There have been a number of very good pieces written this week which provided some desperately needed perspective on our debt, deficits and the campaign to blame them on Social Security.EJ Dionne wrote this in his piece, ?Smart Debt, Dumb Debt ?there is a difference?:
?On health care, the status quo means that more Americans will find themselves without insurance because an ever-growing number of employers simply won’t be able to afford the expense. This is unsustainable. Enacting health reform now will allow us to plan how government can take on these costs gradually. As for retirement security, most Americans know their private pensions will be nothing like those enjoyed by their parents or grandparents.So reforming Medicare and Social Security can never be a simple matter of cutting spending. We have to look at the entire health-care picture and rethink our whole retirement system.Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has gotten credit for doing a version of this in his “Roadmap for America’s Future.” He proposes to balance the budget by, among other things, turning Medicare into a voucher program and partially privatizing Social Security.Ryan gets points for being a genuinely nice person (no small thing in our mean moment) and for saying outright what many other Republicans only mumble. But the path he suggests is exactly wrong. Weakening social insurance is the opposite of what the country needs, and it doesn’t even get us to fiscal nirvana.?
Robert Kuttner, in the Boston Globe, says fiscal hawks are eyeing the wrong prey and will use the President?s fiscal commission to make the kill:
“Obama?s large deficits are mostly the result of the legacy of the Bush tax cuts and the depleted revenues resulting from recession, not the stimulus program. Before Obama took office, the projected deficit for 2009 was already in excess of 8 percent of GDP.Since Republicans have made clear that they will oppose tax increases, the general assumption is that the 18-member commission, with six presidential appointees and the remaining 12 to be appointed by Congress, will recommend mainly cuts in Social Security and Medicare. This is quite a message to the American people: Abuses in private financial markets whacked the value of your home, your retirement savings, and your job. Now, in order to pay for the costs of bailing out the banks, we will also have to cut back the two public benefits you can count on that were not tainted by private-sector excesses: your Social Security and your Medicare.The commission?s members are mostly part of the club that supports deep cuts in social insurance.?
Which leaves seniors, and the AARP bulletin asking, ?You?ve worked hard all your life for benefits. You?ve met the criteria. So what?s the problem??
?Does Social Security need some fixing? Yes, it does, but it?s nothing like the train wreck described by the system?s opponents. Proposed fixes generally fall into two categories: raising revenue or reducing benefits. The Center on Retirement Research at Boston College has published The Social Security Fix-It Book, which is an excellent guide to some of the proposed solutions with the pros and cons carefully explained. But fixing Social Security will take political will, reminiscent of the dedication of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in the early 1980s. Hysteria doesn?t help. Gwendolyn King, commissioner of the Social Security Administration under President George H.W. Bush, says that people have worked hard all their lives to earn the benefits of Social Security promised them. ‘They are entitled and deserve to be.’So the next time you hear criticism of entitlements, or claims that Social Security is going to wreck our economy, or charges that people who think they are entitled to Social Security might as well shoot their grandchildren, take those slurs with a grain of salt. Opponents of Social Security are entitled to free speech. But you are entitled to the facts.?