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February 08, 2006

Comments

I actually thought this was good news, because once we whack this ridiculous little line-item out of the budget, we'll be that much closer to balancing it. Some budget choices are hard but this sure isn't one of them.

Even Dick Cheney admitted that a private account system would take TRILLIONS of dollars in new borrowing to set up. Trillions of dollars in new debt, just so we can avoid a deficit in payments that may or may not occur 50 years from now. How could anyone think that's not good public policy?

He put it in the budget because the budget passes, with very little detailed debate or attention, on a party line vote.

In other words, he just privatized SS without having to bring it up in Congress again, and without getting his head handed to him again.

Next question?

Al Franken in Truth goes into great detail on how this system would work. ie, it doesn't. What it does do, is help out his friends in the private financial community. Just another way the government is helping people to screw themselves...

"He put it in the budget because the budget passes, with very little detailed debate or attention...."

Usually your political comments are pretty or very spot-on, CaseyL, but in this observation, well, no, that's not usually how it works at all.

In fact, the budgets Congress pass generally bear only a vague resemblance to what the President sends over, and they get a lot of debate and a lot of attention, albeit not necessarily ever line.

But something like this isn't going to go through with no attention (although it conceivably could pass on a partyline vote -- though I'm inclined to think that's less likely than likely). I think I'm fairly safe in predicting that.

But something like this isn't going to go through with no attention (although it conceivably could pass on a partyline vote -- though I'm inclined to think that's less likely than likely). I think I'm fairly safe in predicting that.

I'd be inclined to side with Mr. Farber: this is quite unlikely in a rational world.

But I also thought that about the invasion of Iraq. So in this environment, predictions based on reality and common sense are dangerous indeed.

Much will depend on how much publicity this little addition to the budget actually gets.

"But I also thought that about the invasion of Iraq."

There are many things we could discuss about said invasion (let's not, unless someone has a new thought, please?), but I think a claim that it went "through with no attention" might be difficult to support.

Maybe you meant that the AUMF or resolutions on Iraq invasion were "pass[ed] on a partyline vote," but that didn't happen, either.

"Much will depend on how much publicity this little addition to the budget actually gets."

Exactly, and I should have included that in my comment. Budgets are a zillion pages thick; I don't think anyone reads them the whole way through; adding "little additions" is a time-honored way of slicking something through that wouldn't have a hope in hell of passing on its own.

Bush failed of his SS debate last time because he had no actual program. Bush couldn't shove anything down anyone's throat because he didn't have an actual bill, plan, program, whatever.

Now he does. And he has a lockstep majority in the House, and a reluctant-but-never-failing majority in the Senate. It'll pass. A program most of the country opposes; a program all reputable economists say is an utter and arrant disaster; a program that quite nakedly benefits precisely the wrong people - and it's going to pass.

"Much will depend on how much publicity this little addition to the budget actually gets."

Want to bet a nickel that the answer will be "quite a bit"?

They haven't actually killed every in AARP when I wasn't looking, have they? Or knocked off the entire Democratic caucuses?

How about this metric: if there are at least four front page stories on either the WaPo or NYT between now and the final passing of the budget in conference committee, I win, and you lose; if not, you win, I lose? Would you prefer six stories? Or would you insist there had to be more to get to "much publicity"?

Let me know.

CaseyL: "...and it's going to pass...."

I say that if anything along these lines passes, it will be a way scaled down pilot program, after at least as much attention as I just described.

Nickel?

I'll bet this is just a bit of petulance from Bush over the Democrat's sarcastic applause during the SOTU.

There are many things we could discuss about said invasion (let's not, unless someone has a new thought, please?), but I think a claim that it went "through with no attention" might be difficult to support.

I'd think a claim that stickler claimed that the Iraq war went "through with no attention" might also be difficult to support.

Gary, you're on.

