Tag Archives: National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

Enlisting AARP

Social Security will be under attack again in 2015. The best way for progressives to defend it is to go on the offensive as well, pressing Congress to pass one of the four bills now on the table to expand the program. Getting AARP on board would be a big help—but the giant older-Americans’ organization seems in no hurry.

AARP is by far the largest organization representing older Americans, and the most influential. Traditionally, it’s been reluctant to enter into coalitions with more overtly political groups advocating for seniors, presumably to sustain its image as a non-partisan organization. It’s a delicate balancing act, and not always successful, because no matter how moderate its policy positions, Republicans will always regard AARP as only slightly less evil than, say, the Socialist Workers Party.

With its 39 million members, AARP would be an invaluable ally in a 2015 push to expand Social Security. But an editorial by AARP’s CEO, Jo Ann Jenkins, suggests this is not a priority. Continue reading Enlisting AARP

Pie in the Sky in Eastern Europe: The Ryan Plan in Action

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has been pushing Social Security privatization for the better part of a decade. What if his plan was actually implemented? An important new paper looks at what happened when Hungary and Poland attempted something similar with their national pension systems. The results were ugly.

It’s been reported that Paul Ryan is no longer pushing Social Security privatization. House Republican leaders “refused” to let their Budget Committee chair “add changes to Social Security” into the budget he wrote last year and that passed the chamber with solid GOP support. This year, he and his colleagues again “left the program untouched.”

That’s not quite true. Ryan has now written two budgets, both of which include Continue reading Pie in the Sky in Eastern Europe: The Ryan Plan in Action

Newt Gingrich Can’t Get With the Program

Why is the Republican Party leadership so scared of Newt Gingrich? Putting aside his generally abrasive personality, his loud streak of megalomania, and his tendency to self-destruct – OK, that’s a lot! – it’s hard to think of much in the way of substantive policy matters that sets the former House speaker apart from the rest of the Republican presidential field.

Oh yes, there’s one thing.

Early last month, when it still seemed that Mitt Romney’s anointment as GOP nominee was a matter of course, the editors of the Wall Street Journal took Gingrich for his position on, of all things, Social Security. The Journal has been pushing for Social Security privatization for decades, but strangely, Continue reading Newt Gingrich Can’t Get With the Program

Social Security: It’s All in the Adjectives

People who want to cut Social Security benefits to lower future budget deficits are “reasonable” and “serious.” Moreover, economists have reached a “consensus” that this should be done. People who oppose balancing the budget on the back of Social Security recipients are “denialists” whose views are “maddening,” “crackpot,” “strident.”

The cartoonist R. Crumb once advised a young protege that to be good at the craft, he needed to draw his subject accurately – but then exaggerate it just a little bit. In polemical writing, adjectives are that little bit of exaggeration. Sprinkled sparingly through an otherwise competently argued piece, they create a slightly distorted view of the writer’s opponents without making the writer sound too angry or confrontational. The cumulative effect is stark: those on the same side as the writer are intelligent and reasonable. Those on the other side are not.

The adjectives applied to defenders of Social Security, quoted above, aren’t from Fox News, the Cato Institute, or a Rush Limbaugh broadcast. They are drawn from Continue reading Social Security: It’s All in the Adjectives

Paul Ryan’s Hammock

How stands the Social Security discussion in Washington following State-of-the-Union night? More or less where it was before. Which, for defenders of the program is mostly not good.

President Obama honored his pledge to congressional Democrats over the previous weekend not to endorse cuts to the program. In fact, he went a bit farther, rejecting any plan that would include “slashing benefits for future generations.”

There’s more to say about that. But first, what about Paul Ryan and that Michele Bachmann? Continue reading Paul Ryan’s Hammock

The Payroll Tax: Just Another Tax?

