Thursday, March 31, 2005

Courage and cowardice

Here’s Kevin Drum in the Washington Monthly:

There are only two ways to significantly improve Social Security's finances: benefit cuts and tax increases. Bush is too gutless to propose either one, so he's desperately trying to sucker someone — anyone — into proposing them first. Nobody with half a brain should oblige him.
Drum’s cynicism is matched only by the spinelessness of the Democrats. Suppose that a Democratic Congress was discussing the reform of a major Republican-led program such as No Child Left Behind or the Space Defense Initiative. It would be inconceivable that the GOP would be silent on the issue. The Democrats, however, know there’s a problem with Social Security; Drum admits as much. Yet they’re unable to formulate a position on what is arguably the cornerstone of Democratic ideology.

While it’s true that a specific piece of legislation has not been forwarded, the Bush administration has made no secret of some of the details of a reform plan. Here’s Allan Hubbard, the White House director of the National Economic Council:

Hubbard said raising the payroll tax remains "off the table'' as a way to address Social Security's long-term funding shortfall. Raising the $90,000 cap on yearly wages subject to Social Security taxes will be considered, Hubbard said.

Hubbard said Bush likes an idea put forth by Democratic economist Robert Pozen that supports private accounts as part of a plan that imposes benefit cuts on the wealthy while maintaining the current structure for the poor.
There you go: no payroll tax rate increases, but the cap on taxable income could rise. Also, an indexed benefit cut designed to protect the benefits promised to lower-income Americans. That’s a plan. Those are solutions. If nothing is done, automatic benefit cuts of 27% (for everyone) kick in when the trust fund is depleted in 2041.

Tackling the issue now takes courage; ducking it is cowardice.


Anonymous said...

The left has a position, you moron.

Social Security doesn't need immediate fixing.

Satisfied? No? Who cares.

Sorry, you lose.

Anonymous said...

What a bizarre statement! There have been multiple Democratic proposals for fixing Social Security. Unfortunately, they have all been overshadowed by the Red Herring of private accounts, which are being dishonestly promoted as a solution to the problems of Social Security, even though every single economic analysis has shown that even under the most optimistic assumption, private accounts will not address Social Security's problems. Private accounts may or may not be a good idea (although whether this is the best time for the nation to take on massive new debt for such an experiment seems doubtful), but simple honesty demands that they be discussed separately from repairing the problems of Social Security.

circlethewagons said...

That's not a plan. That's an outline. Why should democrats offer a plan, or provide a political lifeline to Bush, when he's is out there twisting in the wind (owing to the PHENOMENAL popularity of his vague ideas) and wasting his political capital on this whole silly excercise. Other things need fixing first. 60 days out on the hustings are 60 days that could be spent actually DOING something.

Anonymous said...

Bush has a plan, but he has no SOLUTION.

He has admitted that his plan does nothing to solve the problem, and since it diverts revenue, anyone with a brain can see it makes it worse.

When Bush presents a SOLUTION, then it's time to respond.

Incidentally, if immigration increases slightly, if the SS tax cap is removed, OR if the economy does as well as the Bushists claim it will, there *is* not SS shortfall.

Aren't facts fun?

Anonymous said...

You claim, " If nothing is done, automatic benefit cuts of 27% (for everyone) kick in when the trust fund is depleted in 2041."

Automatic cuts? You made that up. The difference can be made up the same way gaps are made up for everything else. SS is not required to be self-supporting.

You have no respect for the truth. Why does the right think it can just lie and get away with it? Oh, because they usually DO get away with it, now I remember.

Anonymous said...

I like that: one commenter says "The Democrats have a plan" and the other says "Why should the Democrats offer a plan?" Typical.

Anonymous said...

"If nothing is done, automatic benefit cuts of 27% (for everyone) kick in when the trust fund is depleted in 2041."

It is amazing how successful Bush's plan to create a crisis has worked on you. The idea that a problem in 2041 is a crisis today - short of a giant meteor screaming towards the earth - is laughable. Especially since a 73% SS benefit in 2041 is probably better then what Americans will get if they allow this ideological based crisis to force them into making a rash decision today.

