Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Push to Expand, Not Cut, Social Security

When members of Congress voted to end the Tea Party-led government shutdown last month, they imposed a December 13th deadline on themselves to reach a long-term budget deal. As that deadline approaches, media chatter about the budget is bound to get louder. So what will the "talking heads" be discussing?

Well, the conventional wisdom in D.C. is that current budget negotiations are all but guaranteed to cut Social Security and/or Medicare benefits --- but there are those who have been shifting the conversation to expand Social Security, not cut it. In the past week alone, we've seen articles in the New Republic, BuzzFeed Politics and the Washington Post, all with the same message:

The push to expand (not cut) Social Security is gaining steam!

On Nov. 6th, the Census Bureau published data based on the supplementary poverty measure for 2012. It shows a poverty rate of 16 percent, one percentage point higher than the official measure. The supplemental report also shows what the impact on poverty is from various government programs. Thus, we've learned that if the Social Security program did not exist, the poverty rate would be 24.4 percent --- 8.4 percentage points higher than it is now.

The simple truth is, we're already facing a crisis. According to one report, 67% of today's seniors won't be able to maintain their standard of living in retirement. We need a solution immediately, and the most logical way to solve this problem is to improve on the most successful social program in American history by increasing Social Security benefits — not cutting them.

Senators Tom Harkin and Sherrod Brown have co-sponsored a bill (S.567) the Strengthening Social Security Act (which includes phasing out the earnings cap on contributions so that the super-rich pay the same percentage of their income as everybody else).

This position has been gaining a lot of traction in the media, but to make this a reality for the 99%, we need to understand the threats that we're facing from the top 1% and their GOP allies --- and what we can do about it.

The House Budget Committee is chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Senate Budget Committee is chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and they are meeting again this week to find ways to cut spending, but without raising taxes. It would be win-win for the GOP and the top 1%, but and a lose-lose for the Democrats and the 99% (those who will at some time in their lives rely on Social Security and Medicare).

Imagine this scenario: one or two not-so-great Democrats on the committee will see an opportunity to make themselves look "serious" about a "budget crisis" (that's already been in decline).

We've been hearing a lot about the debt and deficits—ever since the Democrats were in control of the government. But government spending is down and we have less federal workers than since 1966. And government spending is down faster than since WWII.

But still, maybe one or two not-so-great Democrats will start to talk about a possible "compromise" with Paul Ryan to "fix" entitlements. If so, then we've got big problems, because essentially, one or two supposed "centrist" Senate Democrats could force the whole caucus into the deep end of the pool with Paul Ryan --- where even "winning" the argument over how much to cut Medicare would be a losing proposition for the 99% (Sign a petition against these cuts).

Also, our elderly Social Security retirees (and those with disabilities), as well as our Veterans are also having their benefits threatened with chained-CPI on their cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) --- which is currently being proposed by both Republicans and a few not-so-great Democrats (and which even President Obama has considered). Plainly stated, this would be nothing nothing more than a cut to earned benefits (See the full post here for full details).

On top of that, the GOP has been advocating for raising the retirement age and means-testing Social Security benefits (but not their congressional salaries).

So remember: Expand Social Security, not cut it!

* Click on the info-graphic below to see the full image.

Expand Social Security

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