Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hands Off Social Security

by Joel Wendland

As Republican Party leaders and their mouthpieces in the conservative media weakly attempt to lie about their intentions to gut Social Security benefits and privatize the program, Sen. Bernie Sanders slams them in a recent op-ed for More on that in a moment.

To set the record straight on Republican Party plans for Social Security should they gain power, Campaign for America's Future blogger Robert Borosage notes:
Here's the record. President Bush made privatization Social Security the first priority of his second term. Rep. Ryan adopts a similar plan. House Minority leader John Boehner wants to raise the retirement age to 70. Republican tea party candidates from Nevada's Sharon Angle to Alaska's Joe Miller want to phase out Social Security and turn it to private savings plans.

But the real "bait and switch" on Social Security is the claim -- made by Deficit Commission Co-Chair Alan "milk cow" Simpson and echoed by the New York Times' Matt Bai -- that the trust fund is a fraud, that the money is gone, and the program needs to be cut.

Sanders notes the Republican Party's obsessive "hatred" for Social Security, but emphasizes the popular program's real success and its fiscal strength, despite GOP rhetoric and the lies circulated by Republican Party affiliated media like FOX News and the Wall Street Journal's editorial board:

First, let’s be clear: Despite all the right-wing rhetoric, Social Security is not going bankrupt. That’s a lie!

The truth is that the Social Security Trust Fund has run surpluses for the last quarter century. Today’s $2.5 trillion cushion is projected to grow to $4 trillion in 2023. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, experts in this area, say Social Security will be able to pay every nickel owed to every eligible beneficiary until 2039.

Got that? In case you don’t, let me repeat it. The people who have studied this issue most thoroughly and have no political bias report that Social Security will be able to pay out all benefits to every eligible beneficiary for the next 29 years.

It is true that by 2039, if nothing is changed, Social Security will be able to pay out only about 80 percent of benefits. That is why it is important that Congress act soon to make sure Social Security is as strong in the future as it is today.

Sanders rejects Republican Party proposals to raise the retirement age, noting it would cheat future generations out of their hard earned benefits. He adds that one reform remains the best way to continue to ensure Social Security's long-term fiscal strength:
In the midst of all of the destructive rhetoric and ideas out there, there is one proposal that is simple, sensible and would keep Social Security strong and solvent in a fair and just way.

Under the law today, the Social Security payroll tax is levied only on earnings up to $106,800 a year. That means millionaires and billionaires get off scot free on all of their income above that amount. In other words, an individual who earns $106,800 pays the same Social Security tax as a multimillionaire. That’s wrong.

Applying the Social Security payroll tax on those with the most income, say over $250,000 a year, would correct this inequity. According to CBO, applying the tax to all income would provide all the revenue that Social Security needs for the foreseeable future — for our kids and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
It is low-hanging fruit for a Democratic Congress concerned about its electoral chances this fall.

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