I say it'll pass, because SS is the last federal social service program standing that a) hasn't been completely looted; b)still mostly benefits the lower- and midlde-class. That makes it an intolerable affront to the GOP - and, with the GOP scared of maybe losing the House in 2006, this might be its last chance to kill SS and pocket the receipts.

I won't bet, but this is much more dangerous than hilzot of Farber seem to think. Once in the budget, can it be slipped back in during reconcialtion? And reconciliation can't be filibustered.

Congressmen are probably instructed to talk about it as little as possible. They are going to try to sneak it through. And as always, Bush has the ability to distract, to control the media agenda. In the middle of 10,000 sorties against Iran, reconciliation will not get the headlines.

I give at least a 30% chance of passage.

hilzot on Farner....please ignore my typos

I'd describe this plan as D.O.A. rather than undead.

Social Security privatization is a boat anchor, which Dem candidates will happily attach to incumbent Republicans who make even a favorable peep about it.

"I say it'll pass, because SS is the last federal social service program standing that a) hasn't been completely looted; b)still mostly benefits the lower- and midlde-class. That makes it an intolerable affront to the GOP - and, with the GOP scared of maybe losing the House in 2006, this might be its last chance to kill SS and pocket the receipts."

I don't argue with any of your reasoning in the slightest. I think everything you say there is sound.

The reason I come out with a different (tentative and perhaps entirely wrong) prediction is that everything you say, save for the "-possibly last chance-" element also applied last year.

Bob: "Once in the budget, can it be slipped back in during reconcialtion?"

Given the past practices of the modern Congressional GOP on this, an excellent question, and I don't exclude the possibility at all, Bob. Nor do I disagree with anything else in that comment of yours.

Please do note that I've not said a word as to an estimate of chances of passage; all I've said on that is this:

But something like this isn't going to go through with no attention (although it conceivably could pass on a partyline vote -- though I'm inclined to think that's less likely than likely).
No estimates beyond "less likely than likely." Which means I allowed as much as a 49% chance of passage, but not with "no attention."

That's all.

"...this is much more dangerous than hilzot of Farber seem to think."

So apparently I think it's more dangerous than you think.

:-)

"Social Security privatization is a boat anchor, which Dem candidates will happily attach to incumbent Republicans who make even a favorable peep about it."

I opine that Nell is correct.

Yes, it's true that if we're in the midst of a bombing campaign against Iran, or Washington being nuked, or various even less distracting possibilities, it might get relatively little attention. But not all other things being more or less the same.

"So apparently I think it's more dangerous than you think"

Yes it is. I think it is more dangerous than even I think. I think there is a plan, and it includes much we haven't seen or thought yet.

The blogosphere watches, but as far as I know the budget items make the MSM twice,when proposed and disposed. Are there hearings on the "budget" like there are on separate bills, opportunities to get the message out? Note:They learn. Bush's town meetings just forced the media to cover the issue. They won't make that mistake again.
Especially since I think this, or something like it,is something the beltway and MSM actually want.

The "Byrd Amendment" flashed into my mind. Isn't there are rule about Social Security and budget bills?

Of course, this all has to viewed in the context of the general fund deficit. With Rpublicans refusing to raise or even stop cutting taxes, as the debt and deficit rises, and other programs get cut, even Democrats are going to get desparate to find money somewhere. I think the death of SS occurred with the 2001 tax cuts, and now we are just enjoying the wake.

"or Washington being nuked"

I don't think Bush would do that just to destroy Social Security and keep his tax cuts. That was unfair and far too partisan, Gary.

"...incumbent Republicans who make even a favorable peep about it."

Part of the plan. "The budget bill is in committee and I will not be able to comment until it reaches its final form. Of course on principle I have always blah blah..."

If this didn't get through last year, with Bush coming off a huge election victory, it sure ain't getting through in an election year.

Anyone who expects a party-line vote in the House to kill Social Security - while EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN is standing for reelection - needs to rethink, badly.

