Democrats seek to eliminate filibuster for… preventing Social Security cuts

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 20:01

One of the reasons that some progressives use to argue against eliminating the filibuster is that the filibuster is the only reason Social Security wasn't handed over to Wall Street in Bush's privatization scheme.

Well, its time to forget that idea.  A group of Democratic Senators are now working to eliminate the filibuster for--wait for it--legislation that would cut Social Security.  Emphasis mine:

Senators from both parties on Tuesday put new pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to turn the power to trim entitlement benefits over to an independent commission.(...)

Among its chief responsibilities would be closing the gap between tax revenue coming in and the larger cost of paying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. The Government Accountability Office recently reported the gap is on pace to reach an "unsustainable" $63 trillion in 2083.

The panel would also have the power to craft legislation that would change the tax code and set limits on government spending.

The legislation would then be subject to an up-or-down vote; it could not be amended.

15 Democratic Senators are backing this idea:

A group of 15 Democratic senators say they will not vote for deficit-boosting legislation unless the commission is created.

So, there is already a majority in the Senate for removing the filibuster for Social Security.

At this point, a minimum of 56 Democratic Senators are needed to keep this commission from coming into existence.  As the Senate forecast from earlier today showed, Republicans have a pretty good chance to gain four seats in the Senate in 2010.  They will also gain seats in the House, where lots of Blue Dogs are eager to support this commission as well.  President Obama also supports the commission:

In an interview with the Washington Post, Obama said a new commission may be needed to examine reforms for addressing the deficit and the huge programs that contribute to the flow of red ink.

"I think we're in a position to be able to, either at the end of this year or early next year, start laying out a broader picture about how we are going to handle entitlements in a serious way," Obama said.

Eventually, either in 2010 or 2011, Democrats will destroy the filibuster for legislation that will slash Social Security and Medicare.  They will do it with the support of the White House, and many Democrats in both the house and Senate.

This going to happen.  In the short term, the only thing stopping it is Speaker Pelosi, not the filibuster.  And, even if the filibuster is preventing this for now, many Democrats are happy to come up with a means to circumvent the filibuster.  They just don't want to go around the filibuster for health care.

If you want to argue that we need to keep the filibuster, you better come up with a better reason than saving Social Security.  That train has left the station.

Names of 11 of the Democratic Senators in the extended entry

Chris Bowers :: Democrats seek to eliminate filibuster for… preventing Social Security cuts
Senator Claire McCaskill was kind enough to actually publish some of the names involved.  Here are 11 of the 15 Bayh is claiming:

  1. Evan Bayh, Indiana
  2. Mark Begich, Alaska
  3. Michael Bennet, Colorado
  4. Kent Conrad, North Dakota (not named in the link, but one of the ringerleaders)
  5. Diane Feinstein, California
  6. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota
  7. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut
  8. Claire McCaskill, Missouri
  9. Bill Nelson, Florida
  10. Mark Udall, Colorado
  11. Mark Warner, Virginia
These eleven Senators already form a majority, when combined with Republicans.  It is interesting that Obama won seven out of the ten states represented here.  Other than Begich in Alaska, these are not the Democrats from deep red states.

It is not a question of if Social Security and Medicare cuts will be signed into law by President Obama, but when and by how much.

For when, the best bet is either 2010 or 2011. I lean toward putting money on 2010.  The Obama administration has decided to focus on deficit reduction in 2010. Also, as we saw with Stupak, bloc of conservative Democrats demanding right-ward turns in public policy usually get their way.  The national suicide pact bloc could easily win, too.

As far as by how much, something slightly to the right of the Orzag plan is the likely outcome of this commission.  It isn't Bush-ism, mainly because there will be tax increases.  Also, there will be either no, or less, privatization.  However, it also isn't a gradual shift to the left for public policy.  Quite the opposite, really.

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More likely (4.00 / 8)
They've cave in to the usual suspects, declare Social Security a Public Option and vote to repeal this anti-centrist remnant of the bad old days when they let liberals into the Democratic Party.

It's official (4.00 / 16)

 Sonia Sotomayor aside, we've got Bush's third term upon us.

 The Democratic Party has no reason to exist anymore. It stands for nothing.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

To the wiseguy who trolled me... (4.00 / 4)

 Tell you what. I'll put this in your hands.

 I am tasked with convincing people to vote for Democrats in 2010. Two years after Barack Obama won big on themes of "hope" and "change". Especially the latter.

 What's my sales pitch?  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
That's a far different statement (0.00 / 0)
Than saying it's Bush's third term and you fucking know it.

[ Parent ]
No it isn't, and you know it. (4.00 / 1)
Obama DOES represent Bush's third term.  He also represents Reagan's and Hoover's, apparently.  Just because you don't like the truth doesn't make it any less so.

Single-Payer is the ONLY viable public option.

[ Parent ]
Dude... (0.00 / 0)
You may not like it, but that's just pure stupidity and ignorance.     You were the same person in 2000 saying Gore and Bush were the same guy so lets vote for Nader.   Seriously, you may disappointed, but to say its Bush's third term is outright ignorance.

[ Parent ]
he was the same person who payed attention through 8 years of Clintonian triangulation? (4.00 / 1)
so, a smart person?

[ Parent ]
How about... (4.00 / 1)
At least with the filibuster, the Democrats were able to save Social Security so that it could just be trimmed, as opposed to completely drained and turned into 401Ks that would have suffered the economy's hammer blow and would now be next to worthless.  That's what would have happened if the Republicans had been allowed to privatize everything.

