What are McCain’s Plans for Social Security?

Mark Kleiman notes the implications of the McCain campaign’s recent statements about taxes and Social Security:

McCain says: “Slash Social Security benefits”, by Mark Kleiman: No, that’s not a headline you can expect to read. But it’s the truth.

Carly Fiorina says that McCain might raise taxes on rich folks as part of a Social Security deal.

Grover Norquist, speaking as the Grand Inquisitioner of the anti-taxers, more or less replies: “Bullsh*t! I wear McCain’s b*lls on my keyring!”

Then comes the punchline:

A McCain campaign spokesman told ABC News Monday that McCain continues to oppose any tax increase as part of Social Security reform, notwithstanding Fiorina’s comments.

“The lesson of history is that too many specifics at this point polarize the debate, that is the argument Carly was trying to make,” Taylor Griffin said. “However, John McCain does believe that we can fix Social Security without raising taxes. As president, John McCain will call on Congress to develop a bi-partisan solution to Social Security — and if they won’t, he will.”

Three points here:

1. “Too many specifics at this point polarize the debate” translates into English as “If we told the retirees how completely we plan to shaft them, they might not vote for us.”

2. The McCain camp seems to have invented a new idea: unilateral bipartisanship. If Congress doesn’t come up with a bi-partisan plan, McCain will single-handedly come up with his own bi-partisan plan.

3. Since McCain has now committed to “fixing” the Social Security “problem” without raising taxes, and since the only two ways of getting projected revenues to match projected benefits is to increase revenues or reduce benefits, it follows that McCain is committed to cutting Social Security benefits. And that’s before he has to reduce them again to accommodate the diversion of new money into private accounts.

So not only does McCain think that Social Security is “an absolute disgrace,” he knows what he wants to do about it: he’ll reduce pensions but not increase taxes on the wealthy.

This seems to me like Christmas in July.

First, I don’t want to leave the impression that Social Security is a big problem – it’s not. Some tweaks may be needed to bring revenue and benefits into alignment, but it’s nothing that can’t be handled relatively easily according to current projections.

But McCain believes there is a problem despite the projections (otherwise why would he be talking about fixing it?), and his plan for dealing with it appears to be to cut benefits (I count increasing the retirement age as a cut in benefits and, since you work and pay taxes for more years than before, an increase in taxes as well, so is he ruling this out?). Whether the problem is real or not, his choice of how to deal with it is telling.

Then here’s the question. Why hasn’t the Obama campaign opened their Christmas gifts and made use of them? Why haven’t they gone after McCain’s “disgrace” remark regarding Social Security? Have they said anything at all about that? Why haven’t they hammered away at some of his statements and the inconsistencies surrounding them about carve-out privatization plans? Will they do anything with the implication identified above that McCain must be planning to cut benefits? Why so much silence from the Obama campaign on the Social Security issue?


Originally published at Economist’s View and reproduced here with the author’s permission. 

Related RGE Content:

1) Impact of McCain and Obama’s Tax Proposals on Equity and Fiscal Deficit

2) How to Address the Growing U.S. Social Security Funding Problem?

3) Can McCain and Obama’s Policy Proposals Alleviate Voters’ Concerns About the Economy?

2 Responses to "What are McCain’s Plans for Social Security?"

  1. Anonymous   July 27, 2008 at 3:14 am

    Your absolutely correct in your analysis of McCain’s attitudes toward social security. He wants to cut benefits for the baby boom generation (not his generation mind you).If Obama starts to chide McCain at this point, McCain might stop making stupid comments … :-) I hope he is saving is ammunition.

  2. Guest   July 27, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Remember when Bush said he was going to cut Social Security for the rich? It was after the last election that he told his plans at the state of the union address. He said his plan would cut benefits for those who earned $35,000 and up, while working. Politicians should have to define rich.