Democrats should start entitlement reform with Social Security fix

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Democrats were given a political gift by the Tea Party-led federal government shutdown. Whether Tea Party loyalists accept it or not, the shutdown damaged the Republican Party.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recalled an old Kentucky saying: “There is no education in the second kick of a mule.” The second kick to Republicans would be another government shutdown, and McConnell has stated that it will not happen.

BUT THE DEMOCRATS should not feel complacent. This stumble from the right has limited staying power, and the electorate’s view inevitably will shift. While the Tea Party and establishment Republicans attempt to resolve their differences, Democrats should work to repair their own image.

And nothing is more closely identified with Democrats than entitlements. While the country is distracted by budget stalemates and government shutdowns, entitlements relentlessly drive up our debt, are fiscally unsustainable, and need overhaul. No Americans want to see their tax dollars squandered, and overly generous payments, fraud and abuse seriously undercut well-intended entitlements.

As examples, two components of the Social Security program are badly in need of repair.

The first example is a policy issue: how to make Social Security Old Age Insurance solvent for the long term. By 2033, the Old Age Insurance Trust Fund will be expended, resulting in a 25 percent benefit reduction to seniors if nothing is done.

Part of the funding shortfall is caused because of the increased longevity my generation enjoys. Our total future benefits will be far greater than anticipated when Social Security was last revised in 1983. We seniors should help pay for these increased benefits by accepting smaller cost-of-living increases.

The president has proposed such a plan by using a lower measure of inflation, the chained Consumer Price Index. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the most liberal Democrats have objected to the chained CPI. They have proposed increasing the Social Security tax rate on current workers as the primary solution for the funding shortfall.

BUT THIS IS unfair for working people, who already are being saddled with our accumulated $17 trillion debt. An increase in Social Security tax would simply add to the unprecedented and immoral intergenerational transfer of wealth from today’s workers to today’s seniors.

Democrats, working people, seniors and all Americans should support the president’s proposal to reduce future Social Security benefit increases by adopting the chained CPI.

The second example is the troubled Social Security Disability Insurance program. SSDI funding comes from the 6.2 percent Social Security tax paid by workers and matched by employers.

Since 1980, the percent of the working-age population receiving SSDI has doubled from 2.4 percent to 4.7 percent. As a result, the separate SSDI Trust Fund will run out by 2017.

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that much of the increase was caused by events external to SSDI, such as an aging population and the recession. But about half of the enrollment increase was unexplained, and generally was attributed to a greater SSDI benefit, and a doubling of the percentage of SSDI claimants being approved because of relaxed criteria.

Do all nine million current beneficiaries deserve SSDI?

An example of fraud occurred when a Social Security administrative law judge in West Virginia granted nearly every appeal for those applying for SSDI. An investigation showed that from about 2005 until 2011, he was collaborating with a lawyer who specialized in obtaining SSDI benefits for clients. How difficult could it have been for managers to detect this behavior earlier and stop the fraud?

THE CURRENT dysfunction of the Obamacare website is another example of technical incompetency damaging an administration and a political party. Democratic leaders should invest greater effort in ensuring that entitlement policies, and competent execution of those policies, give confidence to the American people that our tax dollars are being spent wisely.

There are ample opportunities for repair.

(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)

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Riverman1
94246
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Riverman1 11/17/13 - 07:12 am
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Ed Conant Misses Again

Unfortunately, what’s actually happening with the Democrats is a push to expand Social Security. That’s the reality of those who don’t care about responsible spending. Ed Conant should be worrying about THEM and not the Tea Party pushing to get entitlements and other spending under control.

The AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women, Latinos for a Secure Retirement, MoveOn, Democracy For America and CREDO Action are now demanding EXPANDED Social Security benefits.

In response Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) have bills pending that will expand benefits by $452 for retirees at age 75 and $807 at age 85. The cap on how much is paid into Social Security will be lifted, meaning some will pay more. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mike Honda (D-CA), and over 40 members of Congress have sponsored House versions of the Harkin-Begich Bill.

