Oct 28, 2015

How Republican Congressional Leaders Deal With Their Rank And File

     Monday night there were press reports that the budget deal recently being announced would include dramatic changes in Social Security disability. There would be $168 billion in cuts which would be around a 10% cut. Actually, the cuts were tiny. What happened? From what I've been able to piece together the $168 billion figure came from a fact sheet that Republican Congressional leaders released to their members. Conventionally, in preparing this sort of document, increases or decreases in spending are stated for a ten year time period. About $150 billion a year are paid in Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. A $168 billion cut over ten years would be a dramatic 10% cut in benefits. However, the $168 billion wasn't for ten years. It was for 75 years! A 75 year time frame is occasionally used in discussing Social Security's long term financing but I don't think I've ever seen such a time frame used in discussing budgets. Republican leaders released only the fact sheet until late Monday night when the actual bill was posted. I would call the Republican fact sheet deliberately misleading.
     There may have been another deception. The bill awaiting Congressional approval transfers part of the FICA tax revenues from the Retirement and Survivors Trust Fund to the Disability Trust Fund for only three years. That means the Disability Trust Fund problems are solved for only three years, until 2019, when Republicans get another crack at the program, right? Take a look at today's New York Times. It says that the Disability Trust Fund problem is solved until 2022. How can that be? The bill will increase the portion of FICA that goes to the Disability Trust Fund from 1.8% to 2.37% for only three years. However, it appears that this reallocation for only three years will be enough to solve the problem for six years. If they had been trying to solve the problem for only three years, the reallocation would have been smaller. Of course, it would be better to solve the problem for the indefinite future but six years is a lot better than three years. Maybe there was some other reason for drafting the bill like this but it looks to me like Congressional Republican leaders wanted to make it appear that they'd get another crack at Social Security disability sooner than they will.


Anonymous said...

As you pointed out previously, the bill also calls for new demonstration authority. Maybe they are hoping to find a solution from something tested in the interim.

Anonymous said...

Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but is it also possible that someone (within the heritage foundation or a political ally) was floating the "flat rate" social security disability amount in order to try to interject it in the public mindset for a future push or to gauge reaction?

Anonymous said...

I saw that the House was able, in a very bipartisan way, to pass the re-authorization of the Import-Export bank:

"WASHINGTON — The House acted with rare bipartisanship on Tuesday to approve legislation that would reopen the federal Export-Import Bank, after a debate that underscored the split between the party’s traditional pro-business members and ascendant free-market conservatives who are suspicious of big corporations.

The lopsided final vote of 313 to 118 belied that split, as a majority of Republicans allied with all but one Democrat to reauthorize the 81-year-old bank agency, but only once the bill’s passage was assured. Late Monday, just a quarter of Republicans supported an earlier vote — and an unusual legislative move — that made the final vote possible over the opposition of most party leaders."


It was nice to see the 40 member "Freedom Caucus" cabal defeated for once by the House exercising the "freedom" to vote on a issue that had bipartisan support. Why not do the same for a highway/infrastructure bill? Why does the entire Congress have to be held hostage by 40 members? Could the moderates of both parties form some type of coalition to move legislation and get something done, at least where there is substantial agreement on the issue?

This rant has little to do with Social Security, but I am just getting sick of the "do nothing" Congress.

Anonymous said...

So they are once again raiding the *retirement* funds to shore up the *disability* program. This will, of course, allow them to claim the *retirement* program is going broke and use that as an excuse to cut the monthly social security checks so many retirees rely on for the bulk of their annual income. In effect, they are stealing from the last remaining pension fund of millions of American workers.

As for the Republicans who piled on to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank at the last minute, that's another old political trick. Once it becomes ckear the cause is lost, the losers turn around and vote with the winning side in order to ba able to claim they are willing to compromise. You need to look at how they vote when the issue is still in doubt (frequently a prior vote on some attempt to amend the bill) in order to see where their true loyalty lies. This wasn't bi-partisanship, it was a bunch of politicians attempting to shore up their image with moderate voters before an election.

Anonymous said...

We can only hope they start heaping pain on the boomer retirements like they are heaping pain on the following generations. Moving our retirement to ages that would make boomers cry. Just waiting for the entire ponzi scheme to fail and let us fix it when you are out of the way.

Anonymous said...

I see the Tea Party Republican effort to divide and conquer is having some effect based on comments above. I give them credit...there are a lot more retired/retiring folks than disabled folks, so the numbers work out well for the cabal. This way, they don't have to seem like they are against disabled people but can appear to be the champion of the retired people. I guess some folks believe that cutting disability benefits is the way to save the retirement program so the scheme has been somewhat successful.