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Debt Deal: No New Taxes and No Social Security or Medicare Cuts — Yet

Law creates new super-committee to set future cuts

Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, said “our work is clearly cut out for us,” in preventing benefit cuts in the next round of deficit cutting.

“Americans of all ages and political persuasions know that Social Security and Medicare have not caused this economic crisis and do not support cutting these programs to pay down the debt.  Yet, Washington continues to use these vital programs, and the Americans they serve, as bargaining chips in a quest to balance the budget on the backs of working class Americans and their families,” he said.  

Nation won't face a debt crisis before the 2012 election

One victory Obama did win out of the package is that he won't have another debt ceiling impasse before the 2012 elections. The country won't need another debt ceiling deal until the end of 2012 — the same time that President Bush's tax cuts automatically expire. The White House noted that Obama could cut $1 trillion in deficit spending at that time by letting the tax breaks for the wealthy expire. Republicans in Congress have fought that idea; after the cuts expire, they would need to pass new legislation to reinstate them.

Many lawmakers said Monday that they were relieved to find a way around the country's first default. Economists had warned that if the United States didn't pay its bills, interest rates would rise not only on the government's borrowing but for citizens on mortgages, car loans and credit card debt. Economists also warned that higher interest rates could let the air out of the economy by leading to lower stock and bond prices.

Foster says the credit rating could deteriorate because the debt deal doesn't go far enough in tackling the nation's fiscal problems.

That is exactly what lawmakers have been seeking to avoid.

"You don't want to risk a major meltdown in the financial markets, which could be a risk for seniors and those who have retirement savings they are counting on," Certner says.

Tamara Lytle is a veteran Washington political correspondent.

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