MOVE QUIETLY

Posted in Rants on February 8th, 2017 by Ed

While the Donald the Unready throws enough tantrums to keep everyone variously entertained and horrified, House Republicans are introducing one regressive piece of legislation after another. Most will go nowhere. Some will add to the pile of problems we have to fix down the road. One target that is moving into focus is their decades-long dream of cutting Social Security. FreedomWorks (Remember them? 2010 was fun!) is starting to spam the usual suspect publications with disingenuous op-eds, which is a safe sign that a bill (like the one mentioned in the link) is more a question of "when" rather than "if."

George Carlin was right – They want your fuckin' retirement money, and they want it bad. This really is the final boss of Reagan-era conservative politics. It's the only thing that has been a true third rail for them; no matter how hard they've tried to weasel-word their way into making cuts while claiming that they're not making cuts, people over 50 vote and they scream bloody murder anytime someone tries to touch their benefit. The only way to fix the long-term potential issues with the system without cutting benefits is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, currently set at $117,000. Since tax increases are not even a thing that exists for Republicans, this allows them to claim with a straight face that there is "no choice" but to cut benefits.

This is not a difficult problem to fix. Lift the cap and the dire prophecies of shortfalls disappear. Something tells me that the people earning over $117,000 per year, with the dozens of other loopholes available to reduce their tax burden, will find a way to survive without this one. Since that obvious solution is a non-starter because Freedom and benefit cuts are a political death trap given how senior voters will react, expect Congress to do what is politically expedient and use Trump for cover. They'll grandfather everyone currently over 55 – they do love that "born before 1960" phrase in all of their "fixes" – into the current benefit levels and then ream everyone younger than 55.

To me, Social Security is a strange issue. I have strong feelings about the politics of the issue and the way the system is run, but I also take it as a given that I'll never see a dime of it. I'm 38, or approximately halfway to the point at which I could derive any benefits from Social Security. And since the late 1990s when conservatives first began beating the drum to replace it with the lotto of the stock market, I knew there was no chance that the system as we know it today would survive (at that time) 40-50 years of these people trying to F with it. Like every other part of the government that Baby Boomers grew up with, they've realized that the most profitable course of action is to benefit from it for their entire lives and then dismantle it for future generations to give themselves (another) tax cut.