Democrats want negotiations over the future of Social Security to be discussed at a later time, but Congressman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who is a senior member of the House Ways and Means committee, says now is the time for the President to put Social Security on the table.
Asked about leaving Social Security out of current fiscal cliff negotiations, Rep. Brady offered Breitbart News this statement:
Social Security is in its worst financial shape ever according to testimony from Social Security trustees, and this year America will borrow $165 billion from China and the Federal Reserve just to make sure seniors get their full benefits. There is no excuse for the President and Congress to bury their heads in the sand any longer. Republicans have already made it clear that we are willing to lead, but right now we lack a president and a Democrat-led Senate willing to work with us to find a bi-partisan solution. I’m also convinced that our nation soon faces another credit downgrade if we don’t work together to make Social Security and Medicare sustainable over the long haul.
Rep. Brady’s views are clearly at odds with those of senior Democrats. A week ago Sunday Senator Dick Durbin went on ABC’s This Week and told moderator George Stephanopolous “Social Security does not add one penny to our debt — not a penny.”
Durbin is hardly alone. On the most recent edition of This Week the President’s chief negotiator, Secretary Tim Geithner, made clear that Social Security was off the table. Pressed on the point he would only say that the President would be willing to look at Social Security as part of a “separate process” somewhere down the line.
As Rep Brady points out, Senators Durbin is wrong about the financial well being of Social Security. The program has been adding to the deficit each year since 2010. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the government borrowed $37 billion to meet its Social Security needs in that year. In 2011 the figured jumped to $48 billion.
Unless changes are made to the program these increases in deficit spending will continue every year. From 2011 to 2015, CBO estimates the program’s total shortfall will be $355 billion. That figure is more than double the estimate CBO put out just last year.
To put this in context, $355 billion (over five years) is not far from the $400 billion President Obama is reportedly offering to cut from Medicare over 10 years as part of the Fiscal Cliff negotiations.
With an urgency similar to that of Rep. Brady, Robert Samuelson argues in his most recent column that as long as Democrats keep Social Security off the table “they aren’t bargaining in good faith, or in the national interest.”
Meanwhile, the organized left is rolling out union members to protest any possible entitlement cuts this week. The head of AFGE, the union organizing the protests at 100 Social Security offices around the country on Wednesday, told Huffington Post, “Cutting Social Security’s budget or making modifications to Medicare andMedicaid should not be part of a grand bargain to reduce the deficit.” The AFL-CIO is also demanding that no cuts be made to entitlements.
The President’s initial offer of House Republicans involved $4 of tax increases now for $1 of tax cuts later. Speaker Boehner announced the talks were at a stalemate.
In his most recent letter to the President, Speaker Boehner seemed to be urging a return to a proposal made by Democrat Erskine Bowles last November. That plan did not urge any cuts to Social Security though, as noted above, the financial picture of the program has deteriorated significantly since that proposal was made.