First, the proposal - "chained CPI", a change in the way inflation is measured - is very small. It reduces Social Security by a quarter of a penny on the dollar - a $2,000 check reduced by a five-dollar bill.
Second, the change is merely technical. The White House itself admits that the result is simply a more accurate measure of inflation.
It's not really cutting anything. It merely eliminates an unintended overpayment.
Finally, the president made it clear that he doesn't like this reform at all. It's merely a gift to Republicans.
This is odd. Why should a technical correction be a political favor to anyone? Is getting things right not a favor to the nation?
What the budget is crying out for is some entitlement reform that goes beyond the bare-minimum Consumer Price Index revision that just about every deficit commission of the last 15 years has recommended as an obvious gimme.
The other obvious reform is to raise the retirement/eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to match longevity. These programs were meant to protect the elderly from destitution, not to subsidize almost one-third the adult life of every baby boomer.
Given the president's distaste for even chained CPI, it's hard to see him ever agreeing to a major reform on the retirement age. Nonetheless, the proposition deserves testing - through a major GOP concession on revenue.
By way of tax reform.
The landmark 1986 Reagan-Tip O'Neill tax reform was revenue neutral. It closed tax loopholes and devoted the money to reduce tax rates
As I suggested last month, the GOP should offer Obama a major concession: a 50 percent solution in which only half the loophole money goes to reduce tax rates. The rest goes to the Treasury, to be spent or saved as Congress decides.
This seems to me the only plausible route to a grand compromise that restores the budget to fiscal health.
Its chances are remote. But they are mildly improved by a return to a regular order in which these kinds of compromises could be worked out over time, in debate, in committee, in Congress.
Can the Democrats, now gagging on just chained CPI, agree to a major entitlement reform like an adjusted retirement age? And are there enough Republicans who, for their part, are prepared to offer a 50-50 split of loophole revenues?
Game on. By regular order.
Krauthammer may be reached by email at lett...@charleskrauthammer.com.