Mean-Spirited Republicans Launch Day-One Attack on Social Security

The 114th Congress convening last Tuesday barely had time to re-elect Barack Obama's Republican enabler as its House speaker when, the very next day, a Los Angeles Times article proclaimed, "On Day One, the New Congress Launches an Attack on Social Security."

"Well," said author Michael Hiltzik, "that didn't take long."

"As one of its first orders of business upon convening Tuesday," Hiltzik continued, "the Republican House of Representatives approved a rule that will seriously undermine efforts to keep all of Social Security solvent."

Talk about a preemptive strike. Hiltzik might at least have waited until John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi had finished playing kissy-face behind the Speaker's podium. 

But Hiltzik's right, it didn't take long -- for him, that is, to ferret out the earthshaking news a newly Republican-controlled Congress is out (ye gods!) to destroy Social Security. 

The celerity comes from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a 501 (4) (c) liberal political-advocacy group paying itself handsomely to elect Democrats and lobby Congress on behalf of its own attempt, by other means, to destroy Social Security. The NCPSSM annually contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic congressional campaigns and spends about $1 million lobbying Congress. 

Where's Lois Lerner when you need her?

Hiltzik admits NCPSSM's involvement. 

Social Security advocates are almost universally aghast at the change. "It is hard to believe that there is any purpose to this unprecedented change to House rules," wrote Max Richtman, president of the committee, in an open letter Tuesday, "other than to cut benefits for Americans who have worked hard all their lives, paid into Social Security and rely on their Social Security benefits, including Disability Insurance, in order to survive."

Max Richtman is NCPSSM's president -- and, as the former staff director of the Senate Special Aging Committee, an alumnus of the congressional revolving door.

Hiltzik, in other words, got NCPSSM's "open letter" and jumped right on it before the orange-hued Speaker of the House had time even to fire from his House Rules Committee two congressmen who'd dared oppose his re-election.

Hiltzik's article slavishly parrots NCPSSM's partisan advocacy of shortchanging 40 million retired beneficiaries (for whose old-age Social Security was intended) in favor of 11 million working-age beneficiaries (for whose disability it wasn't intended). Worse, the article flatly denies ample evidence of the disability trust fund having, at the expense of the old-age trust fund, metastasized into a corrupt surrogate for gainful employment -- a sort of malingers' adjunct to food stamps, one which also confers Medicare eligibility regardless of age rather than at the age of 65 to which retirees are subjected.     

All Hiltzik's sudden Social-Security shock and horror really amounted to was a Republican procedural rule which "hampers an otherwise routine reallocation of Social Security payroll tax income from the old-age program to the disability program." Of course, the reallocation isn't "routine" at all. And the rule merely recognizes, as Hiltzik backhandedly admits, the need for either "benefit cuts or tax increases that improve the solvency of the combined trust funds" to avoid diverting the old-age trust fund's income into financing the broken disability trust fund. 

But, Hiltzik and NCPSSM lament, diverting the old age fund's income into a disability fund hemorrhaging its own income is:

especially urgent now, because the disability program's trust fund is expected to run dry as early as next year. At that point, disability benefits for 11 million beneficiaries would have to be cut 20%. Reallocating the income, however, would keep both the old-age and disability programs solvent until at least 2033, giving Congress plenty of time to assess the programs' needs and work out a long-term fix.

And:

In practical terms . . . [the rule] makes the reallocation impossible; it mandates either benefit cuts across the board, which aren't politically palatable, or a payroll tax increase, which isn't palatable . . . .

So, Hiltzik huffs:

Do House Republicans understand any of that? It's doubtful. If they did, they'd understand that their actions Tuesday are nothing short of shameful. What a way to begin a new Congress.

Really? 

And what happens in 2033 when both the old age and the disability trust funds are equally broke because during the eighteen intervening years Congress kept "routinely reallocating" income from the former which putatively can pay its own way to the latter which assuredly can't? 

Does that not in 2033, even more impossibly than in 2015, mandate "either benefit cuts across the board, which aren't politically palatable, or a payroll tax increase, which isn't palatable . . ."? In the "practical terms" about which NCPSSM brays, why would the benefit cuts or tax increase be any more "palatable" in 2033 than they are in 2015?  Surely whatever cut or increase is then required will be far greater than required now -- and, thus, far less, rather than more, palatable.   

Moreover, if the $7.5 trillion by which the Democrats (with John Boehner and his Republican establishment claque's blessing) have increased the national debt during the first six years, alone, of Barack Obama's mismanagement is any indication of the nation's future financial recklessness, then palatability won't even enter into the 2033 equation. Because the population still working in 2033 will be unable to bear new taxes and the world's creditor nations we haven't by 2033 already bankrupted will be unwilling to buy any more of our Treasury's junk bonds.         

What neither Hiltzit nor NCPSSM dares mention is Social Security's putatively "solvent" old-age trust fund can't even presently pay its bills without annually borrowing billions more from the Chinese Communists whose wage slaves have idled so many of our own workers. 

Why can't it?  Simply because Congress has already stolen and spent for other purposes $2.7 trillion of the old-age trust fund's assets, leaving nothing in their stead but worthless Treasury IOUs.

What's the "palatability" of the Treasury ever redeeming those IOUs -- either now or in 2033?

Well, "plenty of time," as Hiltzit says, between now and then.