But never mind that.  Let's hope the Democrats lose more than 10 seats so that Republicans can control the Senate and get rid of the filibuster.  I'm sure nothing would ever go wrong then!

"Trim" it? (4.00 / 8)

  The Democrats don't have to "trim" SS if they don't want to. Last I checked, they (nominally) control the agenda.

  They could, you know, restore the Reagan-era tax brackets. Such a thing isn't even being discussed. I honestly see no daylight between the Republicans and the Democrats anymore. None.


"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
None? (4.00 / 1)
Really?  Because Republicans were addressing health care during their 8 years in power?  And you see Democrats starting two ill-planned wars too, right?

There's justified dissatisfaction with the Democrats, and then there's loony fringe.  This is pretty loony.

[ Parent ]
Well, let's break it down (4.00 / 1)

 The Republicans didn't do anything about health care, true. The Democrats are about to make it WORSE, by mandating Americans to purchase junk insurance with no public option.

 The Republicans got a lot of help from Democrats with their wars. And the Democrats now want to escalate one of them, despite there being no clear-cut goal or mission (not to mention the cost).

  The Republicans neglected Main Street and threw money at Wall Street. The Democrats neglected Main Street and threw money at Wall Street.

  If someone asks me why he should vote for a Democrat next year, what do I tell him? I have NOTHING to sell.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
you should at least say 'no real public option' (4.00 / 1)
Because the outcome of THAT is anything but clear at this point.

[ Parent ]
Medicare Part D (4.00 / 3)
The Republicans did pharma friendly and the Democrats are doing insurance friendly.  

I don't see Democrats ending two wars.  

[ Parent ]
You mean the Carter-Era tax brackets, right? (4.00 / 1)
I thought Reagan did most of his major tax restructuring in 1981.

[ Parent ]
Well, Carter would be preferable... (4.00 / 4)

 ...but even the tax structure we had under Reagan would be an improvement over what we have now. That's how far we've fallen.

 And it's easy to frame. What Republican is going to argue against Reagan?  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

[ Parent ]
uh (0.00 / 0)
as opposed to completely drained and turned into 401Ks that would have suffered the economy's hammer blow and would now be next to worthless.

Uh, I think privatizing SS funds is a bad idea too, but let's be realistic.  Assuming they went into index funds, they'd be down about 25% at this point.

Which sucks, and is not a good idea for a safety net like SS, but it's hardly "completely drained" or "next to worthless".

[ Parent ]
Left Turns (4.00 / 3)
Liberate yourself from right-wing spin.  It's difficult I know. I recommend immersing yourself in a European blog for a few months so you get familiar with thinking outside the box of Reaganism.  

Right is not the only direction. Left turns are more difficult, but good drivers can do them.  Really.  Just takes practice.

[ Parent ]
Thanks, but (0.00 / 0)
I know how to think for myself.

[ Parent ]
But be sure to keep telling yourself (4.00 / 1)
that the only way to achieve sufficiently pure Dems is to lose our Senate majority and have the Republicans remove the filibuster.  Nothing could possibly go wrong then!

[ Parent ]
Maybe you should obsess about better OFFICIALS (4.00 / 3)
Ask yourself why corporate-funded, corporate-owned and corporate-controlled party leadership would even think about running a strong left-of-center candidate in any place where it weren't absolutely necessary to get the votes, and then ask yourself what a fat lot of good that is when Pelosi, in a district where the Green candidate for House won 16% of the vote, lied to progressives in Congress and gave the conservative wing of the D party exactly what they wanted.

Open your eyes and recognize that the D party has left you.  

[ Parent ]
Maybe I would (0.00 / 0)
If I could understand what you just wrote.

[ Parent ]
So... (0.00 / 0)
TO think for one's self, you should immerse yourself in someone else's point of view?  

You were the "non-comformist" wearing the goth clothes like the hundred other "non-conformist's" in high school weren't you?    

[ Parent ]
but shouldn't we be for fiscal responsibility? (4.00 / 1)
Based on your summary, it's possible that they'll propose raising taxes or eliminating the cap on SS too, right?  Why will they necessarily cut it?  And even if they did, I seem to remember reading that reducing SS to ~85% of its current payouts would make it I misremembering that?  If that's accurate, that doesn't strike me as a huge, crippling cut.  It sucks, but if it we can solve the entire problem with something that simple, I'd probably support it.

Personally, after Health Care I think Obama needs to address the deficit (along with jobs), and quickly.  

As far as the filibuster is concerned, I think it needs to only be allowed on certain votes like the final vote for a bill (not procedural stuff like bringing a bill to the floor for debate), and it needs to be turned into a real filibuster that holds up all business in the Senate so that using it costs you some political capital.  Automatic, "for free" filibusters are idiotic.

oh please (4.00 / 20)
"why will they necessarily cut it?"

because they have always wanted to cut it. that is their only goal. all the rest of it is total BS.

worrying about the deficit with 10+% unemployment is like worrying about whether your socks match when your hair's on fire.

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

[ Parent ]
Who's "they"? (0.00 / 0)
Who will be on this commission?

[ Parent ]
Bruce laid it out (0.00 / 0)
The Conspiracy to Kill the New Deal; Yes it's Real

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

[ Parent ]
Are we sure those are the same people who will be on this commission? (0.00 / 0)
What does the proposal in the Senate actually say about who gets to be on the commission?

