Commenter jayackroyd lays out a pretty convincing case that there may be a move to cut Social Security during a lame duck session this fall (everything below is written by him, not me):
All the Very Serious Villagers know Social Security has to be cut, that the austerity program cannot work with an insolvent retirement program hanging over the American economy. Never mind that insolvent SS is a flat lie, with no more basis in reality than the story of St. Ronald the Magnificent.
There’s Brokaw, under contract with NBC through age 74, in the video, saying we need the tough, realistic Bowles-Simpson program.
The administration’s de facto Senate spokesman Dick Durbin recently reassured David Gregory that everything is on the table:
Durbin: But let me tell ya: I was a member of President Obama’s bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. That commission of course ended up with 11 of 18 of us voting in favor of it. That included Senator Tom Coburn, a very conservative Oklahoma Republican, and myself. It was a bipartisan statement that we need to combine, put everything on the table, and combine revenue with spending cuts.
A week or so ago Tim Geithner reassured the Village that the thrice (Commission, Senate, House) rejected Bowles-Simpson document still provides the roadmap
“This debate about what’s the right path to fiscal sustainability—it really began with Bowles-Simpson and that’s where it’s going to end,” Geithner said during an interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC at the Council on Foreign Relations Wednesday. “The framework the president laid out is very close to that basic design.”
The Bowles-Simpson draft, entitled The Moment of Truth, features major cuts to Social Security benefits (B-S Summary page), raising the retirement age two more years and significantly reducing the cost of living adjustment, while undermining the program’s social insurance elements by weakening the relationship between contributions and benefits.
The centrist Beltway Media continues to hype B-S as the courageous Grand Bargain bipartisan blueprint, while the Democratic leadership has fallen into line–not merely failing to run against GOP privatization, but actually endorsing the B-S cuts:
Budget Senator Kent Conrad, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and a Simpson-Bowles member, introduced the commission’s report as his panel’s budget blueprint for a Senate vote.
Now if Social Security weren’t among the most successful public policy initiatives in US history-up there with the Homestead Act and Land Grant Colleges–gutting it wouldn’t be a problem. But it is hard to accomplish the Very Serious but “painfully necessary” goal of reducing middle class income through Social Security cuts, because successful public policy is pretty popular with voters.
So they’re gonna have to make these benefit cuts without leaving fingerprints on the machete. And look what’s coming up: the lame duck session. After the 2012 elections, we have the perfect unaccountability moment. Defeated and retiring Congresscritters and Senators (and their staffs), like Senate Finance Chair Conrad, will be voting to update resumes for investment bank or K-Street sexy-time. Those returning in January can count on the passage of time to dim memories and build “war chests.” A re-elected President Obama will not have to face the voters again. The Village media’s beloved “bipartisan” B-S plan will help them face the painful reality— that we just can’t, after all, pay out the $2.7 trillion in benefits accumulated since 1983. What with the debt ceiling crisis, the looming deficit and all that defense pork, the promises made by Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan, sadly, can’t be kept.
The GOP leadership put Simpson himself in charge of promoting and lobbying for the B-S agenda, but following a series of embarrassing idiocies, including a reneged agreement to debate young DC staffers on the facts, they’ve put Obama Commerce Secretary nominee Judd Gregg in for Abe… errr… Alan Simpson.
Judd’s not mincing any words Friday on CNBC’s Squawk Box (all below (sic) from the transcript, bolding mine):
simpson-bowles is a viable vehicle because it reached agreement on two critical areas, social security and tax reform. the one area agreement was not reached because the president didn’t want the commission to go into it was major health care reform on medicare and medicaid which has to be done. we’ll update it to do some medicare and some medicaid so have done the detail work so to say, and hopefully people can coalesce around adjustments to it but it gives them a memo where there has been bipartisan support. the three most fiscally conservative members of the commission voted for it as a couple of progressives, dick durban. unbelievable. profile in courage and kent conrad. kent not as much.[snip]
when you think about the structure the president’s campaign for re-election, romney’s competing against so they’re not going to be able to reach agreement. the house has problems reaching agreement because everybody is so partisan and come from districts. the senate is where the action is. if we get governance it has to occur in the senate. it’s not going to occur before the election. it’s not going to occur before the election? from it can’t. our system doesn’t allow big things to happen prior to the election but they have to do something big because we’re headed into the mother of all lame ducks here in december with all of these things coming together so they have to either do something or set up a procedure to do something. what we’re suggesting is this is an opportunity, you’ve got sitting here a proposal which is sort of a menu of items which there is agreement on to some degree and it’s bipartisan.
By the way, the “detail work” is almost certainly raising the eligibility age and adding premium support to Medicare. And, just a reminder, here’s where the looming deficit came from :
Now maybe it isn’t true that the Obama administration is committed to the B-S framework, even though they set up the commission, and, nor is it true, as I’ve been by someone who was at a recent campaign event, that Ploufe is bringing backthe S4 trillion “go big” proposal. It’s certainly batshit crazy, from both a policy and a political perspective, for Democrats to even entertain the idea of Social Security cuts–it’s hard to think of a more effective way to undermine the brand.
But if it isn’t true–if Social Security is still the Third Rail of American Politics–it should be easy to get pre-election commitments from Democratic candidates and party leaders that Social Security is off the table. Geithner should walk back his comments. The President, the House Minority leader, the Senate Majority leader and the Chair of Senate Finance should be happy to publicly state their opposition to the Social Security cuts contained in the Moment of Truth draft.