A former Republican congressman from Ohio found himself in the difficult position Tuesday of explaining the policy of not paying back Social Security funds that were used for things like tax cuts for the rich.
Guest hosting MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show, Cenk Uygur gave former Rep. Bob McEwen the task of defending his idea that Social Security should be cut.
Uygur pointed out that the Social Security Trust Fund has actually run surpluses for the last 25 years.
In an op-ed for Politico, Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote:
First, letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s be clear: Despite all the right-wing rhetoric, Social Security is not going bankrupt. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lie!
The truth is that the Social Security Trust Fund has run surpluses for the last quarter century. TodayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s $2.5 trillion cushion is projected to grow to $4 trillion in 2023. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, experts in this area, say Social Security will be able to pay every nickel owed to every eligible beneficiary until 2039.
Got that? In case you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, let me repeat it. The people who have studied this issue most thoroughly and have no political bias report that Social Security will be able to pay out all benefits to every eligible beneficiary for the next 29 years.
"It's has a $2.5 trillion surplus," said Uygur. "It will pay 100 percent of your benefits through 2037. In a worst case scenario, pay 78 percent of your benefits through 2084."
"You just said they've already spent it," argued McEwen. "So either it has been spent and nothing is there. We have to decide on one or the other."
"If we have a debt to China or we have a debt to Saudi Arabia, we have to pay it or the bond market will flip out," replied Uygur. "Now if we have a debt to the American people, which we do under Social Security, and you want to bilk them on that, well that also involves our faith in credit. That's not right."
"You guys spend it on the tax cuts for the rich and senseless ridiculous wars. How about we get our money back?" Uygur demanded.
"The fact is that it's gone. It has been consumed and spent and there is no treasury," said McEwen.
Uygur was becoming frustrated. "No. Every economist agrees it will pay 100 percent until 2037. Are you disagreeing with all those numbers?"
"Yes," replied McEwen.
"Of course, you are," said Uygur. "Because you've already spent our money. You're not going to give it back to the American people, are you?" he asked.
Before the congressman could answer, Uygur shouted, "They put it -- every year, every year, every single year that comes out of our paycheck. We put it in and you're saying we were suckered. That you just took the money and gave it in tax cuts to the rich, and you're just not going to give it back. Is that what you're saying?"
McEwen attempted to explain that because people are living longer something has to be done. "You can go to the parking lot of the House and Senate today and see the same bumper sticker that I saw when I was a kid. And it said, 'Vote Democrat. Save Social Security.' In other words, they've been riding this thing for 30 years. We knew this day would come. It's now here. There's no alternative," he said.
Uygur loved the irony. "Congressman, you just told them you were going to cut their Social Security. You just told them I'm not going to pay you back. You just told them you were going to raise the retirement age. You said 65 is too young, now you're saying that Democrats are demagoging it?"
"You tell me what to do when you're running short of money? What are your options," asked McEwen.
"There are a hundred other things to cut. For example, billions in defense contracting, waste in defense contracting. Here's one. How about we didn't go into that dumbass war in Iraq and waste a trillion dollars when we found zero weapons of mass destruction?" answered Uygur.
As RAW STORY recently reported, Republicans aren't the only one eyeing cuts to Social Security.
Prominent progressive economists are warning liberals and senior citizens not to take Social Security for granted simply because Republicans are out of power, arguing that structural incentives are propelling Democratic leaders to support scaling back the cherished program.
"Social Security faced its greatest danger when Bill Clinton was in the White House," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in an e-mail. "The reason is that the Wall Street Democrats can be counted on to oppose cuts coming from Republicans for partisan purposes. When they are in power, they have no reason to oppose these cuts."
This video is from MSNBC's The Dylan Ratigan Show, broadcast Aug. 31, 2010.