[ Parent ]
Commissions are created to do unpopular things (4.00 / 9)
Social security is extremely popular.  Elites in both parties have been talking about "reforming" Social Security. The people pushing this are the same people who have talked about reforming it - pushing talking points about it being unsustainable.

You do the math.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Conrad-Gregg vs Cooper-Wolf (0.00 / 0)
The Senate version would not allow direct capture by outside experts, the House version almost gaurantees it .

[ Parent ]
Commissions (4.00 / 1)
There are two proposals.

On the House side you have Cooper-Wolf which proposes a Commission of 16 people only four of whom would be Congressmen, and the rest drawn from a 'bi-partisan' group of experts probably to be drawn from the Brookings-Heritage Fiscal Seminar.

On the Senate side you have Conrad-Gregg which would have a bi-partisan Commission of 16 of which 14 would be from Congress and two from the Administration. Interestingly C-G ends up having more R congressmen than D because 2 D slots get occupied by Admin people, too many of whom are sympathetic to Social Security Reform (Orszag AND his deputy Liebman are authors of two DIFFERENT Social Security Reform plans with the LMS (Liebman-MacGuineas-Samwick) plan being particularly pernicious).

I am going to be cross-posting my new MyDD diary here in a couple of minutes and in it I deconstruct the whole process by which this Commission idea developed and under which it will be stacked with enemies of Social Insurance.

For those that can't wait it is here: The War on Social Insurance

[ Parent ]
Worse, it's like worry about getting wet (4.00 / 3)
while your hair is on fire.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
FINALLY Change I Can Believe In! (4.00 / 13)
Barack Obama has officially come out as the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

And I believe it.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Yup... (4.00 / 1)
In less than a year...


[ Parent ]
Why should this surprise anyone? (4.00 / 4)
During his campaign, Obama said Social Security was on the table. This is one campaign item that he seems more than willing to stand behind.  

[ Parent ]
Not only that (0.00 / 0)
but his campaign encouraged generational animosity.

[ Parent ]
B-b-b-but... (4.00 / 3)
...St. Ronnie and the Maestro assured us those Trust Funds would be there for us when we needed them. Please don't tell me the Full Faith pledge of St. Ronnie is no good! That's simply unpossible...

Surely the keepers of St. Ronnie's flame will never let us break faith with His vision and will demand that the SS Trust Fund be drawn down and paid back to retirees before considering raising evil, Evil, EVIL! taxes.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
DI (Disability Insurance) (0.00 / 0)
Trust Fund went cash flow negative (i.e. taxes not meeting outlays) over two years ago and earlier this year went into deficit (i.e. taxes plus interest not meeting outlays, principal on net being redeemed). And nobody noticed. That is every dollar and every penny ever sent to that component of overall Social Security went where it was intended and is now flowing back out. Because, yes those bonds were are are backed by Full Faith and Credit. And unless we blink so will the remaining bonds in the DI TF and the still accumulating bonds in the OAS.

I can and do demonize Reagan and Greenspan on a regular basis. But they did nothing wrong to Social Security and only people who buy into one version or another of 'Phony IOU' think otherwise. People who suggest that there has been some sort of Raid on SS haven't thought that through and end up playing into the hands of those who want to kill SS.

[ Parent ]
Where did the funds come from... (0.00 / 0) redeem those securities? If the securities were not there, where would the funds come from to cover shortfall? What's the difference?

Short term expediency of the TF is understood. Long term holdings, beyond what's needed for reasonably anticipated fluctuations, I don't understand. It seems like a 'tax me now and then tax me later to pay me back' set up (assuming they don't re-borrow to pay back).

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
Thanks Paul (0.00 / 0)
You show your ignorance again.  Amazing someone with your decades of experience proves himself wrong over and over again.

[ Parent ]
I'm OK with the commission... (4.00 / 5) long as the members are Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, and Alan Grayson.  That's a commission worth not filibustering!

Unfortunately, we'll get an all Republican "bipartisan" commission that consists of Conrad, Baucus, and Lieberman who are ready to gut everything...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

I recall the derisive hoots of the Believers (3.43 / 7)
during the campaign when I worried that, the same way it took the GOPuke Nixon to go to China, it was gonna take a Dim president to fuck up Social Security. And Obama would do it.

Oh, no, everybody said. Obama'd never do that.

Yes he would. Probably in 2011, as he swings madly to the Right to try to become whatever GOPuke who will probably replace him

Sotomayor could have been nominated and approved under ANY of the last five Regimes.

Asfor Obama as the 2nd coming of Raygun, he as much as said so, again, as you will recall, when he pissed directly on the heads of the "liberals" who made his success possible, and hagiographically fellated Raygun's memory...

Fiscal Responsibility Is Real Health Care Reform (4.00 / 15)
Let's cut to the chase here.  Social Security is not in funding trouble, many shrill idiots claim it is and THEY ARE FULL OF SHIT.  Can I be more blunt on that?

To a certain extent Medicare and Medicaid are in funding trouble, but let's put it in perspective.  The US government has assumed $23.7 trillion in obligations for the Wall St bailout practically OVERNIGHT.  How does that compare to a $83 trillion obligation in 75 years?  (Do I even have to answer that? So the math!) Well, nobody is talking about doing ANY REAL REFORM to fix Wall St, and that $23.7 trillion is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Fed backstopping the OTC derivatives market which has over $600 trillion flying around in a big whirling ball of bullshit. (As a point of reference the complete Earth is estimated to be worth about $200 trillion.)  Plus, we're looking at spending $1M per soldier per year in Afghanistan to do what?  Nobodies talking about doing any serious deficit reduction with that either.  Keep you eyes on the ball folks, the problem is not what we're going to owe in 75 years, it's what we're spending RIGHT NOW!

