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Topic: Congress release plan to gut social security

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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

I Am a Liberal 'Til My Dying Day

WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump distinguished himself on the campaign trail as the rare Republican candidate promising not to cut Social Security and Medicare.

But Republicans in Congress have other plans for the two popular social insurance programs ― and they are wasting no time rolling them out.

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, released a plan Thursday to reform Social Security that would drastically reduce benefits. The bill would make the program less of a universal earned benefit and more of a means-tested safety net that aims only to provide basic support to the poorest retirees and disabled workers.
Top House Republican Unveils Plan To Gut Social Security
A Texas congressman's bill violates Donald Trump's promise to protect the program.
huffingtonpost.com
Post Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:43 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Huffington Post

Today's Republicans want to avoid political accountability by destroying Social Security and Medicare without leaving clear fingerprints.
01/14/2017 11:09 am ET | Updated Jan 14, 2017
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Nancy Altman Founding Co-Director, Social Security Works

The Republicans are desperate to destroy Social Security and Medicare. These two programs demonstrate government at its best. The federal government runs these two extremely popular programs more efficiently, universally, securely, and effectively than the private sector does with its alternatives — or indeed could, no matter how well those private sector programs were designed.

Because Social Security and Medicare are government programs that work so well, the Republican elite — with its seemingly religious belief that the private sector is always the best — hates them. So obsessed are the Republicans in their desire to eliminate these effective government programs that the very first action that House Republicans took in the new Congress was to adopt a rules package that included a new rule that amounts to a stealth attack on Social Security and Medicare.

The rules package, adopted at the start of every new Congress, sets out how the chamber will operate for the next two years. This year’s package is already infamous for provisions in the initial version that would have gutted the Office of Congressional Ethics — provisions that were ultimately dropped after a massive outcry from the American people. Unnoticed by most was an additional provision, which is one part of the Republican game plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare.

Social Security — the people’s pension — and Medicare — the first step toward universal health insurance for all — do not go through the appropriations process because, as monthly pension payments and medical insurance, they must pay what is owed, not what Congress chooses to spend. If Social Security and Medicare were subject to the whims of every Congress, they would be radically transformed. No one could count on the benefits they had earned. Presumably with that goal in mind, the new rules require the relevant committees to make “recommendations for changes to existing law for moving [unspecified} programs…from mandatory funding to discretionary appropriations, where appropriate.”

Note the vague language. Republican politicians understand how popular Social Security and Medicare are. Yet they desperately want to destroy the programs, which put the lie to their anti-government agenda by illustrating clearly that there are some tasks that government does much better then the private sector.

The solution? Cut and radically transform Social Security and Medicare, but do it in a manner that avoids political accountability. Using changes in the arcane rules of the budget to force through subsequent cuts fits that bill perfectly. By the time the American people realize what’s happening, the rules that usher in the changes are in the past, and those voting for the cuts can claim that they have no choice, for budgetary reasons.

The rule that has been adopted was telegraphed shortly after the election when Representative Tom Price, Chairman of the House Budget Committee and Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, proposed changes to the budget rules, which, if enacted, would end Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as we know them. (As an aside, it is horrifying to know that, if confirmed, Price will be in direct control of Medicare and Medicaid, and will be a trustee of Social Security.)
Congressional Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price

Not only are today’s Republicans obsessed, they are wily. Price, Speaker Paul Ryan, and their fellow Republicans have, unfortunately, learned from President George W. Bush’s failure to convince the American people to dismantle Social Security. Unpopular as the Bush proposal was, he traveled the country to convince the American people that they should support it.

In stark contrast, today’s Republicans want to avoid political accountability by destroying Social Security and Medicare without leaving clear fingerprints. They favor arcane budget rules and fast-tracked, undemocratic procedures so that the American people don’t know what is happening. We cannot let that happen.

It is essential that an energized electorate with heightened awareness makes noise at every turn. The next four years are perilous ones for Social Security and Medicare. But if they survive the unrelenting attacks, brighter times may well lie ahead. In the last few years, we’ve seen the Democratic Party, led by visionaries including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, unite around expanding, not cutting Social Security. Meanwhile, Republican politicians and elites have continued to support cutting benefits and ultimately destroying both programs.

Historically, Social Security and Medicare have been winning issues for Democrats. They can be now, as well. In addition to expanding, not cutting Social Security, Democrats should forcefully advocate expanding, not cutting, Medicare. Furthermore, Democrats should challenge Republicans when they claim the programs are in need of “saving.”

Republican claims that they are simply seeking to save Social Security and Medicare is the same Orwellian language used during the Vietnam War, when a military officer claimed that a village had to be destroyed in order to save it. Similarly, when today’s Republicans talk of “saving” Social Security and Medicare, their plans are to destroy both programs.

And when Republicans talk about “fixing” Social Security and Medicare, Democrats should point out that Republicans are using the word “fix” the same way veterinarians do, when they talk about neutering dogs and cats. The reality is that Social Security and Medicare don’t need fixing. They can and should be expanded, but they work fine, having stood the test of time.

And, most assuredly, neither Social Security nor Medicare need saving. Indeed, both programs are solutions to a looming retirement income crisis, a broken health care system, and income and wealth inequality. Expanding them would allow them to be even better solutions to these and other challenges facing the nation.

