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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/8/15

Republicans Move To Gut Social Security Benefits on Their First Day in Power

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Original at Daily Kos

By Dartagnan

Cuts To Social Security & Medicare Coming?
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Dear Americans: this is what you got when you skipped out on voting last November:

"Republican opponents of Social Security have not wasted even a single day in their plan to dismantle Social Security brick by brick. What should be a dry, mundane exercise -- the adoption of new rules by the newly convening House of Representatives -- has turned into a stealth attack on America's working families."
As one of their first orders of business, the House Republicans approved a rule preventing routine reallocation of Social Security funds to those men, women and children who receive Social Security Disability, unless such a reallocation is accompanied by either benefit cuts or tax increases:
"The House on Tuesday passed legislation laying out parliamentary rules for the year. The bill included a little-noticed provision blocking Congress from shifting funds to prevent a 2016 shortfall in Social Security's disability insurance program.

"The Social Security Administration's actuaries have projected that the disability insurance program's trust fund will run out of money next year, resulting in a 20 percent benefit reduction for nearly 11 million Americans."

Because the Republicans will never agree to raise taxes (specifically on high-income earners or corporations), what that does is set the stage for benefit cuts in the coming two years. Because the disability trust fund is set to run dry next year, allowing the program to collect payroll taxes sufficient to pay only about 80% of benefits. In real-world terms, that means those eleven million people who receive SS Disability will likely see their benefits cut as much as 20% by the Republican Party.

Such reallocations are part of the normal course of administering the Social Security Trust fund and have occurred 11 times since 1968. There is nothing "unusual" about the reallocation procedure. What is unusual is a Congress occupied by fanatics who couldn't care less about the needs of ordinary Americans:

"Reallocating the income, however, would keep both the old-age and disability programs solvent until at least 2033, giving Congress plenty of time to assess the programs' needs and work out a long-term fix."
Advocates for Social Security are nothing less than horrified at what the Republicans have done, and what it portends for the future of Social Security under a GOP Congress:
"Social Security advocates are almost universally aghast at the change. 'It is hard to believe that there is any purpose to this unprecedented change to House rules,' wrote Max Richtman, president of the committee, in an open letter Tuesday, 'other than to cut benefits for Americans who have worked hard all their lives, paid into Social Security and rely on their Social Security benefits, including Disability Insurance, in order to survive.'

"The rule change reflects the burgeoning demonization of disability recipients, a trend we've reported on in the past. it's been fomented by conservative Republicans and abetted by sloppy reporting by institutions such as NPR and '60 Minutes.'"

The "demonization" of those receiving Disability payments is part of the broader overall GOP strategy of shifting money out of Social Security to pay for the Republicans' main priority -- tax cuts for corporations and multi-millionaires. It's telling that both the new rule effectively preventing reallocation of Social Security Funds was included in the same piece of legislation that favorably altered the way the GOP's tax cuts for the rich can be scored and accounted for in the budget process. Either way, it boils down to the Republicans declaring war on middle class Americans, to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest.

And anyone who doesn't think this sets the stage for further cuts to retirees is whistling past the graveyard:

"Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sharply criticized the measure in a Tuesday statement that argued shifting Social Security funds from retirement insurance to disability insurance has been routine in the past.

"'Reallocation has never been controversial, but detractors working to privatize Social Security will do anything to manufacture a crisis out of a routine administrative function,' Brown said. 'Rather than solve the short-term problems facing the Social Security Disability program as we have in the past, Republicans want to set the stage to cut benefits for seniors and disabled Americans.'"

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