The push to cut Social Security is the ultimate horror movie monster. Despite the idea being defeated time and time again, it never dies. It just waits in the shadows until it is resurrected by the “grand bargain” obsessed necromancers whenever they think the time is right.
It was put forward by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson in 2010, but the whole plan was rejected by the commission members. It was offered as a concession by President Obama in 2011 as part of the debt ceiling deal, but was saved when House Republicans balked at tax increases. Again the idea was put forward by the Super Committee, but the program was only spared thanks to a lack of agreement. Now the so called “fiscal cliff” is being seized by some as the perfect opportunity to bring the idea back once more. From the New York Times:
Senate leaders are closing in on a path for dealing with the “fiscal cliff” facing the country in January, opting to try to use a postelection session of Congress to reach agreement on a comprehensive deficit reduction deal rather than a short-term solution.
First, senators would come to an agreement on a deficit reduction target — likely to be around $4 trillion over 10 years — to be reached through revenue raised by an overhaul of the tax code, savings from changes to social programs like Medicare and Social Security, and cuts to federal programs. Once the framework is approved, lawmakers would vote on expedited instructions to relevant Congressional committees to draft the details over six months to a year.
For people determined to force a horribly unpopular cut onto a country that opposes such a move the lame duck session really is the best moment. It is when regular people are least likely to be paying attention because of the holiday season. It is also when Congress contains many members who are never going to face the electorate again because they recently retired or lost.
Of course if you believe in the idea of accountable democracy, this would be a horrible violation of its principles; it relies on exploiting a historic remnant that a reasonable government should have eliminated decades ago.
This is just the beginning of the push to cut Social Security during the lame duck; expect the frenzy to really pick up as we approach the end of the year.