Name:
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Deep benefit cuts? Who cares-- AMPUTATE!

Senator Bill Nelson's (D-FL) proposed amendment to the appropriations resolution regarding Social Security failed to pass yesterday. The vote was divided 50 up/50 down, with Collins (R-ME),DeWine (R-OH), Graham (R-SC), Jeffords (I-VT), Snowe (R-ME), and Specter (R-PA) crossing over to the Dark Side, where the Democratic coven sat united in support of the amendment.

The complete text of S.Amdt. 145 to to S.Con.Res. 18 (Appropriations resolution FY2006, Budget):

To express the sense of the Senate that Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt.



[Since Daily Kos, Atrios at Eschaton, and Matthew Yglesias-- among others-- have posted interesting and pithy commentary to accompany the vote, I'll indulge my time here to thinking locally.]

Scary words. No wonder Oklahoma's staunch supporters of massive debt increases and deep benefit cuts opposed this amendment.

Listed under the roll call vote subheading, "Grouped by Home State", one finds:
Oklahoma: Coburn (R-OK), Nay Inhofe (R-OK), Nay


Are you surprised?

Senator Inhofe's website carries this policy statement:

Government Reform
I believe that our government needs reform in several areas. Over the years the federal government has created far too many layers of bureaucracy that have only weighed individual freedoms down. Our federal government needs more accountability, especially when it comes to wasting taxpayer’s hard-earned money. I will continue to work to eliminate government waste and ensure fiscal responsibility and accountability.


Senator Coburn's webpage (yes-- he says it all on one page, including getting in a plug for his wife's status as a "former Miss Oklahoma") states:

Dr. Coburn's priorities in the Senate include reducing wasteful spending, balancing the budget, improving health care access and affordability, protecting the sanctity of all human life including the unborn and representing Oklahoma values.



All that chatter about "fiscal responsibility and accountability" and "balancing the budget" is obviously nothing more than vestigial Republican boilerplate, lacking any real senatorial commitment or thought. Social Security, distorted by privatization private accounts personal accounts magic beans accounts, would require huge money transfusions from somewhere in order to meet its obligations. There is no remaining budget surplus. It's all gone, and then some. Republicans continue to spend big, appropriating generously for military, war, and corporate support items. Moreover, Republicans refuse to address the growing deficits through revenue enhancement measures, whether by increasing taxes, repealing earlier tax cuts, or even allowing tax cuts to expire on their statutory termination dates.

MaxSpeaks about the Bush budget/Social Security in a new paper, "Collision course:The Bush budget and Social Security"(and he speaks in measured, reasoned, professorial tones). Toward the end of the paper he notes:

The assumptions underlying program spending in the Bush budget's long-term projections (as shown earlier in Table 1) are conservative, particularly in the most sensitive areahealth [sic] care. Actual spending is likely to grow more rapidly. Under any scenario, general revenue will be needed to finance debts to the Social Security Trust Fund. As per its original legislation, as well as under the new drug benefit, Medicare has always been partly financed by general revenue, and its costs will grow.

After 2018, restoring revenues to their pre-2001 levels will probably not be sufficient to preserve the basic income and health care benefits upon which Americans depend. From a fiscal year 2000 tax share of GDP of roughly 20%, after 2025 the odds are that a gradual expansion to 30% of GDP over the ensuing 50 years will be required. The only alternative to tax increases is to shift the costs and risks of retirement, disability, and health care to individuals (the very situation Social Security was created to counteract).


Both Inhofe and Coburn lip-synch "fiscally conservative" lyrics all the time to their constituents, so they must know that someone is watching. What if they find overspending truly offensive? If so, their opposition to the Nelson Amendment must reflect their willingness to make those "deep benefit cuts". Not "minimal" benefit cuts, but DEEP cuts. Deep enough to make the system bleed out, or to require amputating beneficiaries. Should we start with widows, orphans, or the disabled?

Surely by now no one can doubt that this party wants to eliminate Social Security.