Democratic position on Social Security?

Just out of curiosity - what is the Democrats recommendation for social security? Do they recommend doing nothing, raising taxes, means testing, what? Do they believe it isn’t an issue? Why aren’t any Democrats willing to say – we’ll work with the President on this issue?

I’m getting the feeling that the issue has nothing to do with Social Security and everything to do with where that Social Security money is going. My gut feeling is the President is taking that money out of the government’s hands would be disempowering certain federal employees/agencies and empowering to pro-Republican sources, and the Democrats want to stall the “crisis” until a Democrat is in the White House so they can send the money to their people. Just a hunch, but I can’t cite.

In the past election cycle, John Kerry said we should do nothing for now. We would wait until a problem fully developed and then make changes like was done in the early 1980s. We might: raise the tax rate, raise the tax base, raise the retirement age or reduce the COLA. As part of the Democratic presidential platform, it is probably the most official current position of the Democratic party.

Of course, individual members of the party may have their own suggestions.

I’m not sure the Dems have an official position on this. I think tieing SS payments to how ‘wealthy’ a person is would be one thing they would advocate. Increasing the age at which payments are made is another thing that could be done. And increasing taxes or the cut off level at which SS is taxed is probably popular among Dems. Or a combination of all of those things.


I think you’d have to figure out and which of their constituiences they would involve and how.

Far more simple is the explanation that history shows that people who propose significant changes to SS lose elections. They’re going to propose nothing, advocate nothing, and hope to give him enough rope to hang himself.

How about “Don’t let George W. Bush sell his hokum ‘Social Security crisis’ snake-oil onto the American populace”?

There is no Social Security crisis, just as Iraq was never a threat to the US. It’s just a bullshit excuse for the conservatives to destroy the system.

The Democratic position on Social Security, in my opinion, is really goddamned stupid.

In 2001, Democrats were nearly unanimous in denouncing the Bush tax cuts as jeopardizing Social Security. Now, the wheel has come around, and the Dems are opposing the Bush plan because nothing needs to be done for many more years, because Social Security is basically okay. I really hate being a staunch member of the Democratic party when we flip-flop on the issues that are at the heart of what we stand for.

I’m not an expert in Social Security, to be sure, but it appears to me that there’s about a million things that can be done. Balancing the budget so that we must no longer rely on SS receipts to fund deficit spending is a no-brainer. We could encourage Americans to have more kids, or to take in more temporary immigrants, so that more people will pay into the system for the next thirty years. We could start a more expansive dialog on American pensions, seeing as how US workers are now routinely getting screwed on faultering companies trying to cut retirement benefits.

Anyways, my point is that there’s a lot of ways to change the debate so that the conversation is not just about private accounts and cutting benefits. But we’re not doing that, so that’s why (so far) I see that we’re going to have a hard time winning in 2006.

I’m confused. Where you see a flip-flop, I see consistency. From Bill Clinton (“Save Social Security First”) on, I think that a consistent Democratic position has been that the best way to keep Social Security solvent is to make sure that the budget is balanced. This serves the twofold purpose of both making sure that the government can’t spend Trust Fund money and then refuse to pay it back (see: George Bush expressing horror at the prospect of borrowing a few hundered billion dollars to honor the Trust Fund T-Bills) and making sure that when adjustments need to be made that the country will have the maximum financial flexibility.

Because they’re looking several years down the road, I see no inconsistency in saying “massive tax cuts jeopardize Social Security” along with “right now Social Security doesn’t need fixing.” When the time comes, twenty or thirty years down the road, there is nothing stopping Congress from passing the same rate-increasing, cap-increasing laws that have been passed multiple times in the past.

Given that there is no looming Social Security crisis (since even fairly conservative estimates put the “drop-dead” date* at 2042), I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Democrats maintaining that there are far worse things to deal with (including two other massive deficits: the on-budget deficit and the upcoming Medicare deficit) than the one part of government that is actually fiscally healthy right now.

I hate to keep writing these multiple post responses in Social Security threads, but I forgot to do this:

*Since both the date when outlays exceed receipts and the date when the trust fund will run out keep being pushed back, it’s possible that twenty years down the road, we will be talking about the “looming Social Security crisis in 2060.”

Also, while I agree that the Democrats shouldn’t stay completely mum on their plans for Social Security, I think that politically they’re taking the right approach. They should either make the President back down, which is a political win as that is the major thrust of his domestic agenda, or they should make the Republicans pass it on their own, which is an even bigger political win as privatization is quite unpopular and there will be no bipartisan cover.

The first solution is fine, since if the legislation fails, the Democrats will have plenty of time to come up with their own alternatives. In the second case, there’s not much the Democrats could do anyway, other than put up a united front.

2001: Democrats claim that Bush tax cuts will wreck Social Security. Bush tax cuts are enacted, lock, stock, and barrel.
2005: Democrats claim that Social Security is not in jeopardy, unless Bush gets his way.

