Liberalism Gone Awry: Don't Spend More on Social Security When So Many Children Live in Poverty

Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), November 22, 2013 | Go to article overview

Liberalism Gone Awry: Don't Spend More on Social Security When So Many Children Live in Poverty


President Barack Obama and the Republicans never have struck a "grand bargain" on spending and taxes. Nor does it appear likely that the current budget bargaining between Democratic and GOP negotiators in Congress will produce one. Even so, Obama faces rising pressure from the left flank of his party to defend entitlement programs tooth and nail. That pressure comes although such programs represent the lion's share of federal expenditure growth in the coming decades.

In recent days, those styling themselves "bold progressives" have been rallying support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. Linda Sanchez of California, both Democrats, that would increase Social Security benefits. Supporters tout it as courageous pushback against austerity; in fact, it's a case study in how not to redefine liberalism for the 21st century.

The Harkin-Sanchez proposal would change Social Security benefit formulas to produce an average increase of $60 per month, plus a more generous annual inflation adjustment, than the program uses now. It also would extend the life of the national trust fund from which benefits are drawn by 16 years. To pay for this, the bill would subject all wage and salary income to the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax, as opposed to only drawing from income up to $113,700 as is presently done. For someone earning $200,000 per year, this would mean a tax increase of more than $4,000 per year. For someone earning $1 million, the tax increase would be $58,700. …

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