Republican Quandary: How to Kill Social Security While Blaming Obama

Obama Is the Republican’s Contract Hitman: Killing Social Security & Then Riding Off into the Corporate Sunset

In a town consumed by how quickly and how deeply to cut Social Security, a handful of Democratic senators have a different idea: expand it.

Their pitch is to grow Social Security benefits by attaching it to a new formula, known as CPI-E  (Consumer Price Index for the Elderly), which is based on the theory that seniors face higher-than-average price increases, such as on health care and housing. It would be paid for by phasing out the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax, which is currently $113,700. Supporters say this would raise Social Security compensation for all beneficiaries by $ 70 per month.

Legislation to this effect was introduced earlier this spring by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 has since been co-sponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who added his name this week.

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President Barack Obama has publicly endorsed a cut to future Social Security benefits by attaching them to a lower rate of inflation, known as Chained CPI. Republicans strongly support this change. (Under Chained CPI, benefits would grow more slowly, based on the theory that rising prices lead to changes in behavior.

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Republicans are eager to cut Social Security, but they want Democrats’ fingerprints on the knife, so they don’t take the blame. The GOP base includes disproportionately older Americans who love Social Security — a fact they were reminded of when they tried and failed to privatize it in 2005. For now, Democrats still largely accept the conservative framing on Social Security and the public sees little, if any, daylight between the two parties. If they change course and force votes on proposals to expand Social Security, it could put Republicans on the spot and clarify who really supports the program and who doesn’t.

Excerpts from TalkingPointsMemo.com (November 5, 2013)

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