(Some) Democrats Are Also the Reason Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Commandante Atrios comments on another failed attempt by the Obama administration to cut Social Security benefits (the chained CPIindexing; boldface mine):

I’m not totally unfamiliar with various people in the White House. As Brian Beutler writes

One of the White House’s most poorly kept secrets is that many of Obama’s economic advisers support Chained CPI on the merits, or believe it to be the least-bad benefit cut Obama could offer Republicans.

Why would they support it on the merits? Either they’re just totally bad people, angling for Very Serious People seats in the Village, or they’re wedded to the notion that somehow it makes sense for Dems to cut Social Security in a slightly less horrible way than Republicans instead of, you know, making the case that an extremely popular program just doesn’t need to be cut and maximizing the political backlash against the bad guys who would try. In any case, there were genuine supporters of a horrible idea, people who would have supported doing it without a bargain.

I think there’s a third option (a Third Way if you will…): there are Things We All Know Yet Are Not True™, and one of those things is that Social Security is DOOMED!! This false catechism is reinforced by Very Seriousness and idiotic eleven-dimensional chess.

And the congregation responds: This is yet another reason why we can’t have nice things.

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8 Responses to (Some) Democrats Are Also the Reason Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

  1. I winter in Fla and I see so many people here who could not survive if it weren’t for Social Security and Medicare. Cuts will hurt millions of people.

  2. This is one of my areas of study (and I am a bleeding heart liberal). We need to cut SS benefits a little and raise taxes a little and SS will be fine. But we can’t just do one or the other. We need to protect the most vulnerable (maybe even making SS more progressive) and take a bit more from the least vulnerable. The “don’t even make minor cuts in entitlements” position is irresponsible.

    The bigger problem, of course, is Medicare.

    And the sooner we make cuts and raise taxes, the smaller those cuts and taxes will have to be. We should stop kicking the damn can down the road and take some responsibility now. But of course we can’t do that with AARP and Krugman lobbying people who vote to do what? Raise taxes and cut benefits drastically later? Or the magical economic growth fairy will come later and we won’t have any of these CBO projected problems? Again, the amount of growth necessary is enormous. We need a multi-pronged solution. And we needed it starting 10 years ago.

    Krugman isn’t an expert on these issues. He hasn’t been going to conferences for 20, 30 years where the problem that people (like bleeding heart liberal Peter Diamond or former Budget Director Peter Orszag) have been warning about gets worse every year. And plenty of educated liberals (who should know better) believe that just because Krugman says something isn’t a problem in the NYTimes that it isn’t really a problem. That’s just not true and it is going to hurt poor people and it’s going to hurt growth and it’s going to hurt the US as a whole. This isn’t some scare-mongering thing made up over at Fox News. It’s a real problem with bi-partisan warnings among academics and policy-makers.

    • George says:

      Please clarify your fundamental message:
      1. I’m a bleeding heart liberal, but I write like a neo con flack,
      2. I detest P. Krugman,
      3. I’m concerned about earned benefits of the retired?

    • albanaeon says:

      Ah…no. We do not need to make small cuts. SS even by gloom and doom CBO projections (ie 20+ years of an economy so bad we’d have much bigger problems anyway) could be fixed by eliminating the cap on SS contributions. It’s currently capped around $130K. Take that away and the projections go out to infinity.

      Stop prattling about a non-existent crisis. It only encourages the ones who think serfdom was a really good idea.

    • Min says:

      “The “don’t even make minor cuts in entitlements” position is irresponsible.”
      Let’s stop saying, “entitlements”. Agricultural subsidies for agri-business are entitlements. Accelerated depreciation for commercial real estate is an entitlement. Besides, if someone is really entitled to something, then giving them less is irresponsible.

      As for Social Security, what is irresponsible is the cap on Social Security taxes. What is irresponsible is claiming that the Social Security Trust Fund is empty. What is irresponsible is threatening to take it away, and chipping away at it along the edges.

      Saving and dis-saving must balance. One problem that we have now is not enough household saving. Social Security payments are a form of dis-saving. Since we need to increase saving, we need to increase dis-saving. We should be increasing Social Security, not decreasing it.

      • No economist under the sun worth his or her salt is going to argue that we shouldn’t get rid of corporate entitlements. That’s a completely different argument. If you can get rid of farm subsidies and oil company subsidies you will hear nothing but cheering from the 85% of us that aren’t getting expert witness money for the other side. Good luck on that.

        Absolutely we should get rid of the SS tax cap, and the sooner the better. But that alone isn’t going to fix the problem. It would be wonderful if it did. But it doesn’t. On top of that, people are living longer and are able to work longer and there are benefits to working longer for health and saving outside of social security. We need to make sure that the people who cannot work longer have that ability (nobody is going to touch age 62), and we may want to make SS more progressive to help people who are worst off. But well-off people like me can pay more SS taxes and can work longer without huge negative shocks to our well-being. Social Security can be cut for people like me and anybody who makes more than I do.

        Ugh, I hate arguing about things like this, especially during the school year, but this knee-jerk “raise taxes and everything will be ok” is almost as harmful as the “make cuts and everything will be ok” because eventually the piper is going to have to be paid, and people will be hurt and the economy will be hurt when that happens. These magical thinking talking points are no better than Fox News.

        Peter Orszag has a presentation he gives that shows about a bunch of different scenarios for fixing Medicare and SS based on different assumptions that’s pretty good. You can probably find a version of it on Youtube. If you want to go direct to the source, Joyce Manchester of the CBO does a great job outlining the problem under different scenarios, though she doesn’t talk about the different solutions. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has a nice pamphlet that advertises their preferred solutions (and this is a group with the best interests of the older population at heart).

        It’s really sad when people who should be on the side of good– the side of helping poor people– succumb to magical thinking. What is your key goal? To score points against Republicans, or to make sure that the worst off in society still have that social safety net (without crashing the economy)?

  3. Joan says:

    Albanaeon is right….raise the cap and the problem is solved!

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