But why is Medicare and Medicaid costs going up?  Because the cost of American health care is going up, and going up faster than Medicare and Medicaid which happen to be the best cost controlled health care in the US.  Here's the deal, by the time Medicare and Medicaid are problems for the US government, nobody else in the US even HAS private health care insurance except for the very rich.

So now you can take a guess WHY we're getting health care reform that MANDATES everybody buy in.  Because the health care insurance industry realized that they need to tap into the US government money train just like Wall St has - it's the ultimate gravy train for fucked up American industries like Wall St investment megabanks and insurance companies.

So what's the quick and easy way to fix this?

Raise taxes on the rich back to normal 1930's, 40's and 50's levels.

Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan - we just lose lives, burn money like crazy and make more enemies.

Fix Wall St - claw our money back, regulate and tax stock and derivatives transactions.  Implement REAL regulation. Let bankrupt banks go under.

HCR - Real health care reform such as single payer or PO or basic coverage on a non-profit, regulated basis.  Additional coverage on an open market.  Look at how the whole rest of the industrialized world has significantly lower health care cost and copy them.

I'm sure I'm not the only one getting more than just a little alarmed that the Democratic party is starting to sound and act just like the Republican party of ten years ago.  Need I point out to the idiots making these decisions that the Republican party was voted out of power.

A good start (2.67 / 3)
This is the first year Social Security will operate at an operating loss. According to the "no problem" folks of the left, this was not supposed to happen for decades.

What is the answer?

Tax all people, not just payroll taxes.

People are not equal.

If left free, the top would quickly separate itself from the bottom and an existential war would ensue.

This has happened innumerable times in primate evolution (you believe in evolution, don't you?).

I long for an intellectually robust left.

[ Parent ]
Not Exactly (0.00 / 0)
This is the first year Social Security will operate at an operating loss. According to the "no problem" folks of the left, this was not supposed to happen for decades.

The trust fund was not expected to be exhausted for decades.  Payouts were expected to begin in 2017--less than one decade.  But no one was counting on the worst recession since the Great Depression.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
And That's My Point (0.00 / 0)
Run smack into the biggest depression since the Great Depression, and here we are talking about cutting back Social Security BEFORE we even make a serious attempt to fix the root cause of the depression.

Just imagine what kind of shape SS would be in if Bush's SS "reforms" had been passed.  I'm not one for deep dark conspiracy theories, but so many of the proposed "fixes" to current problems like the Wall St bailout, the current HCR, and Bush's SS fix look like nothing more than massive transfers of US taxpayer's money right into failing industries.

SS is in trouble because of massive layoffs and a bad economy.  It's even being hit by people giving up on finding work, and retiring early.  And that's all happening because we're in a freaking depression which is why we created SS in the first place. So, we're going to have to "fix" SS as a result?  That's some irony, now isn't it?

[ Parent ]
Shock doctrine 101 (4.00 / 2)
and Obama and his people are mostly University of Chicago grads.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Not AT ALL right (0.00 / 0)

Per the 2009 Report operating losses (as you put it) moved up to 2016 from 2017. Reports that Social Security was going to experience operating losses starting this year were based on really crappy extrapolation of certain monthly numbers that were not actually representative. Aided and abetted by some serious misrepresentations of the numbers by Hassett and Biggs of AEI.

That of course got picked up by their handy stenographer Lori Montgomery of the WaPo and then cheerfully repeated by half of the morons of the wingnut side of the blogosphere.

Under 2009 numbers you could fix Social Security by increasing the DI component by 0.2% of payroll in 2010 and 0.1% in 2011, which assuming employer/employee split would reduce take home pay for a median income family by $1.50 a week and then not needing to do anything until 2026. That is as of best information available in early summer. There has been some degradation in outlook since but nothing that would require a dramatic fix.

Otherwise people are talking apples and oranges, Social Security Trust Funds are still not projected to go dry until 2037 though there is significant assymmetry between the DI Trust Fund which will go to zero quite soon and the OAS which is still projected to be in overall surplus after 2017. In the past this assymmetry has been handled by keeping the overall rate the same and just rebalancing the allocation between DI and OAS.

When they say you can't trust everything you read know that that goes double for Social Security with the WaPo and  USA Today being notoriously bad to the point of blatant dishonesty in their reporting.

[ Parent ]
Pigs Fly (4.00 / 3)
This is depressing, Chris. I wonder if progressives can raise enough holy hell to stop this in its tracks, by getting seniors and others pissed off enough that no Senator or Representative dare be seen as pushing the destruction of Social Security. You know, out the bastards by pointing out what they plan to do, the fact most/all are millionaires who won't have to eat cat food in their old age or work at Burger King into their 80s until they drop dead, the usual stuff.

Clearly the media are behind this crap, witness the NY Times article today dutifully taking stenography for the Concord Coalition (it's bipartisan!). But sadly I can't say this turn of events surprises me. Our government is broken if this sort of garbage gets through, if the President is talking deficit reduction and entitlement reform when millions are out of work.

It is not the media pushing this (0.00 / 0)
It is Peter G Peterson, the founder of Concord Coalition and current owner of distribution rights to I.O.U.S.A, a piece of nearly pure propaganda pushing the Bixby/Walker narrative of Concord's Fiscal Wake-Up Tour. Which didn't stop CNN from running I.O.U.S.A. as a straight documentary.

