Read part one of this interview, available here
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) slammed the “hypocrisy” of deficit hawks seeking to cut Social Security, arguing in a recent interview with Raw Story that the program is fully solvent for several decades and that diminishing its scope would drastically damage Democratic prospects.
“Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. That’s a totally bogus issue,” Sanders said. “To talk about Social Security within the context of deficit reduction is total nonsense, because it has not contributed one nickel to the deficit.”
While Social Security payouts did exceed revenues for the first time last year, the Social Security Trust Fund presently enjoys a surplus of $2.6 trillion and is expected to remain solvent in its current form until 2037, according to its trustees report.
But critics nevertheless argue that because money is so tight, it may be necessary to cut future benefits in order to pay down America’s enormous national debt. One method gaining traction in the beltway is incrementally increasing the retirement age according to average life span, which is supported by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Democratic leaders such as Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC).
Conservatives have long targeted Social Security, viewing it as an emblem of the welfare state their ideology staunchly opposes. The Bush administration tried to privatize the program in 2005, failing due to opposition from Democrats.
Liberals have harbored fears that President Obama may support cuts to Social Security, which Sanders said contradicts the president’s campaign pledge to sustain and strengthen the program. He also warned that reversing this promise would cause a fatal blow to the future of the progressive movement and Democratic Party.
“To have campaigned on that basis, and now to cave into Republican demands, would be a real insult to people to voted for you,” Sanders said.
“This would be a horrendous public policy decision, it would be a horrendous political decision,” he added. “The idea that a Democratic president would move us in that direction would be a bitter, bitter disappointment to millions of Americans of all political stripes, but especially to progressives, to trade unionists, and to senior citizens.”
The independent from Vermont slammed the “total hypocrisy” of Democrats and Republicans who support cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit but also backed an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy last month.
“Cutting Social Security is not relevant to the deficit and national debt problem,” Sanders said.