They’re at it again. We’ve been reading some very scary rumors about the Debt Commission, commonly referred to as the Catfood Commission. Richard Eskow posted an essay on Thursday in Huffpost, titled “Deficit Commission’s Rumored Deal Would Pit Middle-Class Seniors Against the Poor.” Eskow wrote:
If back-channel sources are correct, the Deficit Commission is finalizing a deal that would increase Social Security benefits slightly for low-income recipients while cutting them for everyone else. The Commissioners apparently believe that putting this ‘progressive’ gloss on a package of unneeded cuts would allow them to move forward with their predetermined anti-Social Security agenda.
To put this another way, this would be an unnecessary and unneeded plan to “help sustain” the fiscal soundness of Social Security, which does not need such radical fixing, only a little tweeking, such as raising the upper wage limit for employee contributions from its current $106,000. And, bear in mind, this “tweeking” would not put any additional administrative burdens on the I.R.S. or employers. The process for handling this solution is already in place in the I.R.S. and most employers use automated payroll systems.
On the other hand, this Catfood Commission’s scheme would put one group of retirees against another, wouldn’t it? And how the conservatives on the Commission would love that.
As we’ve written before, many of these commissioners have been gunning for Social Security for years. Co-chair Alan Simpson isn’t the only one who would like to destroy the most successful of New Deal programs. He’s just the most publicly ornery, obnoxious and cantankerous.
This Commission is set to give their recommendations to the White House after the November elections. If the Democrats take a drubbing, as many predict they will, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture a huge flap when this Commission reports to Congress and Obama. (What was Obama thinking when he created this monster with so many anti-Social Security folks on the Commission?)
Social Security is not the only focus of the Commission. The Commission works in small groups behind closed doors so that all we are getting are rumors and spin. TPM’s Brian Beutler reported in August that GOP members are unwilling to contemplate any tax increases and are focused on cutting entitlements (there’s that awful word again) and the federal budget. Beutler also wrote that some members, such as Obama’s pick, Honeywell’s CEO David Cote, and Alan Simpson are pressing for freezing military pay and, (get this) making the military pay for their health care.
All of this is on the table at a time when most respected economists are preaching for more government stimulus money being expended.
David Dayen (Hullabaloo’s dday) summed up the scheme to cut Social Security benefits for almost everyone, except the poorest, as a plan to turn the system “into more of a welfare program than a social insurance program into which everybody pays.”
Bingo! And I am certain that is precisely how Alan Simpson sees the system. That is precisely what his comment about Social Security being “a milkcow with 310 million tits” was all about.
Perhaps it’s inconceivable to Simpson and others on the Commission that the elderly actually live proudly, modestly, frugally and with dignity on their Social Security income, perhaps augmented, if they are lucky, by a small pension. And central to that sense of dignity and personal pride is that folks know that they worked hard for that money and that it is theirs, not Barack Obama’s or even the government’s.
And it certainly isn’t Alan Simpson’s...