The co-chairs of the president’s deficit commission made a surprise announcement of a press conference today. During the press conference they released a preliminary report–the “Co-Chairs’ Proposal”–on the commission’s potential recommendations, which have not been endorsed by commission members (or the president). The report calls for changing the way Social Security benefits are indexed, tying them to inflation rather than wages. Since the tax is on wages, it seems logical to tie the benefits to wages. A change to inflation would create significant cuts in benefits, particularly as many seniors’ expenses result from items such as prescriptions, which increase in cost far faster than the general inflation rate.
The report was leaked to Bloomberg and as a result, Bloomberg reported:
* Nobody but Bowles and Simpson endorses this
* The plan “will propose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, as well as reductions in income tax rates in exchange for curbing tax breaks,” according to a GOP aide who attended the meeting.
* Jan Schakowsky says “this is not a package I could support.”
* Durbin says there is not going to be “an up or down vote” on this.
You can read the document here:
It is odd that this press conference was held without prior notice and while the president is out of the country. Here’s the president’s press office response:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release November 10, 2010
Statement on the Initial Bowles-Simpson Bipartisan Fiscal Commission Proposal
“The President will wait until the bipartisan fiscal commission finishes its work before commenting. He respects the challenging task that the Co-Chairs and the Commissioners are undertaking and wants to give them space to work on it. These ideas, however, are only a step in the process towards coming up with a set of recommendations and the President looks forward to reviewing their final product early next month,” said White House spokesperson, Bill Burton.
Note: This is certainly no endorsement of the proposal.
Exit polls from last Tuesday elections released today showed that the vast majority of voters do not want to cut Social Security benefits: http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/11/poll-voters-would-rather-tax-the-wealthy-than-cut-social-security.php
Finally, perhaps lost in the hullabaloo around the chairs’ draft report is this OTHER report, released today by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), “Strengthening Social Security for the Long Run.” Janice Gregory, president of NASI, had an excellent OpEd in The Hill today, discussing some of the points of the report. Check out the report as well as a useful PowerPoint presentation from the NASI presentation this morning: https://www.nasi.org/events/126/event-presentations.
Sure seems as though it would be better to have the nonpartisan experts at NASI figuring out how to ensure Social Security’s longevity than the two chairs of the deficit commission, both of whom approached their work from a “we must cut Social Security” perspective.