Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Will GOP carry out its "threats" on social security? (Look again at Boehner on means testing)

The first day after the Republican rout in the House and Senate gains, there were some offhand comments about social security. Rand Paul , Michele Bachmann, and John Boehner seemed to be floating the same general comments.

Paul has talked about raising the retirement age for younger people, not too radical. Bachmann has talked about “notching up eligibility requirements”, rather vague. Boehner has also talked about the retirement age increase and CPI indexing, but the scariest idea is means testing, which at least in some of his remarks sounds like they could be put into place right away.

Maybe the ploy is to get Americans to accept the idea of “owned private accounts” – regulated and managed to keep principle safe – but safe from means testing or any kind of expropriation. That really was a hidden appeal of President George W. Bush’s proposals a few years ago. Nobody wants to admit it, but “means testing” is a bad word and third rail because it sounds like such a slippery slope. (Look at my situation, which I won’t describe here in detail, but there are so many ways that other moralists or pundits could interpret it, that they (or the government) could do anything to me they wanted.) Maybe the public missed this point in recoiling from privatization (suddenly Bush’s ideas don’t sound so bad). The folks at the Cato Institute get this, but it doesn’t seem like anyone else does.

Some news accounts today discussed just the idea that the GOP might shut down a proposd $250 extra social security payment to seniors next year since there will be no COI raise again. But that seems superficial.

Other reports suggested that the GOP might help "wealthier" estates by extending exemptions on the inheritance tax over $1 million.

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