal with inequality, so, I think he's looking at this.

You say I'm talking policy you're talking politics, I think he's thinking policy. I think he is thinking 'this is something I can get done.' It is a -- reasonable people in the Senate and the House could vote for it, and it would preserve the things and enhance the things that we need to do as a country.

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