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Copyright 2011 by John T. Reed
In 1983, Social Security was up against a sort of debt-ceiling type problem which was a small part of the larger problem that entitlements like Social Security are too generous.
To make a long story short, the Republicans and Democrats worked together without demagoguery to fix it. They delayed a cost of living increase six months, raised future retirement ages, made Social Security income taxable to higher income persons, and raised payroll taxes. Social Security is again in need of a fix, but the Ronald Reagan-Tip O’Neill (Democrat speaker of the House) fix of 1983 has lasted about 30 years.
Why do we not do that now?
Apparently because Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan and is not even trying to follow Reagan’s example in entitlement reform. I do not believe current House Speaker John Boehner is a problem with regard to Reagan-O’Neill type entitlement reform. Reagan and Obama are quite different. I do not believe Boehner is much different from Democrat O’Neill with regard to entitlement reform. However, it is obvious that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is no Tip O’Neill and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is also no Tip O’Neill.
Tea Party and Grover Norquist adherents would resist tax rate increases more than in 1983. Although contrary to Democrat claims, Republicans do not oppose more tax revenues, rather, they oppose higher maximum rates. They would vote for decreases in tax rates that are likely to increase revenues (because of the Laffer Curve effect) and with broadening the tax base, namely taxing the bottom 49% who used to pay taxes but who no longer do.
On the other hand, many Democrat members of the House are violently opposed to any entitlement cuts totally disregarding the arithmetic of the situation. And in the Senate, it only takes one no-cuts senator to stop legislation and 60 to override his filibuster.
In other words, the problem is mainly lack of leadership ability and willingness to lead to a real solution in the 2011 White House and hair trigger militant demagoguery in the Democrat caucuses in both houses of Congress.
Such a short time ago, when we faced unsustainable entitlement prolems, we fixed them in a responsible manner. Nowadays, even Paul Ryan was unwilling to mention Social Secuity in his Roadmap for America. Mitt Romney was afraid to propose a Social Security fix in his August 2011 growth plan. And Democrats laugh out loud at the suggestion of any reform of Social Security.
John T. Reed
I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions. If there are any errors or omissions in my facts or logic, please tell me about them. If you are correct, I will fix the item in question. If you wish, I will give you credit. Where appropriate, I will apologize for the error. To date, I have been surprised at how few such corrections I have had to make.