If someone as knowledgeable as Conant can’t see the Democrats have thrown in the towel and will take every penny they can to give to those who are not contributing to the nation’s numbers on the plus side we are lost. When people saying control spending are vilified all logic has left the building.

harley_52
26074
Points
harley_52 11/17/13 - 08:45 am
6
1
"Whether Tea Party loyalists accept it or not...

...the shutdown damaged the Republican Party."

No, it did not.

True, the democrats and their loyalists in the media have tried to make that case, reasonable, thinking people have never fallen for that line.

First of all, the Republicans had (and still have) no power to "shut down" the government. Only the President has that power. In the recent case, the President decided to "shut down" the government because he was unwilling to accept legislation that would de-fund Obamacare. Actually, he conspired with the democrat Senate leadership to kill the legislation. While it's true Republicans in Congress have been incorrectly portrayed as the villains here, they weren't. In fact, we now see they were right all along.

That's the second reason. Republicans who tried to de-fund, or at least delay, Obamacare were RIGHT. The misery now being suffered by 30+ million Americans who have lost their insurance and received HUGE increases in new insurance policy options would have been spared this misery if Republican leadership had been followed. The unfortunate thing is that if we think it's bad now, it's going to get much, much worse. We're watching the intentional destruction of the American Economy and a vicious attack on the American citizenry in motion here. Republicans see it and try to stop it, democrats deny it's a problem and press forward with implementation.

The people are awakening to a realization of what's REALLY going on here. Maybe one of these fine days Mr. Conant will too.

deestafford
32185
Points
deestafford 11/17/13 - 09:53 am
2
1
Most people don't understand what the end goal Obama is

The vast majority of people have never heard of the two people who developed the strategy Obama is following to reach his leftist goals nor have they heard of the strategy---The Cloward-Piven Strategy.

It was developed by a husband-wife team, Richard Andrew Cloward and Francis Fox Piven, two Columbia University professors of the 1960's.

The major points of their strategy are:
-Decries individual mobility and achievement.
-Believes if everyone were in the same relative economic circumstances, everyone would be better off.
-Believes in overloading the entitlement system and bankrupt cities. Riots would ensure and government would have to take over and implement socialism.

Saul Alinsky was their muse and they went on to teach their strategy to a cadre of community organizers---one of which was Barrack Obama.

So, one can see Obama is a bystander president on many issues, in the area of implementing a socialist strategy he is very involved and appoints those who are fellow travelers in positions where they can implement the Cloward-Piven Strategy. Even though many democrats in Congress are acolytes of this strategy they have been part of it, they are so willingly ignorant they don't even know its background or even heard of it.

As far as Social Security goes, just look at the privatization plan President G.W. Bush proposed, what the city of Galveston has been doing for decades, and the program in Chile and one will have the solution to the problem.

harley_52
26074
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harley_52 11/17/13 - 10:21 am
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Absolutely Right, Deestafford....

...I've been talking about Cloward, Piven, and Alinksy in here for two years and have offered lots of links to info about them and their strategies, including a summary of Alinsky's "Rules For Radicals" which, I think, Everybody needs to understand when viewing the current President in action.

None of what's going on is accidental, or coincidental. It's planned, organized, and managed. It is purposeful. We are watching the coordinated destruction of our Constitutional government and our Economy. Some of us are unwitting enablers. Our children and grandchildren will live different lives because of it. Misery will replace pride, prosperity, and optimism.

I'm VERY sad to say that most people STILL don't get it.

dichotomy
37614
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dichotomy 11/17/13 - 01:03 pm
2
1
And the Democrats sell every

And the Democrats sell every one of these "help the poor" programs by saying they are going to take it from the "rich". But you don't hear the rich hollering about Obamacare. Like ALL of these Democrat programs, they always HURT THE MIDDLE CLASS. The MIDDLE CLASS is where ALL OF THE MONEY IS that moves in the economy and is therefore taxable. When a Democrat talks about helping the poor, the poor, who oh by the way already make more on welfare, food stamps, and Section 8 that a LOT of working people......the Democrats ALWAYS intend to take the money from the MIDDLE CLASS. Obamacare is a classic example. When the Democrats start mouthing about another giveaway program, it's ALWAYS coming out of YOUR pocket MIDDLE CLASS. And just like Obamacare, IT ALWAYS HURTS MORE PEOPLE THAN IT HELPS.