The media is just a tool in a War launched in 1983 by Cato and largely funded since by Peterson.

See my diary coming soon to OL (already up on MyDD).

[ Parent ]
Greenies run against each and everyone of these (4.00 / 4)
15 democrats.  Who knows maybe we'll get one or two greens in congress.  This type of democrat completely justifies third party voting!

My blog  

I'm still hoping for asylum in a foreign land, now that there's clearly one-party rule (4.00 / 1)
c'mon Canada

[ Parent ]
Here's Irony for You (4.00 / 3)
Global warming will soon make Canada habitable. Besides people who live in Seattle or Portland where it rains all the time, Canada is not an option for most Americans. But soon...

Pace Canadians, this is what passes for humor. We'd be lucky to have a goverment like Canada (or Norway or fill in the blank).

[ Parent ]
I'd rather be freezing cold (4.00 / 2)
than die of whatever I'm dying of in a country for and by corporate interests where the "liberal" politicians desperately seek to cut "entitlements" and protect private profits over their constituents

[ Parent ]
I don't think it is really eliminating the filibuster (4.00 / 1)
When it would require a supermajority in both houses of Congress to pass the recommendations of the commission.  Technically, it can't be filibustered, but it still takes 60 vote in the Senate to pass anything.

Via NPR:

The proposed Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action would operate in a manner similar to the successful Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) since their recommendations would not be subject to congressional amendments, Gregg said. And because a three-fifths supermajority would be required in both chambers to adopt the recommendations, the two political parties would have to work together to address entitlement reform.

"The simple fact is that these are the types of issues which require people to join hands and jump off the political cliff together, or else it doesn't get done," Gregg said.

Entitlement reform commissions have had varied success. A bipartisan commission appointed in 1983 succeeded in extending the Social Security trust fund's solvency for several generations by raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, imposing a six-month delay in a cost of living adjustment and requiring government employees to pay into Social Security for the first time.

By contrast, there was no bipartisan consensus about what to do to address the long term budgetary challenges of providing health care and retirement benefits to the baby-boom generation when former senators Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., and John C. Danforth, R-Mo., headed up the Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform in 1994.

Kerrey and Danforth could never muster the 60 percent majority they needed from commission members to send their recommendations on to Congress, and their final report was shelved.

Can progressives get together 41 votes in the Senate or 176 in the House to stop anything that wrecks Social Security?  If they can't, do we deserve to win?

Really, this looks more like allowing centrists and conservadems to filibuster and require a supermajority to pass anything without being seen as obstructing and filibustering than it looks like eliminating the filibuster.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

Up or down (4.00 / 1)
Up or down is usually code for a simple majority. At least, that is how I always understood it.

Perhaps here they are just referring to cloture, but require 60% anyway.

There are competing plans out there. Some might require 60, some might not.  I will look into it more.

[ Parent ]
I took up or down (4.00 / 5)
To mean no debate, no amendments.  I didn't notice the supermajority thing until I clicked on a link within a story you linked to which said:

The commission would draft proposals to control the long-term costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which together account for 40 percent of all federal spending other than interest on the debt. The recommendations would require a swift up or down vote by a supermajority of members of Congress, to assure bipartisan support for unpopular measures to cut sensitive spending programs or to raise taxes if necessary.

Lieberman and Voinovich are named as two people with plans competing with Conrad-Gregg.  I'm really wondering if the promise of some sort of commission has a chance of flipping a vote or two in the Senate on health care reform without having to water down the public option anymore.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

[ Parent ]
the commission can't get formed without a majority in the house (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
The House companion bill has 101 co-sponsors... (0.00 / 0) far (HR 1557).

[ Parent ]
Anthony is right BUT (4.00 / 1)
The strategy is more subtle.

Step one. Get everyone to agree that there IS a crisis.
Step two. Further get everyone to agree that due to gridlock the solution has to at least partially come from outside Congress on a Bi-Partisan basis. Hence a Commission.
Step three. Set up the rules so that this 'Bi-partisan' Commission is set up in a way that excludes progressives (think the Gang of Six in SFC that excluded Rockefeller even though he was chair of the relevant sub-committee)
Step four. Submit a loaded proposal to Congress and dare progressives to block it.
Step five. If progressives block it run on a platform of "Iiberals are in denial of a problem that even Democrats X, Y, Z ad infinitum exists"

And since at least on the Medicare side there is a crisis the key is to stop them at Steps two and three.

For example Conrad-Gregg is set up in a way that there are 10 sure votes for slashing Entitlements, and given the way the Senate operates probably 11, meaning that they only need Admin buy in to get the 12 'bi-partisan' votes to get the package submitted to Congress on that up-or down basis. Really our only hope is in Pelosi not blinking, given that Obama gave his nod to this in a meeting with Blue Dogs last February.

[ Parent ]
Two Handed (4.00 / 2)
I'm of two thoughts, here.  On one hand, I have more sympathy for those that say pending Social Security payments is a big problem.  I've always thought of the Social Security trust fund as being not much more than a hoax.  The only difference between paying for additional retirees directly and cashing in the U.S. Savings Bonds already purchased is, uh... well...  good luck finding one; there is no difference, which is the problem.

But on the other hand, that makes me want to fight this even more.  Since the trust fund was 'fixed' in the 1980s, the Federal Government has been payed for with regressive payroll taxes.  Once you include payroll taxes, both employee and employer (which both come out of your paycheck, make no mistake about that) our tax system is worse than flat.

