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Yet Another Threat to Social Security

Posted Nov 08 2012 8:30am

category_bug_politics.gif Well, there is no dearth of second-guessing along with obituaries for the Republican Party. But it's my experience that when something big changes - which is what happened in this election - it takes some time and distance to make useful sense of it.

So even though it is tempting to join the chorus, I'm going to hit you with something we know for sure is looming on the immediate horizon – another threat to current and future elders' Social Security, this time via the fiscal cliff.

Yeah, yeah, your eyes glaze over. Mine too, so I'll keep this as short as possible.

The fiscal cliff is an agreement (caused by Congressional Republicans who, in 2011, refused to raise the debt ceiling without it) to trigger massive tax increases and spending cuts unless there is a plan to balance the budget by the last day of 2012.

No such plan has materialized so unless Congress does something between now and the end of the year, the law will go into effect on 1 January causing an estimated average tax increase of $3500 per American family, according to the bipartisan Tax Policy Center.

Further, reports the Washington Post ,

”The federal government will enact a 10 percent across-the-board spending cut, forcing it to lay off workers and cancel contracts to meet the 'sequestration' targets that are set in law.

“Everything from federal meat-inspectors to NASA rocket scientists would face the budget axe. So too, would federal aid to states, as well as money used to hire teachers and boost police and fire departments.”

If you can believe what you read in WaPo, Congressional Republicans have spent the past few weeks trying to devise a compromise.

”But any such deal, they say, would hinge on Obama’s willingness to rein in the cost of federal entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, the biggest drivers of future borrowing.”

Oh dear. During his first administration, President Obama made it a habit, in budget discussions, to OFFER cuts to Social Security cost-of-living increases which would be a huge burden over time to retirees, especially women.

In this immediate budgetary crisis,

”The question, said former White House economist Jared Bernstein, is what Democrats would be willing to give Republicans in return for prying them away from the influence of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has maintained firm discipline among GOP lawmakers.

“'I’m sure they’re going to ask for something big,' said Bernstein, now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 'I think Republicans would value something on Social Security as a real trophy.'”

Right. Stick it to old people and the poor again. The fiscal cliff clock is ticking. Congress reconvenes next week. We – elders – have our work cut out for us on Social Security. Stay tuned.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Long Night of October 27-28, 2012

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