It's one thing to slip in what amounts to some projections, it's quite another to get passed the whole raft of legislation necessary to actually create the thing. And no particular requirement that that be done in 2006 SFAICS.

I'd say that rather than see this in reconciliation in the fall of 06, we'll see it in 07.

Much depends on how 06 ends up.

I'm ready to start rioting if a single senior Dem of any kind has any further conversation with the NYT Nagourney of the kind recounted in today's paper. The guy writes this ">http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/politics/08dems.html?hp&ex=1139461200&en=6f7047657decb0fc&ei=5094&partner=homepage>"stuff" (worksafe choice of noun) all the time -- why does anyone talk to him?

Also in the budget regarding social security (you know, that thing that won't get any publicity?):

President Bush's budget calls for elimination of a $255 lump-sum death payment that has been part of Social Security for more than 50 years and urges Congress to cut off monthly survivor benefits to 16- and 17-year-old high school dropouts.

If approved, the two proposals would save a combined $3.4 billion over the next decade, according to administration estimates.

Any attempt to reduce Social Security benefits — no matter how small — could face intense opposition in Congress in an election year.

"There they go again," Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who chairs his party's campaign committee, said Tuesday of the administration. "They can't resist trying to cut Social Security and to cut a survivor's, a widow or widower's benefits; it just shows how warped the priorities are in this budget."

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi agreed. "The president's budget continues to reflect the Republican agenda of cutting guaranteed Social Security benefits that workers have earned," she said.

Aides to Rep. Bill Thomas of California and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairmen with jurisdiction over Social Security, did not immediately return calls for comment.

Mark Lassiter, a spokesman at the
Social Security Administration, said the one-time $255 benefit is paid in the deaths of some Social Security recipients but not all, making it an administrative burden for the agency.

"It bears no relation to what a person's funeral expenses are or to any of workers' earnings levels," he said. "We believe that eliminating it is not going to cause an appreciable financial hardship to a survivor."

Lassiter said the benefit is paid in cases in which a surviving spouse was living with the deceased at the time of his or her death. It is also available in some cases for a surviving spouse who lived apart and for some surviving children.

Administration officials said the payment began as a burial benefit in 1939, to assist families with funeral expenses. The amount was set at $255 in 1952 and until 1981, the payment was made directly to funeral homes, they said.

The second change Bush proposed would terminate monthly survivor benefits for 16- and 17-year-olds who do not attend school full time. Current law requires 18-year-olds to remain in school to receive their benefits. Survivor benefits are paid in cases in which a parent has died.

Scott Milburn, a spokesman at the administration's Office of Management and Budget, said, "Children who have lost a parent need every assistance and encouragement we can provide, and everything the federal government can do to encourage them to stay in school and get an education makes it that much more likely that they can succeed.

"Linking benefits to school attendance provides that encouragement and is, in fact, currently the rule for 19-year-olds. We think more children can be helped by lowering that age to 16."

Bush's budget also includes a proposal to change the calculation made for Social Security disability payments for people who also receive worker compensation benefits.

In addition, it calls for the Social Security Administration to implement a new system to obtain accurate information about the state and local pensions paid to retirees who also qualify for federal retirement benefits.

Together, the proposals relating to disability payments and state and local retirees would save an estimated $2.8 billion over the next decade, according to administration estimates.

There's a concluding paragraph I'm not bothering to quote.

My favorite part is this from Scott Milburn: "Linking benefits to school attendance provides that encouragement and is, in fact, currently the rule for 19-year-olds. We think more children can be helped by lowering that age to 16."

Yes, they're going to help the teens by cutting off their survivor's benefits.

Isn't that thoughtful of them?

Steve, there wasn't anything to "go through" last year. Bush didn't Congress with anything to vote on, and the GOP wasn't going to get out in front on the issue - at least they know it's that radioactive. But this time he slipped an actual plan into the budget bill.

