Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was on Fox News Sunday this morning proving to America that he doesn’t really care about the debt problem at all, he just wants to appease his hatred for misnamed “entitlement” programs like Social Security.
Graham insists that we must raise the age for Social Security in order to deal with the debt problem, but the Social Security Trust Fund has nothing to do with the deficit, and even former President Reagan knew this.
Here’s Senator Graham on Fox this morning courtesy of Think Progress:
Graham said, “I’m not going to raise the debt ceiling unless we get serious about keeping the country from becoming Greece, saving Social Security and Medicare [sic]. So here’s what I would like: meaningful entitlement reform — not to turn Social Security into private accounts, not to take a voucher approach to Medicare — but, adjust the age for Social Security, CPI changes and means testing and look beyond the ten-year window. I cannot in good conscience raise the debt ceiling without addressing the long term debt problems of this country and I will not.”
Graham is saying that Republicans will bring their “entitlement” grievances to the debt ceiling fight in order to address long term debt. So, he is just pretending to care about deficit reduction and clinging to raising the age for Social Security as a way to get there, unless he’s really unaware of how the Social Security Trust Fund operates. It is funded by payroll taxes. We pay into it our entire working lives in order to have it later. It’s not here to fund reckless spending or wars.
A refresher for the Senator from way back in 1984, when Republican idol President Ronald Reagan explained to the math impaired, “Social security has nothing to do with the deficit.”
Reagan said, “Social Security, let’s lay it to rest once and for all… Social security has nothing to do with the deficit. Social Security is totally funded by the payroll tax levied on employer and employee. If you reduce the outgo of Social Security, that money would not go into the general fund or reduce the deficit. It would go into the Social Security Trust Fund. So Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or raising or lowering the deficit.”
The national debt is the net accumulated borrowing by the federal government. The federal budget deficit is the amount that our federal government borrows each year, based on the difference between what we generate in revenue (e.g., taxes) and spending. Each year’s deficit is then added to the existing debt. Thus, since Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, it also has nothing to do with the accumulation of deficits, known as debt.
If Senator Graham is so concerned about our debt, why doesn’t he start by addressing the Republican unfunded entitlement Medicare Part D first? Dan Gross explained that it is the “Republican-designed Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit that threatens to explode entitlement costs, by as much as $1 trillion in 10 years.” You see, Republicans left Medicare Part D unfunded and also left it up to the private sector insurance companies to charge what they wished for the drugs rather than force competition to do its thing.
Yet Senator Graham says he won’t move unless the Social Security age is raised because “I cannot in good conscience raise the debt ceiling without addressing the long term debt problems of this country and I will not.” How is raising the Social Security age going to address the “long term debt problem” of this country?
Where was Graham’s worried conscience when Cheney told us, “Deficits don’t matter” and former President Bush governed accordingly? If Graham really cared so much about the “long term debt” problem, he might have spoken up when under Bush taxes were lowered while starting two unfunded wars, which were also left off of the budget at the time. President Obama initiated some honest accounting by adding those bills to our debt. Those deficits (lowering revenue while increasing spending and borrowing to cover the difference) accumulated up over time, and are a significant part of the debt problem. Wars are expensive.
Now that those credit card bills are due, Graham and Republicans want to force Seniors to pay the bill, only cutting Social Security would not even go to the deficit. In other words, this argument works on the misinformed, but it’s a shell game. The argument over whether or not Social Security needs to be reformed doesn’t belong in a fight over the debt ceiling. Let Senator Graham make this argument in a situation where he’s not holding the country hostage over an unrelated matter.
Senator Graham has exposed his argument as the craven lie it is. He doesn’t give a hoot about debt. What he cares about is using every single Republican-created crisis as a justification to destroy the social safety net, even when the programs he takes aim at are unrelated to our deficit.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.