GOP plan dramatically reduces Social Security benefits, actuary finds

By Sahil Kapur
Thursday, October 21, 2010 14:25 EDT
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A high-profile Republican budget plan would slash Social Security benefits in the long-run — perhaps even by up to half of what they are now, the program’s actuary concluded in a new study.

The Chief Actuary of Social Security analyzed a proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP’s ranking member on the budget committee, who could become its chairman in January, and found that new entrants in the US workforce could see massive decreases in their payouts upon retirement.

It was unveiled Wednesday by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, less than two weeks before an election in which Democrats have elevated Social Security into a major campaign issue.

“The new analysis reveals that these proposals result in benefits cuts ranging from ten percent to as high as 50 percent,” Pomeroy said in a statement. “As I talk to seniors today about stretching their Social Security benefits with no cost of living adjustment in sight, they would not agree with describing cuts of this magnitude as ‘modest’.”

The Ryan “Roadmap for America’s Future,” the plan that was analyzed, has 13 co-sponsors (all Republicans). GOP leaders, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), have declined to fully endorse it but haven’t disavowed it, either.

“I don’t think the average American worker could afford to lose 30 percent of their Social Security, which is what would happen under the Republican proposal. That’s not what I’d call ‘saving’ Social Security,” Pomeroy said.

Ryan shot back, saying through a spokesman that Pomeroy was engaging in “partisan attacks” and warned that the status quo would bankrupt the program.

“According to the Social Security Administration, Congressman Pomeroy’s do-nothing plan will impose painful, across-the-board benefit cuts on current seniors and those nearing retirement,” Ryan spokesman Conor Sweeney said in a statement e-mailed to Raw Story.

Social Security’s trust fund is currently running a $2.5 trillion surplus, according to its trustees report, and is not projected to run into funding problems until 2037.

Democrats have relentlessly attacked Republican high-ticket candidates — such as Joe Miller and Sharron Angle — this election cycle for criticizing the program and questioning its future viability.

Some Democratic leaders do argue, however, that the program may need to be “tweaked” to ensure long-run solvency, with changes such as incremental increases to the retirement age.

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