Wednesday, October 28, 2015
The Republicans Continue To Lie About Social Security
I am getting sick and tired of Republican officials lying about Social Security. I was watching C-SPAN yesterday, and in an interview, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) made the statement that they were going to have to eventually tackle "entitlements" because Social Security and Medicare were the "biggest drivers of the debt and deficit". He's not the only Republican saying that. It's a typical talking point for Republicans.
Let me be clear -- what he said was A LIE! Social Security has never added a penny to the federal deficit or the national debt. That's because it is not funded by taxes through the U.S. Treasury, and therefore is NOT a part of the discretionary budget. Social Security is paid wholly through a payroll tax that goes into the Social Security Trust Fund -- and that fund has always been able to fully pay all Social Security benefits (without borrowing any money from the discretionary budget (paid for by income and other taxes).
And the Social Security Trust Fund can continue paying full benefits until about 2033. After that, it could continue paying at least 80% of benefits (if nothing is done). Raising or eliminating the cap on income subject to the Social Security tax (FICA payroll tax) would eliminate that problem, and fully fund Social Security far into the future. But even after 2033, even if nothing is done, Social Security will still not add a single penny to the deficit or the debt!
What is Cole really talking about then? Starting about the Reagan administration, the federal government (Congress) began to borrow money from the Social Security Trust Fund, and by now they have borrowed trillions from that fund. They borrowed that money so they could give tax cuts to the rich. Now they are faced with paying all that money back (without enough tax revenue) -- and that is driving up the deficit and the debt. The deficit is not the fault of Social Security. It is the fault of Republicans -- who cut taxes too much (for the rich), who borrowed too much, and who failed to pay for two very expensive (and continuing wars.
Now they say they must cut benefits and raise the retirement age for Social Security. The problem is that those "solutions" will not fix either the deficit or the debt. They must still pay back the money they borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund, and cutting benefits or raising the retirement age will do noting to affect either the deficit or the debt.
Why then are they telling this lie (repeatedly)? The simple answer is that the Republicans have always hated the Social Security program. They voted against it when it was proposed, and they have tried to kill it many times since. They know now how popular it is with the voters, so they are lying to try and convince voters it is causing a huge debt (which it is not) and about to go bankrupt (which it is not). If they can convince voters that these lies are real, then they can start chipping away at the program until it is useless (and doesn't work anymore) -- and then they'll have their excuse to do away with the program (which is what they really want).
Don't believe the Republican LIES! Social Security works. It has reduced poverty among seniors from over 50% to less than 10%. If anything, the Social Security benefits need to be expanded so the program will work even better.
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The truth is that Republicans love high taxes. They just want the high taxes to be on the poor and middle class. So they love the idea of cutting Social Security benefits while maintaining the ridiculously regressive tax. That's all this is about. And note the trick they play. When they talk about benefits, Social Security is just part of the federal government; there's nothing separate about it -- people on Social Security are taking money from the general fund. When they talk about revenues, then Social Security is a separate thing and it is going to "run out of money" in 2033. So what is it? Part of the problem or its own program that is safe for two decades? Note also that they never run around saying that rich bond holders aren't going to get paid back. That's all Social Security is: a rich bond holder.ReplyDelete
I share your anger. The Republicans are totally disingenuous about this stuff. By the way, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot's, Social Security: The Phony Crisis. What's most amazing about it is that it was written 17 years ago and the same myths that they debunk in that book are commonly spoken on mainstream television today without anyone contradicting them.