What does it mean that the U.S. no longer has a permanent tax code? That every major tax Americans pay, including income tax and the payroll tax covering Social Security, is now a temporary measure subject to — effectively — mandatory revision by Congress in the next one to two years? With passage of the Obama-McConnell “stimulus” package, American government is entering a fun-house period like no other in its history.

The tax cut/stimulus bill passed, of course. Indeed, the skids were really greased on this baby (to use then-Treasury Department official Bob Rubin’s choice phrase) like nothing since the 1983 Amendments to the Social Security Act. Here’s how the Wall Street Journal describes the situation we’re about to be living under: Continue reading The Payroll Tax: Just Another Tax?

The Greed of the “Bottom Half”

We’ll shortly be hearing the objections of deficit hawks to the deficit reduction package Demos, The Century Foundation, and the Economic Policy Institute. No doubt they’ll echo the criticisms that have already been leveled at the deficit-shrinkage roadmap Rep. Jan Schakowsky put on the table earlier this month. To get a sense of what those criticisms are likely to be, I recently had a close look at a Schakowsky critique by The Atlantic’s resident deficit hawk, Derek Thompson.

The first thing that makes Thompson’s November 16 piece interesting is that it actually acknowledges the existence of Schakowsky’s plan. The second thing, only slightly less extraordinary, is that Thompson makes an effort to analyze and understand the proposal. It took the New York Times nearly two weeks after Schakowsky released it to even note that it was there (and even then, didn’t provide details).

What’s most remarkable about Thompson’s analysis, however, is that he lectures Schakowsky for not squeezing poor and low-income workers hard enough. Continue reading The Greed of the “Bottom Half”

Schakowsky’s Deficit Reduction Plan Is Game Changer

Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s deficit reduction proposal is a game changer: a serious, moderate, balanced blueprint for addressing the nation’s long-range fiscal challenges, by a leading progressive lawmaker. How her colleagues on the president’s deficit commission respond to it will be a test of how serious they really are about solving the deficit puzzle in a fair and equitable way.

Jan Schakowsky is sometimes described as “one of the most liberal members” of the commission. But the deficit reduction plan she released on Tuesday is moderate, sensible, and actually more effective at lowering the deficit over the next few years than the plan co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles tabled last week ($427 billion in savings by 2015, vs. $250 billion). Continue reading Schakowsky’s Deficit Reduction Plan Is Game Changer

Bowles-Simpson: The Unequal Marriage of Reaganomics and Rubinomics

The Bowles-Simpson plan isn’t a fair and equitable way to reduce the long-term federal deficit, whatever its co-authors might claim. In fact, it’s the biggest proposed experiment in supply-side economics since early Reagan.

Long story short: The proposal put on the table last week by the co-chairs of the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is essentially a wedding of Rubinomics and Reaganomics. As such, it’s what we might get if Bill Clinton and the late Ronald Reagan were locked in a room together and required to cut the long-term budget deficit – without any regard for the impact of their handiwork on low- and middle-income people.

You’ve probably guessed which partner has the upper hand in this deal. And we’ll explore that in a moment. But first, some background.

This wasn’t an overnight meet-court-marry. The supply-siders and the deficit hawks – as the two lovebirds are also known – have been trying to join hands even since 1985, Continue reading Bowles-Simpson: The Unequal Marriage of Reaganomics and Rubinomics

Hail Mary! Co-Chairs Spin While Deficit Commission Staggers Toward Deadlock

I’ve been saying for months that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is probably doomed. The co-chairs, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, appear to agree.

So my first real question is, What have these people been doing with $500,000 of the taxpayers’ money for the past nine months? Lori Montgomery in the Washington Post reports that many of the commission’s 18 members were “startled” by the Bowles-Simpson plan, which Bowles himself called a “starting point.”

Starting point? Are you kidding? This commission was empaneled in February and held its first – official – meeting in May. It’s now less than three weeks Continue reading Hail Mary! Co-Chairs Spin While Deficit Commission Staggers Toward Deadlock