Now, you tell me: how many budget bills has the House not passed? Hell, how many bills of any kind that Bush wanted did the House not pass? They can do what they've done routinely over the past 5 years: schedule the vote at an ungodly hour, without advance notice, and then hold the vote open until they twist arms to get it passed.

You think the GOP will suffer for it at the polls? Even if you're right, what good will that do? The damn thing will have passed. Bush has through 2008 to implement it. What do you want to bet the first thing he does is something irrevocable, like empty the Trust Fund? Even if the Democrats take control in 2006, or 2008; even if the first thing they do is vote to reverse the program, they won't be able to restore the vanished funds.

Oh, and here's some more budget fun: public health takes a big hit:

"[Funding] would be largely frozen -- as for the $28 billion National Institutes of Health -- or reduced. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, would see a $367 million reduction, to $5.8 billion; funding for the Health Resources and Services Administration would drop $252 million, to $6.3 billion."

Nothing like cutting the CDC's budget right when epidemiologists are in a muck sweat about the bird flu, eh?

"Continuing a theme from last year, the budget proposes to terminate several smaller health programs, including one that helps fund training for primary care doctors and other health professionals, and the Health Community Access Program that links community health centers and public hospitals."

Sure, because there are way too many GPs, community health centers, and public hospitals.

And, just to show how concerned the GOP is about voter response in general, look at the goodies they just gave Tom DeLay:

"Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers. The subcommittee also has responsibility over NASA — a top priority for DeLay, since the Johnson Space Center is located in his Houston-area district."

Isn't that special: Tom DeLay is now on the committee investigating corruption in Congress.

The GOP is acting like it has nothing to fear from voters. What does it know that we don't?

Oh, farks. I'm sorry about the italics. Someone turn them off, please?

CharleyCarp: while I agree with you on Adam Nagourney's lame "stuff" in the NYT (just another coffin-nail, imo, for the image of the Gray Lady as being some kind of "liberal MSM bastion" or "democratic flacksheet")- I think his main argument; i.e. the "missed opportunities" meme - has just been rendered irrelevant by Bush's latest Social Security brainstorm. SS has been the Demos' prime winning issue in W's second term (helped immensely by the inescapable lameness and bogosity of the President's "reform" proposals); it is just TOO much to credit that the Party will let this sort of plan just skate by - regardless of what Congressional Republicans will or won't do to promote Bush's Big Deal Plan. And in an election year no less?

italics BEGONE!

"The guy writes this "stuff" (worksafe choice of noun) all the time -- why does anyone talk to him?"

Nagourny.

Because he's a excellent reporter, and has been for many years. He's the guy, you may recall, of whom our current Vice-President and President were caught having the coversation in front of a live mike at a campaign rally that they didn't realize was on that ran as so:

Bush to Cheney: "That's Adam Nagourney. He's a major league asshole."

Cheney nods. Replies: "Bigtime!"

(See here, for instance.)

Also, it's a fair and accurate piece, and it's spot-on about some of the current Democratic problems. Ignoring the truth of that will lead to more defeats, or at least far fewer gains, as the piece notes, that we should be able to get.

We need a coherent and clear approach to national security, anti-terrorism, and foreign policy, consistent with our values, and we need it repeated endlessly by most Democrats, and we need some good spokespeople to stand for it. Some of us have been saying this for many years.

Denouncing the messenger: less useful. Although Cheney and Bush liked the notion. And the right hates him.

I suggest not engaging anything resembling in similar reactions and reasoning.

"The guy writes this "stuff" (worksafe choice of noun) all the time -- why does anyone talk to him?"

Because he's an excellent reporter and has been for many years. He's the guy, you may recall, of whom our current Vice-President and President were caught having the coversation in front of a live mike at a campaign rally in 2000 that they didn't realize was on that ran as so:

Bush to Cheney: "That's Adam Nagourney. He's a major league asshole."