Bush, a politician to his very core, is well aware that in a crisis people will delegate their thinking to those they trust - whether they are trustworthy or not. Now that the sky is falling SS crisis has been seen for the rhetoric that it really is, Bush - and his boys - are praying for a sacrificial democrat to come along to save them from the political hole that they, and they alone, dug themselves into.

I can see it already - as soon as that first democrat enters the SS Colosseum that was built by the republicans. He opens his bipartisan mouth in an attempt to overt a false crisis only to be met by a roar of dissent from the ruling class who scream loudly and enthusiastically; down with taxes, down with big government, down with liberals.

Then, once the lions have fully feasted on this poor, well intentioned democrat, they are free to return to their positions of power feeling quite vindicated. Now they have turned their hole into a mound, a mound that they can use to defeat the democrats in future elections.

If you think this characterization of politics is overly cynical then you must be either naive (meaning young in age), ignorant (as in being in a coma for the last 15 years), or stupid (meaning a win at all cost, no debate, no compromise republican).


Eric said...

Brainless commenter,

From the Washington Post:

“The Social Security Administration estimates that by 2042, the system will have depleted trillions of dollars worth of Treasury bonds piling up in its trust fund. At that point, BY LAW, the system could pay out in benefits only what it would receive in Social Security taxes.

By then, the number of Social Security beneficiaries will have ballooned to 91.5 million people, from 47.9 million today, according to the Social Security Administration. For every beneficiary, there would be only two workers, who, under a 12.4 percent payroll tax, would generate nearly $960 billion less in taxes than are promised in benefits. At the moment of "trust fund exhaustion," benefits would have to be cut 27 percent from promised levels.”

From the Social Security Trustees Report:

“Projected OASDI tax income will begin to fall short of outlays in 2017 and will be sufficient to finance only 74 percent of scheduled annual benefits by 2041, when the combined OASDI trust fund is projected to be exhausted.”

See the “by law” up there? That means automatic cuts for everybody, rich and poor, who receives Social Security.

maha said...

Mr. Pundit's error comes from being unable to distinguish "unable" from "unwilling." There are multiple proposals to sustain solvency Out There, the simplest IMO being to just raise the income cap by $20,000 or so. No mess, very little fuss. However, I suspect the Dems are deliberately dragging their feet because they know if more money is added to Social Security Bush will just borrow against it to cover the gaping holes in his "budget."

Nix said...

At what point will the trust fund be depleted and benifits cut under Bush's "plan."

Eric said...


It’s a curious semantic game of the Left to dismiss entitlement reform because it’s not yet a “crisis.” It’s only a “problem” or maybe even a “nuisance” – forget it!

Once again, here’s a quote from those partisan hacks otherwise known as the Social Security trustees:

“Social Security could be brought into actuarial balance over the next 75 years in various ways, including an immediate increase of 15 percent in the amount of payroll taxes or an immediate reduction in benefits of 13 percent (or some combination of the two). To the extent that changes are delayed or phased in gradually, greater adjustments in scheduled benefits and revenues would be required. Ensuring that the system is solvent on a sustainable basis over the next 75 years and beyond would also require larger changes.”

We can have gradual reform now and give younger workers a chance to adjust or we can slash benefits for every current worker under 30 when the trust fund is exhausted.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Erik tells us, "See the “by law” up there? That means automatic cuts for everybody, rich and poor, who receives Social Security."

Okay. So if the law isn't changed in the next two or three DECADES, gee, we might have a problem. Or NOT, since the dates for the impending crisis keep being moved further away.

So Congress can pass a law for Terry Schaivo in days, but decades are not enough to handle a simple funding problem.

Yet every year funding bills are passed for Defense, Education, Transportation.

It's really unbelievable what the propaganda does to you folks.

Anonymous said...

Eric, the basis of your entire post is:

"Tackling the issue now takes courage; ducking it is cowardice."

