Tuesday, June 29, 2010

House GOP Leader going after Social Security

Please pray for the health of (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi. In an editorial on June 24, The Washington Post commended House Majority Leade Steny Hoyer for, as the paper put it, urging "that lawmakers should consider raising the retirement age and making Social Security and Medicare more progressive. (Translation: lower benefits for wealthier seniors.)"

We should hope not only for the health of Nancy Pelosi, blocking the way for Steny Hoyer to become Speaker but, for the same reason that the Democratic Party maintains control of the House of Representatives.

House Minority Leader, Ohio's John Boehner, is doing his part. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the would-Speaker "said he’d favor increasing the Social Security retirement age to 70 for people who have at least 20 years until retirement, tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation and limiting payments to those who need them." He added "If you have substantial non-Social Security income while you’re retired, why are we paying you at a time when we’re broke?"

There are two reasons which come to mind. One was noted by Dean Baker when he responded to the Post's references to "wealthier seniors" and "more progressive":

....very little money can be obtained by cutting benefits for the small number of genuinely wealthy elderly. The only way to save large amounts of money from these programs is by cutting benefits for large numbers of people, including people who are not wealthy.

Everyone in the debate knows this, but since cutting benefits for middle-income families who paid for these benefits with their taxes is not popular, we get nonsense lines about cutting benefits for "wealthier seniors" to make the program "more progressive."

And another: means-test Social Security and it ceases being a social insurance program and a covenant between the older and the younger generations, and it becomes a welfare program. If Social Security recipients are demonized now, just consider how they will be when they are increasingly considered to be welfare recipients.

Of course, "we" are not "broke" in the least because of Social Security, whose surplus funds have helped keep the federal government afloat while Boehner and his cronies have been continuously cut taxes for the wealthy. Even so, the Social Security trust fund is projected to be fully solvent for more than 25 years from now.

But let's be thankful for small things: Boehner wants to increase the Social Security retirement age to 70 only for individuals with 20 or more years until retirement- or so he claims. He's banking, obviously, on what he hopes is the selfishness of the currently elderly- that as long as they are getting theirs, they won't mind stiffing the younger generation. His view of Americans (elderly, in this case) may not be positive, but it seems to run in the (GOP) family.

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