Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Attack On Social Security

This is going to be a bit more lengthy than my usual post. The subject here is the Social Security program as it relates to the federal budget, something that I have addressed several times. In July I described how the SSA cash flow is portrayed, falsely, as part of the federal budget. Early this month I pointed out how the New York Times referred to SSA as federal spending. A couple of weeks ago I was critical of some Krugman nonsense which was supposedly in defense of SSA and, a couple of days later, my own defense of the program.

Now something weird is going on which I don’t quite understand. It has been said that it consists of Obama himself attempting to “gut” Social Security, but that seems unlikely to me. I have never seen anything in his agenda or read anything in his speeches that would suggest to me that he would want to do that. It strikes me as completely contrary to his character, but his role in constructing the commission that is the current threat to Social Security is inescapable. Alan Simpson of recent news is on that commission, and we will definitely bring him into this discussion.

At the first of this year the federal deficit rather suddenly became the “cause du jour” for Democrats as well as Republicans, and Obama rather inexplicably embraced the cause himself, to the detriment of spending toward the restoration of jobs and the economy. It could be said, of course, that having restored Wall Street he had accomplished his goal in terms of economic recovery, and his selection of Geithner lends a certain credibility to that thought, but we will dismiss the thought as unkind, rather sleazy and probably Republican.

In January of this year a proposal in Congress to create a federal deficit reduction commission along the lines of the military “Base Closing and Realignment Commission,” one which would force Congress to vote on a package and relieve individual legislators of responsibility for any aspect of spending cuts, a process which I refer to as a “chicken commission,” was blocked by Republicans either because they said “no” out of reflex or because the proposal insisted on there being Democrats on the “bipartisan” commission and they wanted it to consist entirely of Republicans.

So, in line with our new form of government which includes an Imperial President, Obama created such a commission by executive order and named all of its members himself. Giving credit where due, he named ten Democrats and eight Republicans, but here’s where the weirdness comes in; he filled the commission almost entirely with people who have a known history of favoring the end of the Social Security program, people on both sides of the aisle, and then said that in order for the commission to be effective “everything has to be on the table, including Social Security.”

(Obama did not do the underlining there, I did that.) So why would Obama staff this commission with known advocates of Social Security termination and then say that cutting Social Security is pertinent to reducing the federal deficit? That makes no sense.

Unlike the Congressional commission plan, this commission’s report is not subject to a mandated “up or down” vote in Congress, but both Pelosi and Reid, going along with our new form of government in which Congress does whatever the President tells it to, has promised a vote on the commission’s report after the fall election and before the end of the year; before, that is, the newly elected legislators take office.

That could actually work to the public’s benefit, since the incoming legislators are likely to be more heavily Republican and therefor more inclined to cut Social Security, and perhaps that is actually the plan. That would be giving Reid and Pelosi credit for a somewhat deeper level of thinking than I believe they are actually capable of, though, so I rather doubt that little scenario. It also doesn’t really explain Obama’s course.

Enter Alan Simpson, co-chairman of Obama’s deficit reduction commission, who makes an infamous comment about Social Security being, “like a milk cow with 310 million tits.” He provides one of the “if anyone was offended” type of apologies for the remark, which Obama accepts, casually disregarding any suggestion that the remark might reflect the commission’s contempt for the program, let alone what it says about Simpson’s attitude.

I guess that firing somebody over something that they said bit him on the ass once so, to mix metaphors, he’s not going near that stove again.

Whatever the cause or however we got here, with Obama’s deficit reduction commission at work, reductions to Social Security with reduction of the federal deficit as the ostensible justification are very much in play, and there are plenty of Democrats who are deficit hawks and are willing to go along with this plan. Obama’s role is unclear, but one cannot escape his own words that “everything has to be on the table, including Social Security.”

No comments:

Post a Comment