HomePoliticsRepublicans swore Biden lied about Social Security cuts. Now they are...

Republicans swore Biden lied about Social Security cuts. Now they are doubting the retirement age.

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

When President Joe Biden recently called out Republicans during his State of the Union address for trying to cut Social Security, GOP lawmakers were so offended that they literally jeered and laughed at the president and challenged him to name a single Republican who targeted social security.

Even as the White House later listed many such Republicans, the GOP made a big show that Biden was unnecessarily slandering Republicans for proposals that came from an unserious corner of their party.

But less than a month later, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are suddenly having very serious talks that would effectively cut Social Security — with a bipartisan group of senators quietly looking at raising the target retirement age for most Americans from 67 to 70. .

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While lawmakers are warning that everything is tentative, the mere idea of ​​raising the retirement age is already sounding alarms in the Capitol.

The news, first reported by Semafor, comes amid rising tensions over Social Security as Republicans look for ways to cut government spending.

After a vigorous backlash against the idea that the GOP was cleaning up Social Security, it seemed that the sacred right to the New Deal had a more certain political footing than at any time in decades. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), today’s Social Security bogeyman, even amended his controversial “plan to save America” ​​to exclude Social Security (and Medicare) from a proposal to repeal all federal legislation and to demand that it passed again.

But the problem for social security is that the political reality collides with the practical reality: without some form of social security reform, the program will hit rock bottom in the coming years. Members of Congress recognize the need to address the problem, but there’s a reason Social Security has been called the “third rail of politics.”

The reported mention of raising the retirement age is an example of why.

Although members of the working council are urging people not to panic, senators are now desperately trying to downplay the prospect of change.

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Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) described the talks as a “problem-solving discussion” and called them “very preliminary,” noting that they have yet to be “socialized” with the broader Senate. He said any member is welcome to join.

For him, the main thrust of the talks, led by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Angus King (I-ME), is about considering a new kind of fund to support retirement savings. When asked about news of retirement age as part of the negotiations, Kaine brushed the idea aside.

“People rushed to that right away or they rushed to the tax thing. The real origin of the discussion is this new idea,” he said, referring to the fund. So every idea anyone has ever thought of, yes, has been mentioned. But the point of the discussion is this new idea.”

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This “new idea,” according to news reports, is to create a state fund filled with $1.5 trillion in borrowed money. If the fund failed to generate an 8 percent return, according to Semafor, the maximum taxable income for Social Security — currently capped at around $160,000 a year — and the payroll tax rate would automatically be increased. .

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) echoed Kaine’s sentiment. He described the talks as very up in the air, and suggested that any sort of policy changes could be refined. When asked about discussions about retirement age, he was evasive. “They have just presented a large number of options and all of them can be chosen,” he said.

But that’s pretty irrelevant unless we have the political will to do whatever it takes to save Social Security. So there are no agreements, no commitments, just mostly listening,” added Cornyn.

It is unclear how many senators currently participate in the working group, but the existence of any working group goes against the platitudes Biden has recently laid out. During his State of the Union address, Biden said Social Security and Medicare “shouldn’t be on the books.” And he further elaborated by saying that the way to pay for both programs was to “make sure the rich and big business pay their fair share” in taxes.

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That proposal would also come at a political cost, as the 2017 tax reform passed by Republicans under President Donald Trump cut taxes on the wealthy and big business — and there’s little reason to believe that either side takes taxation so seriously. There is even less reason to believe that this would happen under the kind of bitterly divided government we now have.

But as some politicians continue to point out, Social Security faces a number of challenges. When the program went into effect in 1935, there were 45 workers for each beneficiary. Now there is only a 3-to-1 ratio, and that number is expected to go to 2-to-1 by 2034.

To be sure, Social Security advocates point out that the program isn’t actually going out of business. And the choice not to pay Social Security is just as much a political decision as any other government spending decision — only Social Security is supposed to be insulated from those annual Congressional spending choices.

But if the retirement age rule passes the working group, it is guaranteed to cause a stir among Democrats in Congress.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who faces a tough reelection next year, told The Daily Beast that Republicans “are not negotiating in good faith here,” and that raising the retirement age would amount to a cut in Social Security. He pointed to previous suggestions by Republicans to privatize the program, which Democrats have remained adamantly against.

The Wall Street Journal and these newspaper publishers who chime in on this, or the right-wing think tanks that weigh in, and they can work until they — I’m 70 — they can work until they’re 70, because they have these within jobs. But a lot of Americans can barely work until 60 or 65,” Brown said.

‘Liar!’ ‘Bullshit!’: GOP slams Biden’s two-pronged olive branch

Much of the Democratic resistance to changing the retirement age predates news of the idea that emerged during the reform talks. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted last month that every time she hears someone suggest raising the retirement age, “I think there’s someone out there who hasn’t worked in construction all their life. Who didn’t carry little kids around as a kindergarten teacher. Who, as a nurse, did not help patients in and out of bed.”

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For others, it was a much simpler answer. Asked on Thursday if he would consider raising the retirement age as part of Social Security reform, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) answered in one word, “No.”

A common feeling among senators, both inside and outside the group, is that nothing will happen in the Senate alone. Members expressed the need to work with the White House to ensure that any Social Security deal is backed by the administration.

“Unless there’s a way to actually get the bipartisan political support and the president’s signature, then it’s all for [nothing]Cornyn said.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) doubted that real solutions would emerge from the group unless the president got involved.

“Even if it’s a good bipartisan group with good intentions, nothing will happen until you get the White House involved,” Grassley said.

When asked about the idea of ​​raising the retirement age in particular, Grassley answered characteristically Grassley answer, stops half way through the walk to explain why he doesn’t want to talk about specific details.

“I never give a substantive answer on Social Security because nothing you ask me will ever happen unless we get a Reagan-O’Neill like they did in 1983,” Grassley said, referring to a Social Security deal between President Ronald Reagan and then Speaker Tip O’Neill. (Grassley later suggested that the Daily Beast reporter he spoke to would be “too young” to know about this).

“Don’t forget they reformed Social Security. It was broken then and because of that work it has been good for the next 60 years until 2033. So don’t ask me about this or that. You have to get people to sit down and put everything on the table and work something out,” he said.

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