It can be hard to say anything nice about a man whose administration would malevolently inflict a traffic jam on residents of the Tristate area, but Governor Chris Christie’s recent proposal aimed at fixing the country’s broken Social Security system may make him deserving of forgiveness. The plan focuses on means testing and gradual increases in the retirement age, though even if all of its measures were enacted, it would only address 60 percent of the program’s projected deficit. This is not grandma being pushed off of a cliff in her wheelchair; this is grandma reducing the ideal square footage when purchasing her Boca Raton condo.
Despite the clear urgency of such action, former Governor Mike Huckabee responded to a question about Christie’s plan and ones similar to it by saying, “That’s not a reform. That’s not some kind of proposal that Republicans need to embrace. Because what we’re really embracing at that point, you’re embracing a government that lied to its people. That took money from its people under one pretense, and then took it away from them at the time they started wanting to actually get what they paid for all these years.”
Huckabee’s sense of responsibility to keep government promises is admirable. However, not “embracing” the fact that the government, over the past several decades, utterly misled voters about the sustainability of Social Security will not suddenly make the program solvent. Furthermore, continuing to maintain the program at previously promised rates would only be achievable by wreaking havoc on the financial lives of those who those who were not old enough to vote, or not even born, at the time that the false promises were made.
The government has a responsibility to send the Social Security checks that it has promised would result from the taxes that senior citizens have paid for their whole lives, but it also has a responsibility to operate on a financial time horizon that extends beyond the next election. As Governor Christie appears to recognize, the solution will lie somewhere in the middle.
Unfortunately, this seemingly obvious path is somehow losing traction. Just a few short years ago, Social Security’s insolvency seemed to have bipartisan recognition, with the key items of debate being the proportions in which spending cuts, tax hikes, age increases, and other program details should each contribute to reform.
Recently, however, the Senate voted on an amendment to increase Social Security benefits. Apparently occupying an alternate budgetary reality, all but two Democrats who voted supported the amendment. While it remains to be seen whether these senators’ constituents will view this choice as reckless or be convinced by the Elizabeth Warren narrative that Social Security’s financial woes are a myth concocted by Republicans, such an aggressive move does effectively shift the center of the debate towards the left.
Against a backdrop of a party that wants to expand benefits, any Democratic candidate who is willing to make even the slightest of reforms will appear to be a moderate, and Republican primary competitors who are willing to take a strong stance may appear extreme. If the Senate Democrats’ choice is not clearly seen as the radical grasp that it is, the people most harmed will be those that they claim to protect: the young, the poor, and the disabled. If reforms are not made, those who rely on the government providing a financially secure safety net may one day find it gone entirely.
The Mary Landrieu campaign is out with a new hit against the Louisiana Democrat's Republican opponent, Congressman Bill Cassidy. The 30-second ad focuses on Cassidy's support for policies that supposedly hurt senior citizens. Watch the video below:
"It was Congressman Bill Cassidy who voted to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70, cut Social Security benefits for retirees, and raise Medicare costs by $6,000," says the voiceover.
Senator Mark Pryor is making entitlements an issue in the Arkansas Senate race. Both Pryor and his Democratic allies are hitting Republican nominee and House member Tom Cotton over his support for a budget proposal that would have, starting in 2022, gradually raised the retirement age for receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Robert Samuelson's fine column in the Washington Post, “America the retirement home,” argues that “The budget debate’s central reality is that federal retirement programs, led by Social Security and Medicare, are crowding out most other government spending,” and that this is endangering the other important functions of government, including defense:
First Lady Michelle Obama's social security number and credit report have been leaked online, the Associated Press reports.
"First lady Michelle Obama is the latest public figure to have her Social Security number and credit report leaked online by a website posting private data on celebrities and government officials," reports the AP.
Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan knocked President Barack Obama for "shadowbox[ing] a straw man" in his inaugural address. Speaking Tuesday morning on the Laura Ingraham Radio Show to guest host Raymond Arroyo, Ryan responded to Obama's statement that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security "do not make us a nation of takers, they free us to take the risks that make this country great."
Ryan called Obama's insinuation that he and other reform-minded Republicans consider recipients of these benefits "takers" a "switcheroo."
In 2008, Barack Obama promised to cut federal spending, cut wasteful programs, reform Medicare and Social Security, and create "5 million new jobs" in a "new energy economy." At Buzzfeed, Andrew Kaczynski has four videos of Obama making those promises at the town hall debate in 2008. Here, for instance, is Obama talking about the need to reform entitlements in his first term:
Yesterday, when speaking via video to the AARP, President Obama said, “But what I’m not going to do, as a matter of principle, is to slash benefits or privatize Social Security and suddenly turn it over to Wall Street.”
Yet last year, during the budget ceiling debate, President Obama said he'd be up for cutting Social Security.
Oxford, Ohio During a campaign event Wednesday night at Miami University of Ohio, vice presidential candidate and Miami U. alumnus Paul Ryan reminisced about the fond memories of his alma mater. "I spent a lot of formative years here," Ryan said. "I like my Skyline 5-way [chili], turkey gobblers, cheese fries, stickers.” He mentioned the time he got hurt at the local ice rink. “That’s why I have a cleft chin—14 stiches playing hockey here."
A new chart set to be released by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee details an alarming fact: In the last three months, more Americans have joined disability than have found a job:
As the chart shows, between April-June 2012, an estimated 246,000 Americans were added to Social Security's disability insurance program. In that same time period, only 225,000 American jobs were created.
One day before the Indiana primary, Dick Lugar has released a new ad accusing his opponent, Richard Mourdock, of wanting to "cut every single senior's Social Security." (Update: The ad was apparently released late last week.) The ad portrays an elderly woman talking about Mourdock's Social Security plan. "He's going to ruin people. Some can't get along without Social Security, every penny of it," the woman says. "Heaven help us, because Mourdock won't."
The 2012 Medicare and Social Security trustees’ reports have been released (see here and here). The headline is that the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund will have insufficient reserves to pay full benefits beginning in 2024 (the same year that was projected in last year’s report).