Ezra Klein:

What people at the White House have told me on Social Security — and what I wrote in the post she’s referencing — is that there’s no intention to touch Social Security in the foreseeable future.

In Robert Gibbs’ just concluded press conference, questions about Social Security reform were posed by five different reporters. Gibbs does not say that "there’s no intention to touch Social Security in the foreseeable future." The full exchange is after the fold, but here he responds to Helen Thomas:

HELEN THOMAS: Why tinker with Social Security when it’s solvent until 2040, there are other issues in front of us.

GIBBS: There are many issues in front of us, but we are not going to get ourselves onto a sustainable path of fiscal responsibility unless or until we address many of those issues. The president wants to…

HELEN: Why is it an issue?

GIBBS: I don’t know the exact year, but there is an inflection point in the funding where the trust fund is, if we haven’t already passed the line, we’re soon to pass the line where what is going in and what is coming out no longer adds to that solvency of the trust fund and is no longer equal to each other. I think that…

HELEN: Some people just want to take from it. And there’s great suffering going on now, so I don’t see why you ought to…

GIBBS: Well Helen don’t posit that what the President wants to do is institute great suffering. But understand that the way the program is structured, and although the solvency may go to 2040 or 2041, there I think is great concern that the number of people that are paying in, and the number of people — what is paid in no longer equals what is is going out, therefore in order to get to some sustainable path to fiscal responsibility the President understands that some hard choices are going to be made. And he’s going to…

HELEN: Raising taxes?

GIBBS: Well, the President talked about some specific ways to do that in the campaign. I think you can’t have a discussion without people bringing a lot of ideas to the table to hash through.

If "there’s no intention to touch Social Security in the foreseeable future," why doesn’t Gibbs say it? Why is he saying that we’re "not going to get ourselves onto a sustainable path of fiscal responsibility unless or until we address" it, and that "it’s going to be hard to address a lot of our challenges without dealing with all of them at the same time"?

GIBBS ON SOCIAL SECURITY:

REPORTER #1: Is it true that the President was considering announcing a Social Security task force, but decided not to? And can you talk a little bit about how he wants to, today, put meat on the bones of actually addressing some of these problems that carried through on his deficit reduction promise?

MR. GIBBS: Well, Jennifer, I think everyone has seen the President convene today a summit on fiscal responsibility here at the White House. And reports over the weekend about a budget — that will be outlined in greater detail on Thursday — that shows a deficit that was inherited before the stimulus of nearly $1.3 trillion that the President believes and the economic team believe that we can cut in at least half at the end of four years, the end of his first term. I think the American people are rightly concerned about the path of this economy, but also concerned that for many years we’ve had a borrow-to-spend attitude. And what the President hopes to get our country back on is a program that helps us save and invest.

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REPORTER #2: What about the Social Security task force?

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me, again, not get ahead of where the President is going to be over the course of this week. I do believe, getting back to that first phrase, I think you will be able to see, both in what the President says on Tuesday and ultimately what is forwarded to Congress on Thursday, will demonstrate clearly the President’s intention and desire to see our country return to a path of fiscal responsibility, and in doing so, through honest budgeting, making very tough decisions that the American people understand we have to make, and cutting this deficit in half by the end of his first term.

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CHUCK TODD: Robert, I want to follow up on Jennifer’s first question, which was, did you guys have a Social Security sort of task force or something that was going to be a part of this –

MR. GIBBS: I’ll have to get back and — I will have to go back and read the article and see exactly what’s in there and check on that. Whether it is a — whatever you call it, the President — I think many of you –

TODD: So you’re not disputing the story?

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me — can you read back the — (laughter.) Let me go back and look through. But regardless of what you call it, Chuck, the President is committed to dealing with the rising costs of retirement security and health security in this country. You saw the President talk about, in Iowa and throughout the campaign, ways in which to strengthen the solvency and the longevity of Social Security. You’ll see the President talk about, as I just talked about with Chip, take actions to reform our health care system, which will add life to the Medicare trust fund.

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HELEN THOMAS: Why tinker with Social Security when it’s solvent until 2040, there are other issues in front of us.

GIBBS: There are many issues in front of us, but we are not going to get ourselves onto a sustainable path of fiscal responsibility unless or until we address many of those issues. The president wants to…

HELEN: Why is it an issue?

GIBBS: I don’t know the exact year, but there is an inflection point in the funding where the trust fund is, if we haven’t already passed the line, we’re soon to pass the line where what is going in and what is coming out no longer adds to that solvency of the trust fund and is no longer equal to each other. I think that…

HELEN: Some people just want to take from it. And there’s great suffering going on now, so I don’t see why you ought to…

GIBBS: Well Helen don’t posit that what the President wants to do is institute great suffering. But understand that the way the program is structured, and although the solvency may go to 2040 or 2041, there I think is great concern that the number of people that are paying in, and the number of people — what is paid in no longer equals what is is going out, therefore in order to get to some sustainable path to fiscal responsibility the President understands that some hard choices are going to be made. And he’s going to…

HELEN: Raising taxes?

GIBBS: Well, the President talked about some specific ways to do that in the campaign. I think you can’t have a discussion without people bringing a lot of ideas to the table to hash through.

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REPORTER #5: Back to Social Security. Any speculation about a task force or whatever aside, do you think that it’s politically and practically possible at this time to tackle major Social Security reform when you’ve got all these other big economic challenges that the president’s been talking about doing?

GIBBS: I think that the discussions…all of what we’re talking about, whether it’s fiscal responsibility, financial stability, health care, education, energy independence, recovery — are contained in the larger economic challenges that the country faces now. The President understands he wasn’t elected to preside over a series of fundamentally easy choices and decisions to get us from where we are to where he knows this country can be. Some of those decisions will be hard — he’s made many of them in a budget that you’ll see on Thursday — but I think the president understands that we have any number of big challenges that have to be addressed, and that we can’t shy away from.

REPORTER #5: Do you think your Democratic allies have the political stomach to deal with tackling major Social Security reform now?

GIBBS: I think that it is going to be hard…I think that it’s going to be hard to address a lot of our challenges without dealing with all of them at the same time.