Hillary Clinton says she cares about the middle class, but she doesn’t. If she did, why would she want to dramatically reduce future Social Security benefits, suck unaffordable amounts from young people footing the bill and even risk the program’s ultimate collapse?
To be sure, she doesn’t say that’s what she wants, but it’s what her pronounced policy preferences could lead to as they also mangled the budget and economy and threatened a calamitous fiscal crisis.
I know. It’s hard for those running for president to deal truthfully with the enormous growth of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, because, sob, it could cost votes.
And so some refuse to admit these programs will soon restore killer deficits and won’t stop there. If unreformed, they will also be the prime movers of a total federal debt that could top $22 trillion by 2020, which is to say, get ready for trouble. Interest on the debt would be painful, taxes would be painful, stalled growth would be painful, and if foreign lenders quit lending or raised interest rates, the word “painful” would be much too gentle to describe it.
But when responsible legislators do cautiously design legislation that could sustain Social Security with scarcely a blip of bother to most, someone somewhere will say they are forcing old people to suffer. Many in a badly misled public will believe it, the reformers will back off and a bad situation will get worse on the way to getting downright perilous.
What Clinton said about Social Security was that she would not “mess” with it and make bad things happen “to all these people,” meaning she would in fact mess with it through inattention, helping to render it insolvent after it has first helped foster other traumas.
Here is not some minor matter, but one of the single biggest domestic issues facing the federal government. If politicians can’t get this right, there is little reason to trust them more than minimally on much else, and that goes for Republicans as well as this Democratic presidential candidate. So let’s move on to Mike Huckabee.
This Republican candidate for president, who is reported once to have argued that Medicare without adjustments would last no longer than a decade, now says fixing either it or Social Security would break trust with the people. He has no use at all for the proposal of another Republican candidate, Chris Christie, to salvage Social Security in part by reducing or denying benefits to some future high-income retirees. Two other Republican candidates, Jeb Bush and Mark Rubio, emphasize raising retirement ages as a solution. In response to a query from Talking Points Memo website, expected GOP candidate, Scott Walker, alertly said:
“For far too long, Washington has kicked the can down the road on entitlement programs. Absent significant reforms, these programs will go bankrupt and the people who have paid into them will be left out in the cold. We need a leader who will implement true reforms to save and protect these programs for future generations.”
We do have some Republican leaders in the House. The clumsily functioning, quickly growing Social Security disability program is running out of money, and some want to save it by taking funds from the retirement program. That would do nothing to correct the faults in the disability portion, and intelligently enough, Republicans want to reshape its most questionable parts.
In the Senate, instead of leaders, we have Elizabeth Warren, Democrat from Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders, self-described democratic socialist from Vermont who is running for president. They want to increase Social Security benefits that are already being regularly increased to the detriment of young workers who will face flattening costs even with some tax hikes today. Thanks so much, you two, although we’d be better off if you would study up on the issue and put facts before ideology.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at speaktojayaol.com.