It was always obvious that once the time came for the liberal half of the Social Security trust fund 'fix' came into play that the whole deal would be tossed out.  Don't we dare let them get away with that.

Nail hit head (4.00 / 1)
The regressive payroll tax 'fix' never made sense:

Problem: Future generations face big tax hikes to keep SS solvent.

Solution: Generate surpluses exclusively from capped wages. Lend to Govt. with alleged Full Faith guaranteed repayment. Year later when needed the notes can be called -- and future generations will face big tax hikes to pay them off.


...The end of the regressive payroll tax gravy train slush fund is in sight. They need a new commission to perpetuate it and avoid having the previous slush funds called. If they act quickly perhaps Weekend at Bernie's Greenspan can chair again. Evidently, Obama stands ready to step into the Reagan role...

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
Except they don't (4.00 / 1)
Problem: Future generations face big tax hikes to keep SS solvent.

The needed tax increases are very, very modest and represent a fraction of projected real wage increases over that same period. The numbers in the following spreadsheet are solid, we have run them by people like Dean Baker and had a DC person talk about them with Steve Goss's people (the Chief Actuary of Social Security. Virginia Reno, the top person on Social Security at NASI presented another version of this in
(our plan got a footnote)

Opponents of Social Security get big numbers and scary fixes by using current dollar numbers over the Infinite Future Horizon (no joke) and insist that everything needs to be fixed in the first year. Well it doesn't. We can fix Social Security for the next 17 years with a tax hike of $1.50/week for a median income household. That's it, all the rest is scare tactics by fools and liars.

We will need to tweak the numbers next Spring with the release of the 2010 Report but there will not be any important material change. A couple of small (0.2% and 0.1%) payroll increases in the short term, another series of 0.2% annual increases starting in the mid-2020's and ending in the mid 2030's and a final one year uptick in 2041 and the problem is solved. That is all it would take.

Even arch-enemy of Social Security Andrew Biggs has seen the numbers and does not dispute them.

[ Parent ]
Comments/questions (0.00 / 0)
Bruce, I defer to your numbers and expertise. A few comments/questions:

* The "problem" as I stated it was viewed pre-Reagan/Greenspan fix in the 1980's. Your very modest increases are for the current situation going forward. That said, I accept your analysis that increases going forward are modest, not "big." That leads to these questions:

* Will these modest tax increases going forward be applied toward redeeming the TF securities? Or are they to keep revenue such that TF securities needn't be redeemed (i.e. revenue equal/exceed benefits)? If it's the later, what is to become of the $2+ trillion in securities held by the TF? Will they ever be redeemed? When? How?

* Finally, when shortfalls occur isn't it still the case that revenues must be found (or be put in place to be collected) at that time to cover the shortfall (assuming no benefit cuts)? The redeeming of TF securities still requires finding revenues to pay the redemption, correct? If so, then other than having a modest reserve system in place to handle short term fluctuations in revenue/benefit needs (so we're not constantly adjusting rates), what purpose does the TF serve?

Ok, that's a lot of questions, you're a busy guy, so if/when you can whatever light you could shine on this would be appreciated. At the core, I'm trying to understand what function a large TF serves and how redeeming it provides any different choices than would be available at the time the shortfall occurs.

One more thing -- is there any write-up, paper and/or key that more fully explains the spreadsheet. I must confess that it's large enough and the column headings are just cryptic enough that I can't fully understand what's being presented. Thanks.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
Blame LBJ (0.00 / 0)
He put SS into the general fund to hide the cost of the Vietnam War.

And Greenspan should be publicly castrated for the fraud his Commission pulled off.

[ Parent ]
Bullshit (4.00 / 1)
The amount of Social Security surpluses during the LBJ years were too tiny to hide anything. This is just another tired myth. There were good reasons to adopt Unified Budget numbers in that they give a good measure for total borrowing needs. No one thought you could hide Vietnam behind these numbers.

Year/Cash surplus/Total surplus including interest
1964 -0.1   +0.5bn
1965 2.0  1.3bn
1966 +1.7 +2.5bn
1967 +2.9 +3.9bn
1968 +1.0 +2.5bn (there seems some error, the sub totals don't add right)

Net cash surpluses from Social Security during Johnson's years were $3.5 billion, with interest on the Trust Fund which counts as a positive for Unified Budget purposes this added up to $8.4 billion over the four years in question. By 1966 we were spending $2 billion a MONTH on Vietnam.

This is just an Urban Legend. A similar one floats around the Reagan years. Reagan for all his huge faults and also his actual opposition to Social Security in the end did not harm to it, instead the numbers in the table linked showed that he steadily built up its reserves on route to it achieving 'Short Term Actuarial Balance' by the end of Bush 1's term.

The only President that ever proposed serious active harm to Social Security was Dubya and even he didn't get his way.

And frankly you don't know shit about the Greenspan Commission, I have friends that were staff members, including Greenspan's Executive Asst and there was no fraud about it. The Greenspan Commission had a goal of putting Social Security into Short Term Actuarial balance within ten years while achieving Long Term Actuarial Balance ON AVERAGE and achieved both goals.

If you look at the actual numbers instead of spouting ignorant talking points.

[ Parent ]
Didn't Greenspan overshoot the mark? (4.00 / 1)
Bruce, in your opinion what is the appropriate Trust Fund ratio? Why?

