Hunter: Republicans May Set Up Betrayal of Seniors

Posted October 18, 2010 at 1:01pm

Updated: Oct. 19, 11:15 a.m.

President Barack Obama and the Democratic establishment have gutted Medicare, and the Republican establishment remains remarkably quiet about it.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Republican pledge to ‘repeal and replace’ ObamaCare contained in this election cycle’s version of ‘Contract With America,’ now called ‘A Pledge To America,’ does not, for example, promise to rescind ObamaCare’s Medicare cuts, price controls and rationingonce and for all. Neither does it pledge that Republicans won’t replace them with their own versions of the same, such as were enacted by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Now, Obama has Social Security in the cross hairs of his deficit-commission assault weapon. Reports from inside Obama’s bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform ‘ what one wag called ’18 unrepresentative, inordinately wealthy individuals meeting regularly in secret behind closed doors, until safely beyond this year’s midterm election’ ‘ reveal that Social Security is on the chopping block. Several Republicans on the commission have indicated their eagerness to go along with these plans to cut Social Security, which could be shoved to the top of the agenda of the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress.

According to news reports, one Republican member of Obama’s deficit commission, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), said, ‘Democrats are kidding themselves if they believe Social Security will be preserved without major benefit cuts,’ and he repeated the line disseminated by the conservative wonk network, which has become a mantra inside the GOP establishment: ‘Social Security benefits will have to be cut 24 percent in the coming decades, as the baby-boom bulge of retirees outstrips funding.’

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) also has said he supports raising the retirement age and means testing Social Security.

The Republican Party appears to have been intimidated into embracing drastic Social Security cuts both as an ill-conceived means of eliminating the program’s long-run actuarial deficit and reducing the federal deficit ‘ ‘bending the Social Security cost curve down’ right onto the backs of seniors. That is why seniors and baby boomers would be well-advised right now, before the election, to demand that the Republican Party commit itself unequivocally to taking Social Security and Medicare off the chopping block before voters hand the GOP a mandate to cut a deal with the Obama administration.

The Alliance for Retirement Prosperity has asked all Members of Congress and candidates for Congress to sign a pledge committing to oppose any cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.

If Republicans take control of the Congress now, uncommitted to protecting Social Security and Medicare, with a radical liberal in the White House whose sights are set on cutting both programs and a significant contingent in their own ranks just hankering to use Social Security and Medicare to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, the stage will be set for a ‘grand compromise’ (read: ‘betrayal’) with Congressional liberals and the president to cut Social Security and allow Medicare to be transformed into the Veterans Affairs Department by price controls and rationing.

In truth, there is no Social Security crisis any more than there was a health care crisis, which Obama fabricated to jam his national health care takeover down America’s throat.

Congress would simply never permit drastic, across-the-board Social Security cuts to occur any more than it ever allows huge immediate reductions in the national debt to occur, despite the fact that they, too, are ‘required by current law’ if Congress were to fail to extend the ‘temporary’ debt limit. This nightmare scenario is being used by the Republican wonkosphere purely as a pretext to keep Social Security on the chopping block and avoid cutting the rest of the federal budget.

The public is primed and cocked to throw the bums out next month. Before they do, they better get an iron-clad, written commitment from the folks they are getting ready to install in the bums’ place to keep their cotton-pickin’ hands off Social Security and Medicare. If they don’t, November could become the cruelest month.

Lawrence A. Hunter, Ph.D., is president of the Alliance for Retirement Prosperity and of the Social Security Institute. He previously served as Republican staff director for the Joint Economic Committee.

Editor’s Note: Rep. Jeb Hensarling provided the following response to this article:

“My comments that Dr. Lawrence Hunter extracted from press reports and included in his Roll Call piece ‘Republicans May Set Up Betrayal of Seniors,’ were taken out of context and grossly mischaracterize my position on Social Security.  If there is an impending ‘betrayal’ of seniors it is by Democrats and others who advocate doing nothing to reform the program, thereby preserving the status quo, which will result in eventual Social Security benefit cuts.

“According to the Social Security Trustees’ latest report, Social Security as currently structured is not sustainable.  The report predicts that the Social Security Trust Fund will be permanently exhausted by 2037, meaning Social Security will no longer be able to pay its scheduled benefits.  If Democrats claim they want Social Security left alone, under current law they are, by default, putting in motion a 22% benefit cut in 2037, which will go to 25% by 2084, unless they propose jobs killing payroll tax increases of 30% in 2037, rising to 35% in 2084.

“This nation must have an adult conversation about the future of Social Security; however, throwing around words like ‘betrayal’ when you know the facts to be otherwise is unconstructive and will help lead to the benefit cuts we seek to avoid.”