Saturday, February 7, 2015

Republicans Target Grandma (Again!)

Grandma is in the Republican Crosshairs Again

The Republicans are clearly going full speed ahead after Social Security and Medicare. This was just sent to me yesterday via a newsletter that emailed from my Senator, Dean Heller (R- Nevada), about Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and his budget proposal: “We must make tough decisions now to fix the federal government’s $18 trillion debt, and a balanced budget to the U.S. Constitution is one way to make sure we address the real driver of Washington’s fiscal problems: out-of-control entitlement spending."

It goes on to say:

Limits raising or creating taxes and increasing the debt limit, by requiring a supermajority vote in both the House and Senate to raise taxes or increase the debt limit. Congress would have the ability to waive these limits by a simple majority vote if there is a declaration of war. In addition, it prohibits the courts from ordering revenue increases to maintain a balanced budget. The proposed amendment would cap spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product, which [it says] is roughly equal to the historical revenue average of our nation’s gross domestic product. Under President Obama, spending was nearly 23 percent of GDP, according to the Congressional Budget Office. According to the Congressional Budget Office two-thirds of all federal spending goes toward entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as interest on the debt. In addition it is projected that by 2030 Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the federal debt will equal all federal tax revenues.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Finance just named Senator Dean Heller as chairman of the Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy. In addition, he will also serve on the Senate Finance subcommittees on health care taxation and IRS oversight.

Next week, the Senate Budget Committee is holding its first hearing on Social Security benefits. Their plan is to declare a crisis and insist the only way out is to cut benefits now. This invented myth of impending and catastrophic insolvency is well-worn and predictable, but still dangerous. The newly embolden Republican majorities are now very anxious to please their Koch brother masters. And to show their sincerity, they're targeting grandma again. (And no, Social Security is not going broke. In fact, it has a $1.7 trillion surplus.)

Anyway, that was for the GOP's budget priorities. Now for the Democrats' proposed ideas for our old people...

The Alliance for Retired Americans notes that President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal contains several changes to Medicare, including higher deductibles, new home health co-pays, increased means testing and also creates a Medigap surcharge. (And chained-CPI may also work its way into the debate again as well.) Although, the Democrats' budget does include one good thing: A reallocation of payroll tax revenue from Social Security’s old-age and survivors trust fund to the disability trust fund. This would keep the Social Security Disability Fund solvent past 2016. (But with a GOP Congress, disabled American shouldn't count on this.)

But here's what's odd...

A recent National Journal article showed that due to redistricting and an increase of support with working-class whites, House Republicans now represent Congressional districts that contain a higher proportion of seniors than Democrats. Additionally, House Republicans hold a majority of Congressional seats in districts where average incomes are lower than the national average.

The findings are a surprise to some political observers, given polls showing that seniors oppose Medicare-cutting measures like the “Ryan Budget,” by large margins. As a result, Republicans are seen as vulnerable in many districts — though Democrats have been unable to capitalize on this vulnerability. House Republicans have used opposition to the Affordable Care Act to parry Medicare concerns, while also downplaying the effects of the Ryan Budget. Overall, House Republicans hold seats over a broad swath of income levels, particularly in “lo-lo” districts, areas with low diversity and lower levels of education.

Also, former Senator Jim DeMint reared his ugly head again...

Over the past several weeks, Jim DeMint, former Senator from South Carolina and president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, has been advocating for drastic cuts to Social Security. For example, DeMint called for improving the U.S. fiscal situation "with entitlement reforms like Medicare premium support and Social Security benefit and eligibility changes, as well as cuts to domestic discretionary programs and military compensation reform.” (And I thought the GOP supported our Vets.)

Recent articles published by the Heritage Foundation call for the cuts under the guise of “improving the program for seniors.” DeMint spoke recently at the 2015 Iowa “Freedom Summit,” which featured speeches by a number of conservative Presidential hopefuls. He told an enthusiastic crowd that they must “change the welfare programs that are supposed to help the poor,” and bring them in line with conservative values. One way to do that: the Heritage Foundation would save $12 billion by returning Supplemental Security Income (SSI) “to serve its originally intended population”.

If the GOP gets the White House in 2016, beware. The GOP Congress won't tax the rich, but will do just the opposite — they'll cut taxes instead, for everyone — to starve the beasts (the poor, the disabled, the sick and the elderly.) From The New Republic: Welcome Back to Bushonomics — No Matter Who Wins the GOP Primary:

Barring an unexpected lurch away from Norquistism, the right’s biggest near-term objective in 2017—should a Republican win the presidency—will be to expand deficits dramatically. And that means tax cuts for everyone ... The movement largely exists to create an economic and political environment conducive to massive retrenchment of the welfare state.

The phrase “starve the beast” summons up a false notion that deep, systemic, tax-side deficits will erode or eliminate expensive government programs automatically. They’ll actually create the kind of crisis environment Republicans know they'll need for deep safety net cuts to survive the political process. This line of strategic thinking shaped the debate within the GOP over the Bush tax cuts in the early 2000s ... Senator Lincoln Chafee, took his case to then-majority leader Trent Lott, who read him into the program: "We're going to strangle the spending.”

Republicans used the second half of Obama’s first term to test this strategy ... Democrats and Republicans shared control of government, and in absence of a genuine fiscal crisis, Republicans lacked the natural leverage they needed to force Democratic hands. So they created it artificially. That summer, they used the threat of national default to mimic genuine national bankruptcy, and then refused to increase taxes. And it worked.

My Previous Posts on Jim DeMint:

* Jim DeMint: Jobless Gaming the System
* Jim DeMint on Veterans and Unemployment


  1. Social Security has not added a penny to the debt. Expect Republicans to blow up the deficit and declare social programs unsustainable. As long as fools vote against their self interest this will continue.

  2. Better Advice for Retirement Accounts Would Help a Little: Expanding Social Security Would Help a Lot (by James Kwak, associate professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law)

    "The only defined benefit pension plan that is immune from the risk of bankruptcy is Social Security. Don’t try to tell me that Social Security will go bankrupt: if Social Security ever stops paying full benefits, that will be a political choice, not a necessity, given the practically unlimited borrowing capacity of the federal government. If we want to be serious about ensuring retirement security for the “middle class” — or, more importantly, for the lower class — we need to expand Social Security."