Looking at that table it appears that from 1958-1973 it slowly, but steadily dropped from 280% to as low as 14% in 1983. Clearly, as Greenspan addressed, that trend was unsustainable. However the remedy has us now above 350%. Wouldn't something around 100% be about right? If the Greenspan revision worked as anticipated to get us from 14% to around 100% in less than ten years, why didn't they build in some mechanism to slow the growth at that (or at some) point?

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
missed opportunity? (4.00 / 3)
One of the reasons that some progressives use to argue against eliminating the filibuster is that the filibuster is the only reason Social Security wasn't handed over to Wall Street in Bush's privatization scheme.

That's one way to look at it. But suppose the Republicans had been successful in privatizing social security. How do you suppose that idea would look now given the economic crisis of 2007/2008?

[And of course for millions and millions on Main Street the economic crisis of 2009]

Imagine senior citizens watching the stock market collapse along with their retirement funds.

How successful do you suppose the conservatives would be today extolling the virtues of "the markets".

Maybe privatization of social security was a missed opportunity for progressives.

Unfortunately, of course, in order to test something like that it means lots and lots of suffering from those who can least afford it.

How, exactly, did the filibuster help? (4.00 / 4)
I don't believe anything even came out of committee on that, let alone full Senate vote.  Nothing on the House side, either.  The filibuster had little to nothing to do with blocking Social Security privatization.

[ Parent ]
IIRC, the threat of it was enough. (nt) (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
Conservatives lie (4.00 / 2)
Here in Britain, where our big state resuced our horrifically over-leveraged banks, giving them everything they wanted for almost nothing in return, our opposition leader is claiming that the problem is not the power of the banks, it's 'big government'.

Conservatives lie. They have an agenda, and then they try to fit the facts to that.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Accept labour lies too, and (4.00 / 1)
are in fact the people who allowed the state to be reduced.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Not really (0.00 / 0)
Labour has an awful lot of things to be sorry for. Iraq, tuition fees, the Private Finance Initiative, innumerable sleaze scandals, selling peerages and letting the City get far too big for its boots, and that's just off the top of my head.

But shrinking the state is not something we're guilty of. For more than a decade, we had above-inflation increases in NHS and education budgets, we had the introduction of Sure Start and we had tax credits for low income families.

Has the government followed neo-liberal economic policies? Undoubtedly yes, and it's not popular amongst the Labour rank and file. But it hasn't shrunk the state.

And even now, with the public finances in a mess, it's not going to do it any more than necessary. We believe in the state, they don't, and anybody who says otherwise has a decade's worth of evidence against them.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Josh Marshall (4.00 / 2)
is MIA on this

Barack Obama ALWAYS bought into the frame of a Social Security crisis (4.00 / 3)
In anger I am just quoting myself from last February.  

Barack Obama,  as should have been obvious to anyone who actually paid attention to the nuances of his language,  often bought into Village frames and the Social Security crisis was very much one of them.  

The other 2 candidates, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton never bought into that frame.  Each one of them explicitly rejected that frame.  We nominated the most conservative of the 3, espeicially when it comes to his view of domestic policy.  He really in many ways is a child of Reagan.

We should remember that going forward.  We elected Jimmy Carter.  We elected the quiche candidate over the 2 mashed potatoes candidates.

Now as my mother would say.  He's the president...we have to deal with all his neo liberal tendencies.

Obama said more than raise the cap: He said there is a long term funding problem

Though that was what he said after he stepped back from his initial characteriztion of agreeing there was a crisis.  I will admit that his utterances on Social Security always left me very nervous and upset.  
When you use their frame, you tend to accept their solution. Why even agree to this godawful fiscal responssibility summit. It was a promise to Jim Cooper, in exchange for a promise that Cooper renenged on to vote for the stimulus bill.  

Maybe he wants this summit for his own reasons.  Real- actually enact some unpopular things that he won't then be directly accountable for, or a charade to make it seem like he's reaching out when he has no intention of following through.  Another conspriacy theory of Obama governance?

This ia a interview with Barack Obama by Johnathan Singer of MyDD on the subject

I asked Obama why he would use the word "crisis", particularly given the fact that the Social Security trust fund will not run out until 2042 or 2052 (depending on who is doing the analysis), and that even then the program will provide greater benefits than it does today, even accounting for inflation.

Barack Obama: I think the point your making is why talk about it right now. Is that right?
Jonathan Singer: Yeah. And why use the term "crisis"?

Obama: It is a long-term problem. I know that people, including you, are very sensitive to the concern that we repeat anything that sounds like George Bush. But I have been very clear in fighting privatization. I have been adamant about the fact that I am opposed to it. What I believe is that it is a long-term problem that we should deal with now. And the sooner the deal with it then the better off it's going to be.

So the notion that somehow because George Bush was trying to drum up fear in order to execute [his] agenda means that Democrats shouldn't talk about it at all I think is a mistake. This is part of what I meant when I said we're constantly reacting to the other side instead of setting our own terms for the debate, but also making sure we are honest and straight forward about the issues that we're concerned about.

Singer concluded

In all it's not everything that I wanted to hear. But perhaps more importantly, Obama had the opportunity to hear that folks don't want him talking about a non-existent "crisis" in Social Security. And hopefully, he will pay heed to that sentiment.

Well at this point I don't think he is. Not when you agree to a summit and the legislation permitting such a dangerous commission with only an up or down vote to go forward.

