Progressives really owe Third Way a debt of gratitude. Finally, some austerity hawks that come clean about the true intentions of their proposals to cut Social Security. Unlike Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who were shamed into insisting that their proposed cuts were only for the purpose of “strengthening Social Security,” in their report, “Saving Social Security,” Jim Kessler and David Kendall from Third Way effectively admit that cutting Social Security should be a part of deficit reduction.
You see, Third Way would have us shore up Social Security’s finances with a package that is two-thirds cuts and one-third revenue increases. They must have known this is just a wee bit unbalanced, especially for a capital “D” Democratic think tank like theirs, because they feel the need to justify it throughout the paper. They explain that we need to free up the revenue from Social Security for other purposes:
In a vacuum, we could in theory continue raising payroll taxes to keep up with the baby boom retirement. But those tax and spending decisions affect the entire U.S. economy and budget. Left unchecked, these trends will leave a small portion of our federal budget devoted to education, innovation, infrastructure and national defense, squeezing our badly needed public investments and jeop¬ardizing our security. To avert this coming crisis, Social Security reform must be achieved principally through savings in benefits, not tax increases, as we seek to rebalance the long-term U.S. budget toward investments and economic growth.
Well, there you have it: the massive debt just ties our hands. Even though Social Security does not contribute a penny to the debt, and is forbidden by law from borrowing from the general budget, we need the money that currently goes toward it to pay down the deficit–supposedly so we can increase or maintain spending on other programs. There is apparently some magic line above which taxes cannot rise, and honoring our commitment to American workers no longer fits within that line.
Depriving Social Security of needed revenue in order to pay for other programs is the equivalent of rich, fat kids robbing a poor, emaciated kid of his lunch at the playground. The latter doesn’t ask anything of anybody, but they still feel entitled to rob him of all he’s got.
In short, while past rumors of Congress raiding the Social Security trust fund have been lies, if Third Way had its way, they would finally be true.
Why not up the ante? Let’s just throw away the illusion of a timeline on Social Security’s solvency altogether and just start plundering the trust fund for us to use right away! If we do that, I’m sure the American people would trust the government to spend their hard-earned tax dollars well.
You’ll notice, of course, that no one is bringing up the cost of our little Middle East military adventures!