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Keep Your Hands Off My Social Security, Senator

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Thursday, Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones attended a little known and certainly not well publicized press conference of three Republican Senators. The reason: to announce changing Social Security.

Senator Lindsey Graham ( R-SC)

Not content with the GOP plan to upend Medicare and Medicaid, a trio of GOP senators have unveiled a proposal to go after Social Security as well. On Wednesday morning, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) presented their plan to slash an eye-popping $6.2 trillion from the debt by reforming Social Security—all without raising taxes. How will they pull this off? By hiking the Social Security retirement age to 70 years by 2032 and reducing benefits for those who earn more than an average of $43,000 over their lifetime. The Republicans’ plan also makes sure to exclude anyone bound to retire (and vote) any time soon, by exempting those currently older than 56 years from feeling the pain.

In unveiling the plan, Graham called any kind of tax increase to shore up Social Security a non-starter and economically catastrophic. “Don’t raise taxes unless you want to completely destroy America,” he said at the Wednesday morning press conference. “It’s much better to give up benefits on the end side than pay taxes now.”

Of course, according to the Congressional Budget Office, eliminating the cap on income subject to Social Security (now set at around $106,000) would all but eliminate any long-term solvency issues for Social Security.

Now, that these GOP Senators have jumped on the bandwagon to reduce social security benefits for most middle class, working people, several of the freshman, Tea Party elected House Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon and plan to introduce a similar bill in the House.

When asked whether the House GOP should be tackling Social Security, Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga)—the elected president of the freshmen class—replied: “Absolutely. We have to put every issue on the table, and address all of them…. I don’t think we can afford to exclude anything right now, with the debt limit and the fiscal crisis we’re in.” Even freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who represents a district with a significant elderly population, argued that raising the Social Security age would help address the deficit. “If you take it from 65 to 69, it does have a positive effect on bending down the deficit curve…back then, we were living to 59. Now we’re living to 78,” West told Mother Jones.

And a major Social Security debate in the House may already be on the horizon. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), also a tea party favorite, added that he planned to introduce his own Social Security reform bill in the upcoming weeks. He wouldn’t disclose any details of his plan, only to note that “lots of folks” in the House were involved—and that his plan would take major steps in overhauling the program. “Until we fully tackle entitlements, we can’t get on the trajectory that we need to,” Chaffetz said.


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