If Democrats are successful in making the American public aware that the Republicans desire to steal their earned Social Security and Medicare benefits, Social Security and Medicare could well be a potent issue in 2018, when seniors vote in disproportionately large numbers. If, in 2018 and 2020, seniors and others vote for progressives who champion expanding, not cutting, Social Security and Medicare, we will be in a position to expand these vital programs. Moreover, we will have elected champions of the environment, civil and human rights, and so many other important causes that those who support expanding Social Security and Medicare also support.

For that to happen, Democrats must be united in their fight against all Social Security and Medicare cuts and all stealth efforts to accomplish the same result indirectly. The Democratic Party must stand clearly and forcefully in favor of expanding, not cutting, Social Security and Medicare.

If the Democratic Party can draw a clear distinction on this vital issue, it can create a powerful wedge between the Republican elites and their base. If the base catches on and realizes who truly represents their economic interests, the next four years, difficult as they are going to be, will be followed by important progress for many years to come.
Post Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:53 am 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

12/09/2016 06:11 pm ET | Updated Dec 12, 2016
Huffington Post

Daniel Marans Reporter, Huffington Post
Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Getty Images
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Social Security, released a plan Thursday to reform the program that features major benefit cuts.

WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump distinguished himself on the campaign trail as the rare Republican candidate promising not to cut Social Security and Medicare.

But Republicans in Congress have other plans for the two popular social insurance programs ― and they are wasting no time rolling them out.

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, released a plan Thursday to reform Social Security that would drastically reduce benefits. The bill would make the program less of a universal earned benefit and more of a means-tested safety net that aims only to provide basic support to the poorest retirees and disabled workers.

In order to close Social Security’s long-term funding gap, Johnson would make Social Security’s benefit formula less generous for all but the lowest earners, rapidly raise the retirement age and reduce the annual cost-of-living adjustment, among other changes designed to save money.

Johnson also proposes changes that would cost the program money, like an increased minimum benefit for the poorest retirees ― provided they have a long history of covered employment ― and the elimination of income taxes on Social Security.

Under Johnson’s plan, a middle-class 65-year-old claiming benefits in 2030 ― one with average annual earnings of about $49,000 over 30 years of covered employment ― would experience a 17 percent benefit cut relative to what the program currently promises them, according to the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary. A 65-year-old with the same earnings history claiming benefits in 2050 would experience a 28 percent benefit cut compared to current law.

“For years I’ve talked about the need to fix Social Security so that our children and grandchildren can count on it to be there for them just like it’s there for today’s seniors and individuals with disabilities,” Johnson said in a statement introducing the bill. “My commonsense plan is the start of a fact-based conversation about how we do just that. I urge my colleagues to also put pen to paper and offer their ideas about how they would save Social Security for generations to come.”

Due to the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation, Social Security faces financial strain in the coming years. If Congress fails to act to either reduce the program’s obligations or increase its revenue by 2034, a 21 percent across-the-board benefit cut will automatically take effect.

Conservatives like Johnson favor closing this funding gap by reducing benefits.

Many progressives would rather address it entirely through revenue increases, such as lifting the cap on earnings subject to Social Security taxes. President Barack Obama and the vast majority of congressional Democrats have recently even coalesced behind expanding benefits to address the inadequacy of Americans’ other sources of retirement income.

Linda Benesch, a spokeswoman for Social Security Works, a progressive organization supporting benefits expansion, noted that for many workers, Johnson’s plan would cut benefits more than if Congress did nothing and allowed the automatic cuts to take effect.

Benesch dismissed the increase in benefits for the poorest earners, which she said would be insignificant relative to the large cuts for middle-class earners and tax cuts for wealthy retirees.

“A minimum benefit increase is a staple of a lot of Republican plans to cut benefits because they want the veneer of increasing benefits,” she said. “But that’s just a stalking horse for what this plan would do over time, which is to turn it into a poverty-level benefit and not an earned benefit.”

That would in turn risk reducing popular support for Social Security, which enjoys widespread backing thanks to its status as a universal wage replacement program, Benesch argued.

Protecting Medicaid, Benesch said, “is going to be a lot harder precisely because it is [a] benefit targeted to poorer folks rather than a universal benefit.”

Even Third Way, a more business-friendly Democratic think tank often at odds with Social Security Works over the former’s support for other plans that cut benefits, largely panned Johnson’s bill.

“Chairman Johnson deserves credit for putting out a plan,” David Brown, deputy director of Third Way’s economic program, said in an e-mail. “But this is the Bernie Sanders plan of the right. It is a partisan, ideological plan that reaches solvency entirely through benefit reductions, and harms retirement security as a result.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who has built a career on ambitious proposals to scale back social insurance programs, has repeatedly said he plans to prioritize overhauling Medicare. Although Trump hasn’t weighed in on the matter since the election and Senate Republicans have signaled their wariness at the prospect, Congressional Democrats are already expressing their excitement at the idea of a fight over the popular seniors’ health insurance program.

In an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, however, Ryan indicated he had no comparable plans to reform Social Security.

But Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the incoming ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, seized on Johnson’s plan as a sign that Ryan has already changed his mind.

“As Congressional Republicans prepare to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid, it now appears that Social Security has been added to the Republicans’ chopping block,” Neal said in a statement Friday. “America’s seniors will be alarmed to hear that the top Republican on this important Subcommittee quietly put forward a plan to drastically cut Social Security benefits for millions of seniors.”

“Democrats will fight any effort to undercut Social Security, just as we will fight any plan to replace Medicare with a voucher,” he added.
Post Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:00 am 
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