Bush got his way in 2001, and now there is NOT a Social Security crisis? That’s absolutely pathetic. If anything, we should blame Bush for putting SS in jeopardy. Let’s go on the offensive for once, not just play defense.

I’m reminded of the prevent defense in football, in which the only thing that it prevents is the team from winning. I’m afraid that Dems are basically playing a prevent defense on really big issues instead of trying to develop our own alternatives to promote our agenda.

Thinking about it more, we could push a plan to exempt the first (x) thousand dollars of income from Social Security taxes, and pay for it by raising the cap on SS taxable earnings. Then we could say we’re helping Social Security remain solvent, while promoting job creation as well.

I dunno: what is Bush’s plan? If you said “Private accounts” (oh, sorry master, PERSONAL accounts) then you’ve failed the test. Private accounts have nothing to do with solving the crisis Bush claims is coming (ironic, isn’t it, that by Bush’s definition of “bankrupt” the U.S. government has been officially “bankrupt” since soon after he took office). It’s a complete bait and switch.

The fact is Democrats AND Congressional Republicans basically supported and were quietly talking about how to make minor adjustments to keep the system going, just like they did in the 80s. Most Democrats are still happy to do just this. Nothing has changed (well except that when they first starting talking about reforms, we had a surplus).

Then, someone decided that this would be a great partisan issue in order to stick it to the Democrats, just like terrorism or a war. So now suddenly it’s a horrid crisis of apocalyptic proportions.

I actually think transitioning to private accounts is a decent idea (though I don’t think that’s really what’s being proposed). But this is a beyond dishonest way to try and sell it.

If the government wanted us to have our money to invest, it could just stop taking it. The idea that the government STILL taxing our money, but then putting it into riskier investments, and then shifting the risk burden to us, is pretty goofy as a reform. What, I’m STILL too dumb to manage my own finances, but I am at least smart enough to choose to allow the government to gamble on my behalf as long as I agree that all the risk is on me? What?

Please see jshore and my posts above for what private accounts have to do with Bush’s plan. Private accounts aren’t supposed to save Social Security; they’re supposed to make up for the fact that benefits will be tied to inflation instead of wages, which probably means that benefits will not grow as quickly as they would under the current plan.

Talk about flip flops. Where were you folks when the Dems were in power? From Bill Clinton’s speech to Georgetown University in 1998 (emphasis added):

So if Bush invented this crisis for political gain, then how did Clinton get his hands on it in 1998? Time machine? Or maybe something’s changed while Bush has been in office to make Social Security more solvent than it was under Clinton.

You can argue that there is no crisis in Social Security. But you can’t argue that the idea that there’s a crisis in Social Security comes from Bush to screw the Democrats. At least not if you want to retain any credibility.

Well I don’t think that either side is looking at moving the money or not moving it is going to help either party directly.

I think that the issue is that this is extremely partisian politics. There clearly is a problem with social security. This is fact, whether or not democrats are admitting to it now or not. They have previously stated there is a problem themselves.

I think that the biggest issue with this is that both sides are playing partisian politics, rather than trying to resolve the issue. Republicans want to be heros, democrats want squash anything that might make another party look good. Both sides need to come together and address this issue for the people instead of playing games. It is a serious issue and it is making me angry how SS is handled now, and that it hasn’t been corrected yet

There certainly is going to be a nice and easy answer to this. Even if the very best thing is done, a lot of people still won’t like it.

If the government had not been stealing from it for the past 70 years, and instead treated it like an investment fund, then there would not be the problem that exists now.

AFAIK the IOU scheme hasn’t been happening for 70 years, but rather only since Vietnam.

But yes, were the money being invested instead of cashed, we wouldn’t have this problem. Which is what Bush is suggesting (with the important IMO addition of ownership).

These comments are exactly the sort of thing that I am talking about. Everyone needs to stop playing games and actually do what is right. I am so tired of nothing getting done due to partisian politics. I would love to see things actually get done for once by everyone working together particularly on SS and healthcare.

AQA: * But you can’t argue that the idea that there’s a crisis in Social Security comes from Bush to screw the Democrats.*

Well, actually Apos described the Bush rhetoric as suggesting “a horrid crisis of apocalyptic proportions”. Certainly, the Clinton rhetoric that you quoted (including such acknowledgements of reality as “the trust fund is fine for another few decades”, “25 percent cut in benefits”) is much milder, and much less exaggerated, than the line that the Administration is currently pushing.

And if you’re going to complain about inconsistency, then what’s Bush’s excuse? If we knew back in 1998, as I think it’s clear everybody did, that there was going to be an SS funding shortfall a few decades down the road, and if Clinton took it seriously enough to argue for putting the budget surplus into SS funding rather than tax cuts—

then what on earth was Bush doing arsing around in his first term with trillions of dollars of budget-crippling tax cuts, instead of funding Social Security the way Clinton recommended?

Bush is the guy who spent the mortgage payment on caviar and is now telling us that we’ll have to go without fuel this winter in order to pay the mortgage. If he’s so concerned about the Social Security crisis, why did he push for expensive tax cuts, mostly benefiting the wealthiest taxpayers, and an expensive, unnecessary war?

