It was three score and 15 years ago that Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security into law. Since then, the public program has changed the lives of elderly Americans, now providing 40 percent of the average retiree's income. But it also accounts for a whopping 4.8 percent of GDP — a figure that will rise as the population ages. Many Republicans want to rein in Social Security, with a few — including Rand Paul — calling for the program to be privatized. For Democrats, on the other hand, Social Security is a cornerstone of their social policies, and President Obama used its birthday to restate his support for it. Does America's largest social welfare program need to be revamped for the 21st century? (Watch Obama's Social Security birthday wishes)
Social Security reform is desperately needed: Our payroll tax just doesn't pay for Social Security any more, says Stephen Spruiell at the National Review. This year, it sucked up $41 billion of extra revenues and will consume "even larger chunks" of America's wealth in years to come. Unless something changes, Social Security will either mean "higher taxes, fewer benefits or some combination of both." Democrats can't keep insisting nothing's wrong.
"Flimflam from the master himself"
Talk of reform is about politics, not money: Republican "hostility" to Social Security isn't about "dollars and cents," says Paul Krugman at The New York Times. "It's about ideology and posturing." In fact, Social Security won't need federal bailouts or benefit cuts until 2037 at the earliest. Conservatives hate that fact, because "it undermines their claim that government is always the problem, never the solution." But this program has "brought dignity and decency" to the nation's elderly. Cuts shouldn't be on the table.
"Attacking Social Security"
The Democrats are just as keen on cuts as the GOP: Actually, the biggest threat to Social Security is the Democrats themselves, says Glenn Greenwald at Salon. Obama's Deficit Commission is currently "cooking up" ways to reform the program, which will likely include "serious cuts in benefits." Even as this is going on, Obama is cynically "scaring Americans into believing that a GOP victory would endanger their benefits." The program is under siege from all sides.
"The fear campaign and Social Security"