Michael Hiltzik: The deficit commission chairs’ lies about Social Security

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Look out -- the enemies of Social Security are locked and loaded for a renewed attack on the program.

The new volley comes from the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the so-called deficit commission ginned up by the White House as a sop to conservatives. The co-chairs are the profoundly clownish former Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat with his feet firmly implanted on Wall Street.


Simpson and Bowles today released a draft proposal for cutting the federal deficit, weeks ahead of the Dec. 1 deadline for the full commission to release its report.

The co-chairs propose to gut Social Security under the guise of ‘saving’ it, eliminate federal funding for services and programs that heavily benefit the middle- and working classes, and -- surprise -- steer even more income tax cuts to the wealthy.

The cuts to Social Security are subtle, and for that reason worthy of close scrutiny. The co-chairs’ key proposal is to raise the regular retirement age to as high as 69, and raise the minimum retirement age to 64. This imposes disproportionate harm on lower-income workers, whose working lives tend to be shorter than others’. They also want to reduce relative benefits for better-paid workers, and change the formula for cost-of-living increases to one that looks like it would customarily produce lower COLAs.

The chairs’ other recommendations include reducing the growth of foreign aid, charging admission fees at government museums and slashing the federal workforce. But their single biggest fiscal recommendation is the tax cut -- yet another giveaway to the wealthiest taxpayers to be funded by cuts in services enjoyed mostly by everyone else.

Will these fundamentally deceptive recommendations subject the agenda of the deficit commission to public view? One can only hope. For more on this subject, see my column this Sunday.

-- Michael Hiltzik

[UPDATE: An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that the co-chairs proposed changing the formula to calculate initial Social Security benefits to one that would yield lower benefits.]


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