Opinion Brief

Fixing Social Security: Liberals' last chance?

Former Obama budget chief Peter Orszag has a warning for Democrats: Compromise on Social Security while privatization is still dead

Few politicians or commentators have warmly embraced the suggestions from Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the chairmen of President Obama's debt-reduction commission. But Obama's former budget chief, Peter Orszag, says liberals should at least welcome the Simpson-Bowles plan to fix Social Security — raise the retirement age, raise the cap on taxable earnings, shift more benefits to lower earners, and slow cost-of-living increases — before it's too late. Implement some fixes now, Orszag says, before the notion of privatization is back on the table. Should liberals listen? (Watch a Fox News discussion about Social Security's fate)

This is a great place to start: Orszag is right, says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. Overall, Simpson and Bowles offer "a fairly progressive plan," and its "biggest flaw" — the "regressive" proposal to raise the retirement age from 67 to 68 — can be "easily eliminated" by adjusting the plan slightly so that Social Security takes in more money. The "bottom line" is that liberals should be giving this plan "a little more love than they have so far.""Orszag on Social Security"

The focus should be on today's problems: Why would any Democrat pay attention to the Simpson-Bowles solution? asks Joan McCarter in Daily Kos. The plan doesn't address the nation's big problem: Jobs. After all, Social Security — unlike the federal budget — has a surplus for the next 27 years. "There isn't any urgency to 'fix' Social Security, just a decades-long effort on the part of many of the members of the deficit commission to gut it.""Orszag: Progressives should embrace cutting Social Security"

Whether liberals listen or not, it works for Republicans: President Obama "ominously warned" that the Simpson-Bowles plan would test the GOP's "seriousness on deficit reduction," says Daniel Foster in National Review. Yet here's a proposal that "conservatives more or less like and liberals more or less hate," and now it has "qualified backing" from Obama's former budget guru. "We're at about 14:05 in the 1st quarter on entitlement reform, but this is certainly a good start for Republicans."
"Orszag on Simpson-Bowles on Social Security"

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