Saturday, November 20, 2010

Jane Harman: Against the Tax Cuts for Rich, No Statement on Social Security

Right now, it's possible Democrats could prevent a $700 billion giveaway to the rich. It won't happen though, unless Democrats have a united front in Congress to oppose it. So I called my Congresswoman, Jane Harman, and asked what her position was. There was an immediate response from the person who answered the phone at the DC Office: She's in favor of Obama's middle class tax cut plan and against passing a tax cut for income above $250K (aka the millionaire bailout). That's the Democratic position at this point, so Harman being public in support for that plan was a good sign. (The $4 Trillion in deficit spending on the tax cuts for the middle class would be better spent on infrastructure and green energy which would create jobs, but at least it wouldn't include the extra $700 billion in cuts for the very top earners.)

I called the same day to ask about what Harman thought of the plans being bandied about within DC to cut benefits for Social Security, and they said she's made no public statement about where she stands. These plans many would cut benefits by increasing the retirement age or change the annual adjustment formula so benefits grow slower.

The facts on Social Security are clear - it doesn't contribute one dime to the deficit, and it's able to pay 100% of benefits due for more than 25 years, and then pay 3/4 of benefits if nothing gets changed to the program. But people who are determined to gut social security are lying over and over to convince people it's in crisis so that they cut benefits.

Social Security is colossally popular:
The reason that Social Security is called “the third rail of politics” is because touching it is political death. The new Lake Research Poll for Social Security Works again proves this classic piece of wisdom. The poll found an overwhelming 82 percent of likely midterm voters oppose cutting Social Security to reduce the federal deficit. Across the political spectrum, Democrats (83%), Republicans (82%), and Independents (78%) are effectively all equally opposed to cuts.

Framing cuts to Social Security benefits as a way to make the trust fund solvent doesn’t make them popular. A solid super-majority of 67 percent of likely voters oppose cutting benefits to make the program solvent long term. Similarly, the poll found that 69 percent of voters opposed raising the retirement age to 69 as a means toward making Social Security solvent.
Given the program's popularity, there's absolutely no downside to making a stink to defend it. So Harman's silence is worrisome.

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