By mid-afternoon yesterday, I had written most of what I had planned for today's post, but as the hours ticked past, increasing numbers of news and commentary popped into my inbox about the coming attack on Social Security, adding to a minor deluge that had begun last week.
Most were reacting to leaks, suggestions or intimations that in his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama, following recommendations from the Bowles-Simpson (catfood) commission report, will call for slashing Social Security. To wit:
Robert Kuttner at Politico:
“The tax deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is just the first part of a multistage drama...
“The second part, now being teed up by the White House and key Senate Democrats, is a scheme for the president to embrace much of the Bowles-Simpson plan — including cuts in Social Security. This is to be unveiled, according to well-placed sources, in the president’s State of the Union address.”
Jed Lewison at dailyKos:
“Conservatives like the idea of extending the Social Security payroll tax holiday because it will give them leverage to win Democratic support for long-term cuts to Social Security that they couldn't achieve on their own.”
Roger Hickey at Campaign for America's Future:
“Now the Republicans have identified their next hostage: They're going to threaten to destroy the international financial stability of the United States by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. What are they demanding for ransom? They want President Obama to slash Social Security and Medicare before this next hostage crisis comes to a head in March or April.”
Paul Krugman at The New York Times:
“[T]his is absolutely the wrong place to cut if you’re serious about fiscal issues. It’s where the money isn’t; and in terms of securing Social Security itself, it’s deeply illogical: in order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we’re cutting future benefits.”
And so on.
Even if the president does not take a whack at Social Security in the State of the Union, you can rely on Congressional Republicans to do so. This comes at a time when a new study released last week reveals that Social Security is crucial to the well-being of elder women.
The report, from the National Academy on an Aging Society, the public policy branch of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), is titled For Millions of Older Women, Social Security is a Lifeline.
Because the brief costs $40 and the GSA has not responded to my request for a press copy, I am relying on their news release which states:
“Without Social Security, research indicates that about half of women age 65 and older would be living in poverty. With the program in place, the poverty rate for women falls to 12 percent.
"'Older women — especially those who are not married — rely heavily on Social Security, as this research brief makes clear,' said GSA Public Policy Committee Chair Sara Rix, PhD.
“'Relatively modest changes to restore solvency to the Social Security system would ensure that these women and the generations that follow them will be able to depend on their Social Security benefits well into the future.'"
Among the modest proposals to secure the future of Social Security for our children, grandchildren and beyond is to eliminate the salary cap on the payroll tax – something high earners can certainly afford now that Congress has extended their massive tax cut.
Of course, that may not be enough due to the new payroll tax holiday which reduces contributions by 16 percent and which Republicans will undoubtedly try to extend indefinitely. Plus, although no one has mentioned it, I keep wondering how long it will be before employers begin lobbying to reduce their contribution equally.
So you can see how the future of Social Security is already in jeopardy – for women, but certainly a lot of men too if the Republicans prevail in the next Congress.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Lazinsky: It's a Wonderful Life