Cheney nods. Replies: "Bigtime!"

(See here.)

Also, it's a fair and accurate piece, and it's spot-on about some of the current Democratic problems. Ignoring the truth of that will lead to more defeats, or at least far fewer gains, as the piece notes, that we should be able to get.

We need a coherent and clear approach to national security, anti-terrorism, and foreign policy, consistent with our values, and we need it repeated endlessly by most Democrats, and we need some good spokespeople to stand for it. Some of us have been saying this for many years.

Denouncing the messenger: less useful. Although Cheney and Bush liked the notion. And the right hates him.

I suggest not engaging in any sort of similar reaction.

You think the GOP will suffer for it at the polls? Even if you're right, what good will that do? The damn thing will have passed. Bush has through 2008 to implement it. What do you want to bet the first thing he does is something irrevocable, like empty the Trust Fund? Even if the Democrats take control in 2006, or 2008; even if the first thing they do is vote to reverse the program, they won't be able to restore the vanished funds.

I will bet you whatever you like, seriously. This is not a plausible scenario.

The budget bill allocates funds. It is not some "Authorization for the Use of Economic Force" that lets Bush run off willy-nilly selling off the assets of the Trust Fund if he feels like it.

You seem to think Bush is in a better position by virtue of having submitted a "concrete plan." If that were enough to give him an advantage, he would have submitted a concrete plan last year. The fact is that he couldn't even get enough momentum behind the abstract notion, let alone a concrete plan!

I'm thinking it was a emphasis tag rather than italics. If it works, it was.

Italicsbegone!

Hmmmm. Seems the ObWi Typepad compiler doesn't distinguish between emphasis and italics (check the source of your post there, LJ -- it's a {/i}, not a {/em} or whatever). Also, CaseyL wins some kind of award for the greatest number of missing end-italics I've ever seen in a single post; congrats!

"Also, CaseyL wins some kind of award for the greatest number of missing end-italics I've ever seen in a single post; congrats!"

It's an honor just to be nominated.

Thanks for diving into the source, Anarch. Just another example of that little extra here at ObWi.

On preview, I see that {em} works to italicize, but it was unmatched {i}'s that got CaseyL the award. Congratulations, don't let it be said that we don't give the least that can be given. ;^)

For the record: trying to turn off italics by posting a close italics tag in a subsequent comment hasn't worked for a while. To members of the HiveMind: log in as Moe, click on 'post', click on 'comments' at the top of the page, find the relevant comment, and edit it to include the missing tag. Unfortunately, no one but us can do it.

About Social Security: I don't think it will happen. The Congresspeople are not marching in lockstep any more, and they are running for re-election, unlike Bush. They could put it in in conference, but then there would be a pretty good chance that it wouldn't pass, and an even better chance that a lot of the people who voted for it would pay come November.

Bush has lost a lot of capital in the last year. I don't think he can do this.

And remember: it's not true that SS hasn't already been looted. That's part of the problem: everyone is used to spending its surpluses, so they think that they have to "fix" Social Security when it stops giving them still more money to use, and they have to rely on tax revenues like a normal government. (Although why they think it's a good idea to "fix" it at a huge cost -- trillions of dollars -- is anyone's guess. I favor the 'idiots at the Heritage Foundation think it sounds nifty, and who are we to disagree?' explanation, myself.)

Gary,

The Bush-Cheney remarks were about Adam Clymer, not Adam Nagourney
From your cite:


When in 2000 then-Gov. Bush was caught on a live microphone calling New York Times reporter Adam Clymer an ***hole, an assessment with which Dick Cheney immediately agreed,

I don't care if Bush, Cheney, and the whole St. Louis Aquarium Choir hate Nagourney, too. He's often enough on the front page with Democrats in Despair stories. I wish the "insiders" who feed these stories would STFU. If there's a problem, fix it. Talking (whining) to a NYT reporter who likes to publish "We're Losers" stories is not going to fix the problem(s).