And I think it is better if we face the fact that this has to be confronted and pushed back very hard. The danger once more is that he's our president and no one wants to embarrass him.

The Singer interview was in a post by Matt Stoller about why he thought Obama's policies on Net Neutrality was more crucial than his wrongheaded stance on Social Security

I'll note that my problem, though perhaps not Singer's, has nothing to do with framing.  There just is no crisis.  Obama actually acknowledged this when he transitioned somewhat disjointedly under Singer's questioning to modify his statement about a crisis to instead say that Social Security has a 'long-term financing problem' instead of a crisis.  Kilgore may or may not understand the financing model of Social Security, and he may confuse my arguments with those of Jonathan Singer's, but it's pretty clear that Obama's implicit desire for a 1983 style bipartisan commission is simply a regressive move to raise payroll taxes and cut benefits. That commission simply allowed a tax hike on the working class to pay for a tax cut for the wealthy, all in the name of dealing with the phony Social Security crisis.

His arguments about Social Security are stupid and wrongheaded, but I think those can be beaten back.

My reply at the time

I think just the opposite, he'll start and he will be waylaid and start to think the R's have a point, because, after all they're people....not extremist monsters.  


"I don't believe Mr. Obama is a closet privatizer. He is, however, someone who keeps insisting that he can transcend the partisanship of our times - and in this case, that turned him into a sucker."

This approach is so inherent to his very personhood that it won't get beaten back, and it will pop up like whack a mole in his attempt to deal with anything he does....even his telecom/net neutrality program.

Well now we have to do what Matt said...we have to beat it back.  And the first step is to stop thinking it's not real and that he never subscribed to the crisis mentality (he did in some form).  We need to acknowledge that when he said "..this is a long term problem we need to deal with now. And the sooner we do this the better" That this commssion is an expression of his idea.

Now he may think all it would do is raise the cap...but the commission is its own decider once it's constituted and the up or down vote is all that's allowed. This is a Trojan horse he doesn't fully realize he's letting in through the gates.

Actually after almost a year of watching him govern in the most cautious, timprous villagey kind of way, espeicially when dealing with financial issues...I think he knows full well that he's doing and doesn't need much coercing at all.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

Obama having not just one but two (0.00 / 0)
authors of Social Security 'Reform' Plans in top roles.

One is Orszag, co-author of Diamond-Orszag and the other is Jeff Liebman, Orszag's deputy at OMB and author of Liebman-MacGuineas-Samwick (aka LMS). Plus Summers is known to be sympathetic. Plus under both Cooper-Wolf and Conrad-Gregg Geithner is explicitly named as Commission Chair.

Basically Obama is taking all of his economic advice from Rubinistas plus Goolsbee from U of Chi. The only top level economic progressive is Jared Bernstein and he is off to the side in Biden's office.

The only thing between Social Security and disaster at this point is Reid and Pelosi which in practice means Pelosi. Reid will never go for Cooper-Wolf, it takes too much power away from the Senate, but he could go for Conrad-Gregg.

I am not a person of faith, but if I was I would be praying for Nancy Peloi's good health. Because HER Deputy Hoyer is on record supporting some version of Cooper-Wolf.

[ Parent ]
Well old people are the ones (0.00 / 0)
that tell pollsters the the budget deficit is the biggest problem so if they lose social security and medicare under the repukes and the blue mutts, it is their own fault.

My blog  

Generational warfare (0.00 / 0)
Old folks are also opposed to healthcare reform, particularly the public option, because they're afraid of Medicare being diluted.

At some point, the young voters are going to say, enough is enough.  They are going to declare war on the baby boomers for their serial failures.

More and more, I see the support building for someone with Ron Paul's message.  Obama is just the interim president paving his way.

[ Parent ]
you lost me at Ron Paul (4.00 / 2)
a little unclear how the previous generation stepping on the necks of the younger generation has anything to do with the gold standard

[ Parent ]
I don't agree with the sentiment (0.00 / 0)
but people aren't all that sensible, and the fact that the old people are the ones crowing about the deficit and the blue mutt-repuke res ponce is to eliminate social security and medicare proves it.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Chris, why can't Social Security just cash out its "T-Bills" (0.00 / 0)
My understanding is that Social Security is owed 22% of almost 13 trillion dollars in total federal debt. That doesn't sound like a Social Security deficit to me. That sounds like a surplus of several trillion dollars, especially if you add interest.

Social Security Can (0.00 / 0)
Social Security is fine, in a theoretical, makes no real world difference sort of way.  However, when they cash out those t-bills, the money comes from taxes and/or more debt.  The trust fund doesn't actually accomplish anything.

However, if SS bought, say, Chinese bonds then it would be their problem.

[ Parent ]
Commission (0.00 / 0)
I can live with a commission, but not one that is binding or can't be amended.    

This is wrong. (0.00 / 0)
When Republicans were running the Senate and they wanted to eliminate the filibuster, the left cried foul.  We all knew the consequences of what would happen if they succeeded.  Now that Democrats are in power, you want the left to do a 180º turn and support the elimination of the filibuster.  Regardless of who runs the Senate, this is wrong -- and dreadfully shortsighted.  You're assuming a Democratic majority will remain for years to come.  It won't.

Single-Payer is the ONLY viable public option.

This is to Democrats in the Senate, by the way, who support getting rid of the filibuster. (0.00 / 0)
LIEberman should not be counted as a Democrat, since he's a Republican in everything but technical party registration.

Single-Payer is the ONLY viable public option.

[ Parent ]

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