Democrats raise prospect of ‘tweaking’ Social Security
GOP ‘quite frankly lying’ about program’s impending insolvency, DNC spokesman says
Fears about the national debt among Washington insiders have reignited debate about the future of Social Security, and a Democratic spokesman on Monday dismissed calls for privatization but conceded the program may need to be “tweaked” in order to ensure long-term solvency.
“Social Security needs to be tweaked, not torn apart from its very foundations,” Democratic National Committee communications director Brad Woodhouse told Raw Story on a conference call late Monday afternoon, in response to a question from this reporter.
Woodhouse tore into Republicans for championing “radical” changes to the program, pointing to the GOP-led Congress’s unsuccessful attempt to privatize it under the Bush administration. While Republican leaders have been vague on specifics, the party’s ranking member on the House budget committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), has put forth a plan that would move Social Security into private investment accounts.
For their part, Republican leaders have argued that Social Security and other entitlements need to be significantly reformed. “We also know these programs are unsustainable in their current form,” said House Republican leader John Boehner (OH) earlier this month on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” He added: “There are a lot of options on how you solve these, but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.”
Republicans, Woodhouse charged, “have two ideas as it relates to Social Security, and never anything else. It’s always, always privatizing it and cutting benefits, or it’s just cutting benefits.” He accused the GOP of “using scare tactics and quite frankly lying about the solvency of Social Security.” Democrat have offered some ideas of their own.
Members of the Democratic leadership, including Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC) have endorsed reforms to Social Security such as incrementally raising the retirement age — when Americans become eligible to collect benefits — in accordance with average life span, which they argue will diminish the need to cut future payouts.
As the program’s future grows into a campaign issue in this year’s midterm elections, dozens of other Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), have declared recently that any form of Social Security cuts should be off the table.
While the national debt grew dramatically in the last decade, Social Security, which enjoyed its 75th anniversary this month, is running a $2.5 trillion surplus, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and its Trust Fund is not expected to deplete until 2037.
“Social Security is one of the more sound programs, if not one of the soundest programs financially, operated by the federal government and will be solvent for a long period of time,” Woodhouse said. “So there’s absolutely no call for doing the radical things to Social Security, especially as it relates to privatization.”
Social Security advocates expect President Barack Obama’s debt commission, which will unveil its recommendations for cutting the national debt later this year, to push for reducing benefits.
The main purpose of Monday’s call with reporters was for Democrats to offer a “prebuttal” to Boehner’s scheduled speech on the economy in Ohio Tuesday. DNC vice chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern joined Woodhouse in offering a deeply grim preview of how Boehner and Republicans would govern if they retake the House of Representatives in November.