Paul Krugman basically collects the blog posts of the past few days to make a fully formed argument against Social Security benefit cuts or increases in the retirement age. He basically says that the expected increase in the percentage of GDP needed for Social Security in the next 20 years is less than the increase in the military budget since 9/11, and that those with their knives out for the program are using accounting tricks:
So where do claims of crisis come from? To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count — because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget — while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable — because hey, the program has to stand on its own.
It would be easy to dismiss this bait-and-switch as obvious nonsense, except for one thing: many influential people — including Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission — are peddling this nonsense.
And having invented a crisis, what do Social Security’s attackers want to do? They don’t propose cutting benefits to current retirees; invariably the plan is, instead, to cut benefits many years in the future. So think about it this way: In order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we must cut future benefits. O.K.
He adds that raising the retirement age, which amounts to a benefit cut of up to 20% (that would be the entire point of raising the retirement age, to reduce future expenditures), particularly short-changes low-income workers, who have not seen their life expectancy increase at the same rate as the affluent.
Now that we have a solid foundation and a set of arguments against benefit cuts and rebutting the premise that Social Security stands in crisis, as well as a set of solutions (like raising the payroll tax cap so it captures the amount of compensation that was part of Social Security’s design) that would easily deal with the long-term funding picture, progressive groups have decided to challenge their representatives to sign on to the pledge that shares these precepts. At Hands Off Social Security, the coalition fighting benefit cuts has launched their whip count operation, getting members of Congress on the record with the pledge. So far, 7 current members of Congress and 6 candidates have either signed it or made statements consistent with it:
Members of Congress:
Raul Grijalva, Lynn Woolsey, Nancy Pelosi (based on this story), Alan Grayson, Dave Loebsack, John Conyers, Earl Pomeroy
Francine Busby (CA-50), Roxanne Conlin (IA-Sen), Jack Conway (KY-Sen), Elaine Marshall (NC-Sen), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), David Segal (RI-01)
This obviously is in the formative stages, but over the next several weeks, the coalition will continue to get members on the record about their plans for Social Security. Considering that the cat food commission won’t release their recommendations until after the elections, this represents an early start.