(Don't get me started on the people who thought Al Gore was a corporate shill, and that a vote for Ralph Nader was the only way to send a message to him. And what difference could it make anyway, after all things couldn't really get worse, right?)

"The Bush-Cheney remarks were about Adam Clymer,"

You're right. Error in my memory files on Adams. No wonder I had trouble finding a link.

Thanks for correcting me. That should help me refile the memory misfile.

Maybe you meant that the AUMF or resolutions on Iraq invasion were "pass[ed] on a partyline vote," but that didn't happen, either.

No fair putting words in my mouth, Mr. Farber. I personally thought the AUMF and Iraq resolutions were wrong, but they were, after all, permission slips. Who could have imagined that George H.W. Bush's own son -- presumably having at least some acquaintance with his own father's reasons for not occupying Iraq in 1991 -- would go ahead and embark on a dangerous and expensive invasion? Surely, I thought, he must be bluffing Saddam. Right?

And worse than that, to do the invasion in such a slipshod and corrupt manner? It's one thing to give the man the tools to play chicken; it's another to watch him miss his opponent and plunge off Going to the Sun Road into a 1,000 foot deep ravine.

CaseyL, this:DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers. is perfect. I'll enjoy seeing him hoisted on repurposed Congressional UN (e.g. HRC) screeds. The perversity of egregious offenders sitting in judgement of their own misbehaviors, etc.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, or party leadership. Though they are of course committed to cracking down on corruption now. Just ask them.

"Though they are of course committed to cracking down on corruption now. Just ask them."

Slanted characterization warning!

I believe Boehner's line is currently that it would be Going Too Far to ban the various forms of corruption as Hastert had proposed; instead, the proper and appropriate approach is public declarations of the corrupt acts, so the electorate has access to the facts of the gifts and access of lobbyists.

/slanted characterization. (Or is it?)

For the record: trying to turn off italics by posting a close italics tag in a subsequent comment hasn't worked for a while.

It's worked for me, but I generally insert a few close-italics into my comment because the most common cause for having the problem in the first place is, apparently, putting another open-italics at the end of the passage in question instead of a close-italics. So you've got to close it at least twice. Sometimes I throw caution to the wind and put in a half dozen close-italics.

"doesn't this violate the Byrd Rule governing the reconciliation process?"

Flagrantly so. Modifications to Social Security are expressly not allowed in a budget reconciliation.

One wonders if the idea here is to alow Mike DeWine to invoke the Byrd rule, then let DeWine, Santorum, Burns, and Chafee cast "deciding" votes to "Save Social Security". Because beyond that, I can't understand why the President included it in the budget." ...Nicolas Beaudrot over in comments at MY's TPMCafe blog. Night of the Living Policy Proposal

I thought so. Having better material with which to google, I came up with a Mark Schmitt post that explains the issue: Byrd Rule.

"The Byrd rule defines matter to be extraneous in six cases...(5) if it would increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond those covered by the reconciliation measure; and (6)if it recommends changes in Social Security." ...from Schmitt, emphasis repeated

Now I don't know what is going on here, Beaudrot has his theory, I am wondering if like the "nuclear option" Senate destabilization is intended, but I do know they have a plan, and something interesting is going on. This is important.

More lack of publicity.

Sorry, I should note that it's the same Allan Sloan piece Hilzoy started with; my point was simply that it's now also now at the Newsweek site as well as the Washington Post site (yes, of course, they've been jointly owned by the WaPo company for ages). (I'm not entirely clear if the piece is also in the physical Newsweek or not.)

hilzoy:

After reading about price indexing I have nothing but a headache (not your fault, thank you for the information... I'll need to read over this about 6 more times).

I myself know very little about social security and reform proposals. What is it about Bush's policy that is such a bad idea? If investing in private accounts yeilds better returns, couldn't doing so help solve the problems plaguing social security? It seems to me the government has been failing miserably in all aspects of this issue. Couldn't the change be good?

