Debt Becomes Us


The early semi-recommendations from the co-chairs of President Barack Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform are kicking up a fuss. Headed by former Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton admin stalwart Erskine Bowles, I find the proposals too timid in terms of shrinking the size and cost of government, too reliant on raising taxes, and too slow in implementation. Still, negative reactions to such obvious proposals as increasing the age at which future beneficiaries can claim Social Security are instructive. Keep in mind that the suggestion under discussion would ask that people born in 2006 wait until they are 69 years old to collect Social Security payments:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the co-chairs' recommendations "simply unacceptable," saying that, "Any final proposal from the Commission should do what is right for our children and grandchildren's economic security as well as for our nation's fiscal security, and it must do what is right for our seniors, who are counting on the bedrock promises of Social Security and Medicare. And it must strengthen America's middle class families–under siege for the last decade, and unable to withstand further encroachment on their economic security."

And other Democrats are in line to agree with her.

"It is reprehensible to ask working people, including many who do physically-demanding labor, to work until they are 69 years of age," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said of the co-chairs' recommendation regarding Social Security. "As they compete for jobs with 25-year-olds, many older workers will go unemployed and have virtually no income. Frankly, there will not be too much demand within the construction industry for 69-year-old bricklayers."

These sorts of proactive outrages are what you might expect, but they also show an absolute lack of seriousness. Indeed, if anything, the idea that Social Security's age requirement would increase only two years (from the current 67 for those born after 1960) over the next many decades is itself laughable. If you can't adjust the age when old-age kicks in after decades of increases in longevity and wealth, then you've got nothing to add to a conversation about out-of-control government spending.

Also on the list, and something that will surely give defense-hag Republicans the vapors: "$100 billion in Illustrative Defense Cuts, including freezing all noncombat military pay at 2011 levels and reducing overseas bases by one third."

More here.

In an upcoming article for the print mag and Reason.com, look for a plan to balance the budget without increasing federal revenue.