Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Liberal Voice for Social Security Cuts

In today's New York Times, liberal thinker Matt Miller argues that Democrats need to embrace Social Security reform. You should read the whole piece, it's excellent. The key thoughts:
Indeed, if you care about social justice and economic growth, the big policy question for the next generation is this: How do we square the needs of seniors with the needs of the rest of America, at levels of taxation that don't strangle the economy?

Those who say today's Social Security structure is sacred are arguing that our top priority - before we even consider anything else - must be to guarantee that every senior will enjoy real benefit increases in perpetuity.

But why is this fair or wise when there is no "trust fund" for the 45 million uninsured, or for the working poor or for poor children? Those who say "hands off Social Security," but who (like me) want government to spend big money on these other needs, are implicitly saying that taxes as a share of G.D.P. will have to rise sharply...

Maybe that makes sense. Or maybe it will mean a descent into tax-induced sloth. Or maybe talking about such levels of taxation in the U.S. is a political fantasy. The point is that Social Security is not something to fix in a vacuum. Once Democrats adopt this broader vision, they may find they're open to fair trims in future benefits as part of a blueprint that sustainably pursues progressive goals for all Americans, not just the elderly.

We know Democrats aren't making sense here because their chief argument is that "progressive indexing" (to prices, not wages) would cut retirement incomes too deeply by 2075. This may be true. But it's a little like worrying that Captain Kirk's phaser may malfunction in that year as well.

Cutting Social Security benefits as a means to saving progressive programs as a whole? That's a great motivation for Democrats.


At 11:16 AM, Blogger Tom - doubts and all said...

How about trading reduced Social Security benefits for 'new' social programs. Like health care for everyone, and a reality-based Medicare drug benefit.


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