Moreover, why is he still pushing for them? If he were reversing his earlier position and advocating eventual repeal of the tax cuts on the grounds that we need the revenue for Social Security, he might have some credibility. But he isn’t. He’s angling just as hard as ever to have all his tax cuts made permanent, and a completely free hand time- and expense-wise with the Iraq occupation. Oops, budget in trouble? It’s all Social Security’s fault! Gee, how convenient.

I really don’t see why the Democrats should get slammed for inconsistency at every turn, while much grosser and shamelessly political contradictions on the part of the Administration get a pass.

jeff: There clearly is a problem with social security. This is fact, whether or not democrats are admitting to it now or not. They have previously stated there is a problem themselves.

A “problem”? Certainly. A desperately imminent “crisis” in which any change must be better than no change? No. The realities of the situation are described quite well by the above Clinton quote: within a few decades (and current predictions put the date somewhere in the 2040’s, not 2030 as predicted back in 1998), the Social Security system as currently structured is forecast to have a budget shortfall that would enable it to pay only about 75% of its scheduled benefits.

Does something need to be done about this? Yes. Does it justify running around in circles saying “Social Security’s collapsing!” and clutching at the Administration’s proposed “solution” without reading the fine print very, very carefully? No.

jeff: If the government had not been stealing from it for the past 70 years, and instead treated it like an investment fund, then there would not be the problem that exists now.

“Stealing”? Sorry, but Social Security has never been an “investment” or “fully funded” system; from the beginning, it’s been a “pay as you go” system, where current contributions fund benefits for current retirees. You may wish that FDR’s administration had made a different choice about that, but it’s hardly fair to call the choice they made “stealing”.

(And as I pointed out in a different thread, if they hadn’t chosen a “pay as you go” system back in 1935, the political reaction might have been very different. Back in the Depression, the need for financial relief of the current elderly population seemed much more pressing than the need to start saving for future retirees decades down the road.)

jeff: Everyone needs to stop playing games and actually do what is right. I am so tired of nothing getting done due to partisian politics. I would love to see things actually get done for once by everyone working together particularly on SS and healthcare.

Fair enough. What would you like to see “get done”? What is “right”? What action needs to be taken? You can offer your ideas in the parallel thread Would you reform Social Security and if so HOW?.

What Kimstu said. Social Security will probably have a minor hiccup down the road, but Dr. Bush is proposing to shoot the patient as a “cure.”

It’s quite simple. This administration never changes its plans, it just changes the rationale.

2001 - We need to enact tax cuts because we have a surplus and it’s your money; you earned it. 2002 - We need to enact tax cuts because we are in a recession and we need to grow the economy; it’s economic stimulus.

2002 - We need to invade Iraq because they pose a grave and gathering WMD threat. 2004 - We invaded Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people from tyranny.

2004 - We need to reform Social Security because the system is in crisis.
2005 - We need to reform Social Security because it gives the worker “a better deal” even though it will do “nothing to solve to system’s long term fiscal problems.”

See, paragons of consistency.

Opps…looks like I made an error above.
It should read “There certainly NOT going to be a nice and easy answer to this.”

The solution is never going to be easy, but never the less the fact is that something must be done.

First of all, that’s not what I was talking about. Apos and rjung both said that Bush invented this whole “Social Security crisis” thing for political gain. That’s patently false.

Second, cite please? What did Bush say that was more severe than Clinton referring to the “looming Social Security crisis”? What did Bush say that was more severe than Clinton referring to Social Security going “broke”? Note – Apos’s (probably facetious, definitely hyperbolic) characterization of Bush’s words don’t count. You’ve got to show me where Bush said anything worse than Clinton before you can legitimately claim that Bush has been more severe and more exaggerated.

And Bush acknowledged that Social Security is not running on empty:

How far away is 2042? It’s a couple decades.

And how exactly is referring to a 25% cut in Social Security benefits less “apocalyptic” than saying that there will need to be a “severe” cut in Social Security benefits? 25% is a very “severe” cut. Frankly, I think “draconian” and “devastating to people that are already trying to subsist on meager wages” would have been more accurate, but Bush apparently decided to go with only “severe.”

First of all, Bush didn’t cut Social Security taxes. Second, Bush cut other taxes to stimulate the economy. The government isn’t going to bring in any Social Security taxes from people that aren’t working. Third, Clinton wasn’t dealing with a lagging economy; he was dealing with an overheating economy that was running surpluses. There’s no inconsistency there. It’s two totally different situations, and two totally different things.

Baloney, and you know it. Just because you disagree with Bush’s plan (and I have a feeling that you would have wholeheartedly supported Clinton’s privatization proposals) doesn’t mean that you get to make up facts. Bush didn’t invent the Social Security crisis for political gain; your assertions otherwise make you look like you care less about the facts than taking every opportunity to take a swipe at Bush, deserved or not.