Touching the ‘third rail’
From the Los Angeles Times:
By Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson
Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of President Obama’s deficit commission, have signaled for months that they are not friends of Social Security. In August, Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, wrote that Social Security is “a milk cow with 310 million tits.” Last February, Bowles, who made his fortune on Wall Street and served as a top aide in the Clinton White House, boasted in a speech to bankers, “We’re going to mess with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”
Earlier this month, the two men released their proposal to reduce the federal deficit, and they’ve delivered on the promise to “mess with” Social Security. The plan will now go to the full commission, where we have to hope wiser views will prevail.
In releasing their plan, the co-chairs went out of their way to make clear that they were proposing changes to Social Security “for its own sake, not for deficit reduction.” This was an acknowledgement that Social Security does not and cannot contribute to the deficit, because it has no borrowing authority and by law cannot pay benefits unless it has sufficient income and reserves to cover their cost. But Simpson and Bowles just couldn’t keep their hands off the program.