Social security has long been regarded as the third rail of American politics. The program is so sacrosanct that even Republicans are normally reluctant to call for cuts to social security. A vast majority of Americans want the social security program to be protected. Notably, older Americans are particularly strong defenders of social security. Even nearly three-quarters of Republicans, want to not only preserve social security, but they also want to expand the program.
However, make no mistake in understanding the position of the 114th congress on social security. The current Republican-dominated Congress wants to cut social security benefits. The GOP-controlled House signaled their intent to do just that, the very first day they were in session, when they modified the chamber’s rules to jeopardize social security disability payments. The Republican plan would imperil disabled Americans, who could see close to twenty percent reductions in their already meager incomes.
Attacking disability payments is just the tip of the iceberg. House Budget Committee Chair Tom Price (R-GA) made that clear on Monday in a speech at the Heritage Action for America “Conservative Policy Summit”. At the summit, Price stated:
On the issue of Social Security, it has indeed been the third rail as Tim [Chapman, COO for Heritage Action] mentioned, and what I’m hopeful is what the Budget Committee will be able do is to is begin to normalize the discussion and debate about Social Security. This is a program that right now on its current course will not be able to provide 75 or 80 percent of the benefits that individuals have paid into in a relatively short period of time. That’s not a responsible position to say, ‘You don’t need to do anything to do it.’
So all the kinds of things you know about – whether it’s means testing, whether it’s increasing the age of eligibility. The kind of choices — whether it’s providing much greater choices for individuals to voluntarily select the kind of manner in which they believe they ought to be able to invest their working dollars as they go through their lifetime. All those things ought to be on the table and discussed.
In 2005, George W. Bush tried to push a plan to privatize social security, but it collapsed under the weight of public pressure, and the idea never reached a vote in the House. Today’s Republican Party however is determined to tackle the issue again, and cuts to social security would stand a strong chance of passing both houses of Congress. President Obama should veto any such proposal. However, activists need to keep pressure on the White House to make sure the president stands firm on opposing any cuts to the social security program. In 2013, the President initially proposed a plan that included chained CPI for social security benefits. Facing criticism from his left flank, he later dropped that proposal.
Many conservative voters chose to elect Republicans on the promise of tax cuts and spending cuts. Many of those voters also assumed that the Republicans wouldn’t dare touch social security. They thought, and hoped, those promised spending cuts would only go after programs that didn’t affect them personally. However, as House Budget Committee Chair Tom Price has made abundantly clear, he has social security in his gun sights. For Americans who depend upon the program for disability or retirement income, the GOP plan promises greater hardship in the years to come. If the Republican plan is implemented, some of the suffering will be brought to bear on delusional conservative voters who thought they would be spared any pain from the GOP budget ax. They are going after social security, and if you voted for them, your future suffering was self-inflicted.