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October 24, 2014

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The Policy Racket

Harry Reid tells Republicans to ‘back off’ Social Security

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Karoun Demirjian

Sen. Harry Reid, with Sens. Bernie Sanders, Al Franken, Richard Blumenthal and Tom Harkin, shares a laugh with an audience member at a rally to promote Social Security in Washington on Monday.

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WASHINGTON - Nevada Sen. Harry Reid drew a line in the sand a long time ago on Social Security, but now that Congress is back in session hammering out a budget, he’s putting extra pomp behind his message to Republicans to “back off” the program.

It’s an argument that finds a ready audience, especially since the president’s been saying he’s interested in tweaking Social Security in the next few years to preserve its long-term viability.

But for the most part, the case Reid is making to protect Social Security goes way beyond the scope of the immediate threat.

“For nearly every Nevadan 65 and older, they rely on Social Security,” Reid said Monday at a rally in the Dirksen Senate Office Building for protecting benefits against reductions and preserving the retirement age. “For half of them, it’s the only money that keeps them out of poverty. But I have to say that the Republicans don’t seem to care ... Look at their proposals, look at HR 1.”

If one looks at H.R. 1, the House’s budget bill that the Senate nixed earlier this month, one finds that while the Social Security Administration does get walloped with cuts to discretionary spending -- a hefty $1.7 billion worth -- those are just to the operating budget of the administration. Nowhere in H.R. 1, or any other piece of pending budget legislation, is there language that would scale back payments, raise the retirement age or institute some sort of private-sector alternative along the lines of what former President George W. Bush was pushing in 2005 -- though there are certainly Republicans in House leadership who would like to bring such proposals back on the table.

At first blush, that would seem to make most of the protective hackle-raising around Social Security a little premature.

But Democrats say it’s not so much premature as it is prescient.

The cuts to Social Security are administrative; they don’t change entitlements and they don’t change money on hand. But what they do affect is the speed with which the administration would be able to process applications and payments, which could also “really hurt Social Security,” Reid said Monday.

Backlogs can be serious business. In 2008, the Social Security Administration had racked up almost 770,000 unconsidered cases nationwide, which translated into several years’ wait for some hopeful recipients, depending on the jurisdiction. In Nevada, the average wait time to process a Social Security disability application is still well over a year.

Some advocates estimate that the $1.7 billion budget cut would cramp the system to the point of total inefficiency and even a temporary shutdown, and predict that the resulting picture of an outdated and under-performing Social Security system would only fodder growing calls to revamp the program.

It wouldn’t be the first time Democrats have suspected that a deal on Social Security unrelated to the question of retirement age, payments and the $106,000 taxable income cap -- which some of Reid’s Senate colleagues led an impassioned call to raise at Monday’s event -- was a way of undermining the program for the future.

Last year, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland questioned whether a 2 percent reduction in workers’ Social Security payroll tax rate, under the plan hashed out between the White House and Republicans in the Senate, was simply “a step toward privatization.”

While no concrete cuts to Social Security have yet been on the block, Republicans haven’t exactly shrunk from expressing their belief that privatization might not be the worst model, or challenging Democrats to quit viewing Social Security funds as a sacred, parceled entity that can’t be touched during general government reductions.

“The biggest threat to Social Security is our debt,” Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign recently said.

That’s not an argument Democrats are heeding though, as they rally their blue-collar supporters to push back against incursions on Social Security before they get too far under way. “Social Security has not contributed one penny to the debt or the deficit,” Reid said. “I believe it’s the most successful program in the history of the world.”

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  1. I applaud Senator Reid for his stance on Social Security.

    But sometimes, when you approach something with rational thought and sound reasoning, and it don't fit into the Republican/Tea Party focus of the world, they go absolutely bonkers.

    Lately, that freshman Congressman West (R-FL) has emphatically went on record he wants to change Social Security. Which amazes me to no end. Because in Florida, almost ALL of the people that voted him into office probably receive Social Security.

    The propaganda by the righties continues.

    "'The biggest threat to Social Security is our debt,' Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign recently said."

    Who cares what he recently said? He's a morally bankrupt Nevada politician who Mr. Hampton will probably turn State's evidence against later, get prosecuted and eventyally get this Senator thrown in prison, effectively slapping him out of power and booting him out before the end of his term.

    Senator Ensign is a definite waste of humanity. Whatever he says is only far, far right and completely and utterly follows the Republican Party line of thought. Why? Because he has nothing to lose. He is either going to jail, going to be kicked out of office or, at the least, going to hit the end of his term and fade off into irrelevancy.

    However, I STILL say the Republican Party needs to go after Social Security...and quit talking about it. PLEASE introduce some kind of law that takes away this entitlement and/or turns it over to Wall Street to privatize/personalize/whatever you want to call it.

    PLEASE do that.

    And do it NOW.

    Because the Republican Party, at least here in Nevada, will vaporize and disintegrate before everyone's eyes if they make the slightest move to do that.

    And this will happen nationally too.

    Go for it, Republicans! Quit talking rhetoric. DO IT! GO FOR IT!

    They won't.

    They talk crap. Trying to fire people up. And it is indeed doing that. But their idiocy is backfiring on them.

    The truth of the matter is they know if they tried to institute a radical change to Social Security, the backlash against them would be worse than a zombie apocalypse in a George Romero horror flick....

    So, get ready for more smack talk on this issue by the Republicans. It's a cheap win for them to talk this idiocy.

    They'll step up to the line...but they won't cross it.

    I give them credit though. The Republicans know exactly how far to go with this issue. They know if they step across that clearly defined imaginary line, they will end up being smacked severely, repeatedly and without end.

  2. "Privatized Social Security" has the same security as a Company retirement plan: if the Fund goes bankrupt, the Fund Managers and Owners have NO LEGAL REQUIREMENT to pay the retirement money to recipients.

    Privatized Social Security is just another word for Company Retirement Plan. This is the wealthy man's dream - Government mandated income toward his personal coffers and the ability to GO BANKRUPT on the FUND.

  3. Reid is just blowing smoke, trying to build a trojan horse before the castle walls go up. He knows he doesn't have an issue so he's trying to rattle the cage with hyperbole. His usual tactic. Reid is even at odds with his president on this issue.

    Ol' tax and spend Harry is out to lunch on this one, again. He wouldn't cut a dime from the budget other than defense if he had his way, including the billions in waste legislated by him and his nit wit tax and spend lefties.

  4. Harry is a snake who will say anything the people in front of him want to hear. He would take every dime from those same old folks if he could find a way to put it in his pocket.

    This guy should have been run out of politics years ago...he is a total liability to the federal government, and a hypocrite and liar in so many ways they could not all be calculated. He is the picture and symbol of "DIRTY POLITICS / DIRTY POLITICIANS". He is the worst of the worst...and should be jailed for all he has done to the people of this state.