President Obama wants to cut Social Security benefits as part of a grand bargain and he is working hard to get Congressional Democrats behind his proposal. The only thing preventing the program from being cut is House Republicans’ unwillingness to accept a deal. Fortunately, for people who care about Social Security there are three main reasons to hope the GOP will indirectly continue to prevent any cuts.
1. Republicans really hate taxes – President Obama says any grand bargain must include new revenues, and at every turn House Republicans have made it clear that they take their no new tax pledge seriously. They rejected several past deals because they included tax increases and top House Republicans have repeatedly said they would not accept more taxes in a future deal. Republicans have constantly shown that keeping taxes low, especially on rich people, is their top policy goal.
2. Republicans depend on older voters – Senior citizens are the most important voting bloc for Republicans. The GOP depends on old white people for getting elected, which helps explain the GOP’s behavior. Republicans often talk about “entitlement reform” in general but rarely act on it. The last time the Republican Party fully controlled Washington they didn’t cut Medicare, they expanded it via Part D. Their big attack against Obamacare was that it cut Medicare.
Being dependent on the senior vote is probably why Republicans promised to protect everyone 55 and older from their Medicare voucher plan. The GOP has actually shown little interest in cutting benefits for current retirees. For the chained-CPI to really save money in the ten year budget window it would need to be adopted right away.
3. Chained-CPI is a inherently a tax increase – Currently the only idea really being discussed for cutting Social Security benefits is adopting the Chained-CPI. This would also change how tax brackets are calculated and that would end up being a significant tax increase on almost everyone.
This means even if Obama tried dropping his demand for other new taxes in an attempt to get Republicans on board, any plan that cuts Social Security would also inherently be a tax increase. There is a good chance that Republicans opposition to tax increases would stop them from even accepting a “clean” bill that adopted the Chained-CPI.
The driving force behind trying to cut Social Security benefits right now is not Republicans, it is President Obama. Obama has likely already whipped up enough Congressional Democrats behind his proposal that all he is waiting for is Speaker Boehner to give him a yes. The best hope for the vast majority of the country who do not want Social Security to be cut is for these reasons to keep the House Republicans from saying yes to Obama’s Grand Bargain.
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