A week after the House voted on a rule that critics say could force a manufactured crisis in the disability program in late 2016, a potential leverage point for Republicans aiming for changes, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) told a conservative audience that he wanted his committee to tackle Social Security.
“What Iâ€™m hopeful is what the Budget Committee will be able do is to is begin to normalize the discussion and debate about Social Security. This is a program that right now on its current course will not be able to provide 75 or 80 percent of the benefits that individuals have paid into in a relatively short period of time,” he said at a Heritage Action for America event in Washington, D.C., according to AJC. “Thatâ€™s not a responsible position to say, â€˜You donâ€™t need to do anything to do it.â€™”
Price, whose predecessor Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) never put forward major reform proposals in his otherwise ambitious budgets, offered means-testing and increasing the eligibility age as possibilities. He also hinted at privatizing Social Security.
“All those things ought to be on the table and discussed,” he said.
The only reason the disabilityÂ benefits may have to be cut by 20 percent is that the Republicans forced an arbitrary rule to make it difficult to transfer money to the disability fund from the retirement fund even if there is plenty of money in the retirement fund.Â And Social Security overall is in decent shape at the moment and is expected to be in decent shape for close to the next 20 years, which gives us plenty of time to make adjustments without cutting benefits.
(Paul Krugman: “Let us reason together: the dire fate weâ€™re supposed to fear is that future benefits wonâ€™t be as high as scheduled; and in order to avert that fate we must, um, guarantee through immediate action that future benefits wonâ€™t be as high as scheduled. Yay! Wait, what?”)
But if Dubya before Katrina couldn’t sell privatizing Social Security, I rather doubt it’s salable. Paul Waldman wrote,
Letâ€™s take a look at what weâ€™ve learned just in the past couple of days. We all know that both sides are looking for new policy ideas they can present that will demonstrate their commitment to lifting up middle class and poorer Americans, so whatâ€™s on offer? Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, has released a plan that includes giving every working American who makes less than six figures a $1,000 tax credit, gives people further tax credits if they save money, limits corporate tax deductions for CEO compensation, and pays for it with a financial transactions tax (presented as a Wall Street â€œhigh rollerâ€ fee). Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to cut Social Security disability payments.
OK, so thatâ€™s not entirely fair â€” Republicans are, in fact, talking about what they can do for less affluent Americans. For instance, Politico reports today that even Mitt Romney has decided that the three pillars of his 2016 campaign will be a â€œmuscularâ€ foreign policy, helping the poor, and supporting the middle class. Which sounds interesting, but at this point it constitutes nothing more than talking about how this is an issue heâ€™s going to be talking about. You have to look pretty hard to find an actual idea Republicans have.
And while theyâ€™re figuring that out, it looks like Democrats are going to keep rolling out one policy proposal after another, whether itâ€™s Van Hollenâ€™s tax credit (which other Democrats are also going to be advocating), President Obamaâ€™s plan to make community college free, or upcoming pushes on issues like paid family leave and more inclusive overtime rules.
The thing is, though, Dems have to get tough and really talk up each other’s proposals with some aggression, or no one will hear them. And that’s a big if.