Current Beneficiaries Aren’t Safe Either

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I’m not sure I’d advise the political strategy TPM Reader JA suggests here. But he does get at a point I alluded to this morning. Current beneficiaries aren’t safe in GOP plans either. On paper, this is what they claim. No cuts for anyone over, say, 55. But Social Security is an inter-generational compact. Once you tell younger workers they will get lower benefits for the same tax contribution, you weaken support for current beneficiaries. If you’re 30 today, how do you feel about working the next 35 years at the current tax rate to support current beneficiaries when your own benefits will be cut dramatically?

One of the interesting things that never gets discussed in debates about Social Security (and Medicare) and cutting benefits for people below a certain age threshold is how maintaining higher benefits is likely not sustainable for the older beneficiaries either, unless the cuts are limited to raising the age thresholds. 

The Republican strategy going back to at least Paul Ryan’s proposal to privatize the programs for everyone under 55 is that they can allow avoid pushback from older voters who don’t care about people under 55.  That’s a large voting block now, but 20-25 years it will be a very small voting block.  What do those voters think will happen when they’re 80 and everyone under 80 is receiving 25% less?  At that point, they’ll likely represent less than 4% of the population.  I suspect you would see calls to “normalize” (I.e. cut) benefits for that group and possibly slightly raise them for everyone else.  Why not?  There wouldn’t be a strong moral argument for paying one group more than another. 

While Democrats should stand for no cuts at all, they should consider raising the idea that having different benefits for different age groups is neither fair nor sustainable over the long term.   Current and near beneficiaries should understand that Democrats may not protect them if they vote to cut the younger generations (especially since it would be to cover tax cuts the older cohort benefited from and immigration policies implemented by that group). 

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