Intricate Helix: probably the best way to answer your question would be to send you over to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities' Social Security page. They explain it very well (and are good policy analysts.) A few general points:

(a) What problems plague Social Security? Well, not many. If you accept the SS trustee's budget projection numbers, there's a minor funding shortfall over the next 75 years. But those numbers have recently turned out to be conservative, so it's not clear there's any problem at all.

There is a quite different problem: that the government has gotten used to disguising the size of its budget deficit by combining it with SS money. Since SS will stop taking in more than it pays out sometime in the next decade, this will be harder to do. But that's a problem with deficits in the government in general, not SS in particular.

(b) Why is there such a big SS surplus? Because we decided, on purpose, to create one, in order to deal with the retirement of the baby boomers. The idea was to responsibly pay up front, while the boomers were still working, creating a fund that we could use to pay for them when the time came.

Note that the SS tax is fairly regressive: it hits lower- and middle-income workers harder than the rich. If it turns out that they paid all that money in, and we squandered it on tax cuts for the rich which now -- oops! -- mean that we have to gut Social Security, it will be immensely unfair.

(c) Suppose you think: but we should probably consider closing that funding gap anyways, rather than waiting to see whether it actually materializes. In that case, it's worth pointing out that the President's plan would actually cost us trillions of dollars. A lot of money to wreck a perfectly good program that lifts 13 million seniors out of poverty.

(d) The President's plan would actually make things a lot worse. Here's a good summary, with nice graphs.

In general, I do not think it's a good idea to mess with a generally good program until you are clear that there's a real problem (I am not), you have a proposal that actually helps solve it (the President's does not, by virtually any measure -- solvency, effect on seniors, etc.), and you have an administration that you trust to make the needed changes competently (cough, Katrina; cough cough, Medicare Part D, I could, cough, go on ...)

"There is a quite different problem: that the government has gotten used to disguising the size of its budget deficit by combining it with SS money. Since SS will stop taking in more than it pays out sometime in the next decade, this will be harder to do. But that's a problem with deficits in the government in general, not SS in particular."

Yes and no. This is the problem with Social Security accounting. It has allowed years of marginal programs to grow and strengthen their support by disguising their cost. Many programs need to be adjusted and forced to make more sense. One of those (in my mind) is Social Security. I don't think it should be paid to rich or upper middle class people. The arguments for it are typically about helping old people avoid poverty. We should do that--with people who are at risk for poverty.

Sebastian- I would agree with you except that FDR decided to include the well off in Social Security because he knew that if it were an anti-poverty program Republicans would kill it, and from what I've seen of Republicans especially in the last 5 years, he was right.

You want to limit it to the bottom 80% now, but if you succeded, every year thereafter there would be enourmous pressure to throw just a few more off at the top. When it finally got down to 40% or so the constituency would be too small and you would kill it.

"One of those (in my mind) is Social Security. I don't think it should be paid to rich or upper middle class people. The arguments for it are typically about helping old people avoid poverty. We should do that--with people who are at risk for poverty."

If I thought that wouldn't then immediately, or at least soon, lead to Republicans regarding it as a "welfare" program, and then slashing away at it, a la Medicaid, I'd be 100% fine with it.

But since that's precisely what would happen next, whether sooner, or a bit later, I can't practically be fine with it, much as I'm fine with it in abstract.

But I and other poor folks don't get to live in the abstract world.

But I'll tell you what: when Medicaid is adequately funded, and benefits fairly distributed in each state, with majority Republican support that isn't close to the margins, and at the initiative of the Republican party and membership and leadership, I'll support slashing Social Security benefits for the wealthy. Deal?

I think if you do the math on that deal, it won't be good for the budget. :)

Though I suppose it depends on "adequately".

Not checking IDs when giving out Katrina aid isn't good for the budget, either.

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