Social Security Report Release: Tues May 12th; plus the Gathering Storm

by Bruce Webb

The 2009 Report of the Trustees of Social Security will be released late in the afternoon on Tuesday the 12th. Reports from all years are available starting from this page Reports from the Board of Trustees or you can view the HTML, download the PDF, or order a paper copy of the new Report directly from this page The 2009 OASDI Trustees Report (link will not work until Report is actually released). There will also be a new post here and at giving some breakdowns followed up by new numbers.

Why is this important? Didn’t all this get settled in 2005? Au contraire mon frere, instead the enemies of Social Security are gearing up for one last run at it. In this case they are mounting a campaign to form a ‘bi-partisan’ entitlements commission that would present an up or down plan to Congress. Which would be reasonable enough if there was proposed to be a free and open debate with all options on the table. That is not the plan, instead they want to stuff the commission with people pre-committed to a program of benefit cuts and retirement age increases, any idea of addressing this through phased in tax increases or simply taking a tack of ‘wait and see’ (the “Nothing” Plan) not even being on the table.

The plan for a bi-partisan commission is being pushed hard from the outside by various entities connected to Peter G. Peterson (see the discussion in this William Grieder cover story for the Nation Looting Social Security) and is represented in Congress by two pieces of proposed legislation. The Senate version is called Conrad-Gregg for short and was introduced by the Senators in a Sept 2007 Op-Ed A bipartisan approach to America’s greatest fiscal challenge. They describe the plan as follows:

We believe the solution lies in a balanced, bipartisan approach. Therefore, we have come together to offer the Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action Act. This task force, made up equally of Democrats and Republicans, will be charged with authoring bipartisan legislation to immediately begin addressing the nation’s fiscal challenges. Everything will be on the table. This will not be another commission mulling over ideas that will be filed away, and it won’t be under the control of one political party or the other. It is designed to produce legislative solutions that Congress must vote on, not just bury in political debate.

Here’s how it will work: The bill establishes a 16-member task force that is comprised of four congressional members each chosen by the Senate majority leader and House Speaker; three congressional members each chosen by the Senate and House Minority Leaders; and two administration members, one chosen by the president and the other being the Secretary of the Treasury, who will serve as task force chairperson.

Though unstated the recommendation of this Commission will be presented to Congress on an up or down basis on the model established by BRAC, the Base Realignment and Closing Commission. We can assume that all six Republicans will be committed to benefit cuts, and that by nature the two Democratic sponsors (Conrad from the Senate and Cooper from the House) will be seated then with Administration buy-in the ‘reformers’ start with a ten vote majority and only need Reid and Pelosi to add in a combination of two ‘sensible’ ‘moderates’ to make this a foregone conclusion.

The corresponding version on the House side is called the Cooper-Wolf SAFE COMMISSION LONG-TERM FISCAL REFORM BILL described by Cooper as follows:

The Securing America’s Future Economy (SAFE) Commission Act would create a 16-member panel comprised of the White House OMB Director and Treasury Secretary; four members appointed by the Senate Majority Leader and four appointed by the Speaker of the House; three appointed by the House Minority Leader and three appointed by the Senate Minority Leader. No more than four Members of Congress could sit on the commission. It would be tasked with holding town hall meetings around the country and then submitting a report that balances long-term spending and revenue scenarios for the nation. If Congressional leaders fail to introduce their own proposal, the SAFE Commission’s legislative proposal is automatically brought to the House floor. If passed, it is sent to the Senate for similarly expedited consideration.

This plan is very similar to Conrad-Gregg except that it limits Congressional participation to four members of Congress who quite naturally would be named Conrad, Gregg, Cooper and Wolf. Meaning that if the Peterson folk can get two out of the six outside Democratic seats they are home free. And you bet there will be a push to get participation from some of these ‘bi-partisan’ groups. Because what could be more bi-partisan than a group effort by Brookings and AEI? Look at all the sensible moderates authoring the following: Taking Back our Fiscal Future We got Will Marshal! and Alice Rivlin! But look at how they describe the challenge and the solution.

• Unsustainable deficits in the federal budget threaten the health and vigor of the American economy.
• The first step toward establishing budget responsibility is to reform the budget decision process so that the major drivers of escalating deficits—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—are no longer on autopilot.

Read through the entire document, there is not a hint that those deficits were also driven by out of control defense spending or tax cuts for the wealthy, as with every single Peterson backed call for fiscal responsibility the solution allways starts and stops with ‘entitlements’. And for those who say ‘Wait neither Brookings or AEI is a Peterson production’, not that this document is hosted at Concord which was founded and to all accounts still ultimately controlled by Peterson.

Some more links: AEI A First Step Toward Fiscal Responsibility Which step would be? Why a Bi-Partisan Commission! This one evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, meaning of course that Blue Dogs control the outcome. Or you could just explore the links at The Bipartisan Commission: a bipartisan way to solve our nation’s financial challenges and what are those challenges?

The following are some useful websites which provide additional information concerning the fiscal problems that the federal government faces concerning entitlement spending on Medicare and Social Security as well as possible solutions, including the establishment of a bipartisan commission to find solutions for these problems.

And among those ‘useful websites’? Hmm, the Concord Coalition and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

They say even paranoids have real enemies, and if Social Security was personified it would be twitching madly ever time it looked over its shoulder and saw a representative of PGP. Which in this case includes Conrad, Gregg, Cooper and Wolf.

So it is not just a Report release, it is the opening shot in what will hopefully be the last Battle to Kill Social Security. They set the stage with ‘Vanishing Surplus’, you can bet they are going to try to ram the results of the Report right down our throats. And given that there are reliable reports that SSA is still stuffed with Bush embeds (up until a week ago there were no official Obama photos hanging in the SSA offices and some higher-ups are resisting that even now) a little vigilance is in order.