Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, stated that Republicans “plot to threaten an economic meltdown to force massively unpopular cuts to Social Security or Medicare.”
Plotting? Oh my!
There are four articles that claim the GOP will gut, eliminate or destroy Social Security. These articles all tie to statements made randomly by Republican Party leaders. These articles are designed to create fear and waste time.
Pelosi and others selling fear are unaware of the fact that Social Security is about to be cut. Social Security will offer life-altering benefits reductions for seniors all across the country in just 12 years. This isn’t the worst-case scenario. These are the results we should expect from a relatively strong economy.
It’s not all bad news, though. Experts agree that the harder it is the longer you wait. It is obvious that the longer we spend on frivolous political sideshows, the more pain, and suffering we will have in our later years.
Unfortunately, voters chose to feel more pain every time.
Despite fear dominating the news regarding Social Security, there are no indications that the GOP intends to “eliminate” or change Social Security.
Senator Rick Scott (R.FL) has no plan to end Social Security and Medicare in five years. He has the plan to ensure Congress does its job. His plan may not work. These programs might be forgotten by Congress, or the voters could vote against them and elect representatives who would end them. These are unlikely scenarios and not a plan.
Sen. Ron Johnson (Republican from Wisconsin) stated that he wants Congress to exercise greater oversight over these programs. It is a fact that Congress is able to control the cost of non-discretionary items in the budget. Congress makes no decision to do so every year. There is no reason for Congress to be more concerned about deficits in the budget or the prospects for programs that millions depend on.
Johnson’s idea may be terrible, but it is not for the right reasons. Social Security’s average retirement coverage lasts about 19 years. With a two-year time horizon, no sensible retiree would want to depend on the annual application by politicians of baling wire and duct tape to secure their retirement.
Instead of having a rational discussion about his idea’s merits, voters are bombarded with fear about GOP plans to eliminate Social Security.
However, I am concerned about the GOP’s commitment and understanding of the problem. Despite all the talk about Social Security strengthening, the GOP seems very good at doing nothing.
Without explaining how party leaders talk loosely about protecting Social Security for people who are currently collecting. People aged 75 years and older expect to outlive the system’s ability to pay scheduled benefits. Preserving existing retirees’ benefits implies they plan to increase taxes. So what taxes will they be increasing?
The last time the GOP had a plan for reforming Social Security was on December in 2016, just weeks before the end of the 114th Congress. The retiring congressman introduced it without having to worry about his re-election.
His goal was to convince younger voters to accept drastic reductions in benefits to ensure that current retirees were not inconvenienced by smaller paychecks. In particular, the average retired person 20 years from now would see a 30% reduction in benefits. This would increase as the senior population ages.
This prospect may seem unpleasant to someone 45 years old, but the truth is that the problem is now larger than ever. The Republican plan seems to be to get younger voters to accept benefits cuts that are much greater than what they would experience if they did nothing. That strategy is a good one.
The Democrats may be able to benefit politically from this fear calculus, but those who must live with it will not.
Disengaged dialogue over the future of the program is nothing more than an invitation for a programmatic drift into a crisis where nobody wins.
Brenton Smith ([email protected]) is a policy adviser at The Heartland Institute, with work appearing in nationally recognized publications including Barron’s, Forbes, MarketWatch, The Hill, USA Today, and more.