As for the Social Security problem....if you cut the COLA increases you are going to have elderly who will then qualify for some other government subsidy. COLA raises ALREADY do NOT keep up with the REAL COST OF LIVING INCREASES....and sometimes the increases of Medicare Part B. They only way you can save the Social Security program is to raise the eligibility age AND/OR raise the SS payroll tax.......and prevent Congress from spending the money.

Little Lamb
49247
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Little Lamb 11/17/13 - 01:24 pm
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1
Economics

Economists have calculated that the sequester plus the government shutdown have resulted in measurable deficit reduction. How does that damage the Republican party?

Little Lamb
49247
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Little Lamb 11/17/13 - 01:27 pm
1
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Immoral?

Today's columnist Ed Conant wrote:

An increase in Social Security tax would simply add to the unprecedented and immoral intergenerational transfer of wealth from today’s workers to today’s seniors.

It's not immoral. Intergeneration transfer of wealth from workers to seniors was the fundamental basis of Social Security from the beginning. It is a contract, a pact we make together as a society. The workers take care of the retired. If the contract is broken, then there will be a whole lot of saps who paid into the system over a working career who will get nothing.

Society will never stand for an idea as radical as Conant's.

Bizkit
35740
Points
Bizkit 11/17/13 - 07:58 pm
3
1
The president has been

The president has been exposed as a liar knowing of the insurance cancellations and the website not being ready and was willing to ignore the Tea Party and Rep who were vindicated all their concerns were true. Obama allowed the shutdown for this disaster of an implementation-that is irresponsible and incompetent to the nth degree. It demonstrates he would let citizens suffer for his ideology-which is something he freely admits. The letter writer is misguided and illogical-but he is a Dem.

Bizkit
35740
Points
Bizkit 11/17/13 - 07:59 pm
2
0
The world would be a better

The world would be a better place without a Democratic or Republican Party.

Bizkit
35740
Points
Bizkit 11/17/13 - 08:00 pm
1
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Little Lamb you are on a

Little Lamb you are on a roll. Don't let me interrupt you. Go girl!!!!!

KSL
144554
Points
KSL 11/17/13 - 10:14 pm
1
1
Why couldn't I have invested

Why couldn't I have invested the money my way? I have paid SS since the first day I worked.

KSL
144554
Points
KSL 11/17/13 - 10:20 pm
1
1
And we had an HSA wd could

And we had an HSA wd could afford the best healthcare in the world. Thank you government for holding your loyal taxpayers back.

prov227
3468
Points
prov227 11/19/13 - 12:54 pm
0
0
If you could ...

trade your Social Security program for a personal IRA and your Medicare payments for a Health Savings Account (HSA) during your working years, you wouldn't have a worry when you retired. But Democrats wouldn't have voters.

dahreese
4909
Points
dahreese 11/22/13 - 12:59 pm
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"And nothing is more closely
Unpublished

"And nothing is more closely identified with Democrats than entitlements."

It is unfortunate that "entitlements" is used to describe government programs intended to help people stay out of poverty, especially after their working days are over.

"No Americans want to see their tax dollars squandered, and overly generous payments, fraud and abuse seriously undercut well-intended entitlements."

Since the writer is a retired military person, he no doubt is well aware, as I was, of flagrant financial Pentagon waste (as well as the flagrant unnecessary waste of military lives in unnecessary military actions).

As I read the many rightwing comments posted here (including 99% of the editorials) it is pathetic that "entitlements" to American citizens in order to keep them out of poverty are so attacked.

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