You seem to think that it takes courage to yell fire, as the republicans have done up to this point. It does not. Courage is when you lead someone out of danger.

The SS debate has raged on long enough for everyone to realize that private accounts (or the more politically correct personal accounts - semantics indeed) do nothing to address the issue of a SS funding shortfall. Additionally, everyone realizes (republican and democrat) that the acceptable consensus solution will involve one or more of the following:

1)tax increases.
2)benefit reductions.
3)retirement eligibility age.
4)wag based indexing.

These are the exit doors available from the smoke that the republicans have turned into a blazing fire. If the republicans truly believed in leadership and courage they would construct a real solution from these components - regardless of the political consequences - and move the debate forward. But unfortunately, here is where their cowardice is shown to anyone who really has an open mind - and not a party mind. They know, as you do, that each of these fixes will invariably make part of their political base less likely to vote for them.

Courage and politics rarely go hand in hand. The republicans would rather have the messenger to the American people be the other party - since the ultimate solution will be seen as a sell out to some part of their base.

Once an acceptable democrat can be coerced into this messenger role by those, like you, yelling leadership and courage, republicans will then move forward with the debate. A rational debate will then ensue that will bring about the ultimate solution.

The icing on the cake for the republicans is that this democrat, along with a lot of his colleagues, can take their courage with them out of Washington when the republicans slay these messengers in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Courageous is not in the man who says lets go - it is the man who goes first. Before you call all democrats cowards remember that your party, and its leader, has done nothing more then say lets go.


POed Lib said...

In Social Security, dems have a position. It's called "Let Bush and the Repukes hang themselves." So far, it's working fine. The country is firmly, and more firmly every day, convinced that the Dems are correct. The lovely attraction of paying billions of dollars to King Stupid's campaign contributors, which seems to be the entire Repuke plan, is not attractive to real Americans.

So, continue to promote Social Security piratization. We Dems are sharpening our knives, and will be ready during the next election.

The third rail is being electrified, and Repuke morons have their hands, tongue and dick firmly attached. They are all standing in pools of water.

Soon, very soon, we turn on the juice.

Eric said...

“So if the law isn't changed in the next two or three DECADES, gee, we might have a problem. Or NOT, since the dates for the impending crisis keep being moved further away.”

From ABC News -

“The U.S. Social Security trust fund will exhaust its assets in 2041 instead of 2042 as forecast last year, …In addition, the trustees projected Social Security outlays would outstrip tax income in 2017 instead of 2018 as previously forecast.”

Further, closer, crisis, problem, whatever! Impeach Chimpy McBushitler and his neocon Repuke death cult!

Nix said...

Again: Under Bush's plan when will the surplus be depleted and benefit cuts made? I would really like to know.

Anonymous said...

Even if the left did not have a position or a plan, it would not be an excuse to adopt the terrible restructuring Bush & Co. are advocating.

Blaming the Democrats for "not having a plan" is merely diversion from the fact that the Republican plan is no better, and quite possibly worse, than the current state of things. The Repiblican plan does do one nice thing, though. It isolates each citizen in our nation to fend for himself or herself. Wonder what happened to "United We Stand." That's as legible on our currency as "In God We Trust."

toc001 said...

Which problem is more imminent, Medicare or Social Security, or the deficit? Deficit, because the repair of it opens up solutions for the other two without BORROWING trillions of dollars!

Also creating jobs at this anemic rate does not help solve any of these problems. Multinational corporations whos benefit from Bush's tax cuts and don't pay taxes and do not create domestic jobs do not help the problem!

Even if we put out a plan, you guys are running the store and would not give any credit to any plan put forth.

p.lukasiak said...

Tackling the issue now takes courage; ducking it is cowardice.

so, where is the "courageous" plan from Bush? Where is the "courageous" plan from the GOP Congress?

The GOP doesn't have a plan. It has vague ideas and proposals, but nothing on paper. And insofar as they controll congress and the White House, their refusal to take a position is the true "Profile in Cowardice" because its shows that the GOP is afraid of the taking the responsibility that accompanies power in a democracy.