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Well, I figure we've had enough torture for one day.  As Loudon Wainwright would say, I promise we'll resume tomorrow.

For now, I thought we might discuss something a little more relaxing and non-controversial.  Like Social Security.

Like it or not, "entitlement reform" is headed our way.  Whatever we are able to pull out of the health care debate is going to incite a cry from the Right of "How are we going to pay for it?"  And, laugh as we may (and should) at these new converts to fiscal discipline, they have a point.  Between Medicare (and the horrid, Pharmaphilic prescription drug benefit ramrodded through by Republicans) and Social Security obligations, sooner rather than later, we're going to have to address our obligations under entitlement programs.

We had a decent chance 8 years ago to treat Social Security obligations as real debt, but poor Al's lockbox was smashed open by greedy millionaires who didn't want to pay taxes.  Rather than loot the trust fund to pay for real things like buildings and bombs, we just tossed it to rich people.  And dug our hole deeper.

So, what do we do?  Keep whistling past the graveyard?  Privatize?  (Because the stock market has proved such a great place to park your kwazolas of late, eh?)  Bump the eligibility age?

Me, I like the concept of means testing.  Maybe it's because I've been a hard-scratching, genuinely poor person all my adult days.  Maybe I'm just a class warrior at heart.  Maybe I can't think of anything else that seems workable and even remotely progressive.

Why should a person with an adequate pension, a decent portfolio, a couple of paid-off homes, be collecting from a program that was inaugurated to keep grandma from living on kibbles and saltines?

And spare me the cries of "I paid my fair share!"  I'm not going to chase links on this, but nobody pays in the amount that they get out of SS.  It is, as been often said, a generational obligation, not a personal savings account.

My question is, are we obligated to pay retirement benefits to all, no matter what other assets they enjoy?  Or can we grab at least one small section of this famous third rail and implement means testing to stabilize at least one of the many long-term obligations we as a people have accepted?

Brief Update:  The cautions on means testing, calls for raising the cap on contributions and reducing the COLA are exactly the kinds of ideas I want to see our party debating.  The Republicans have already demonstrated that they have no claim to the mantle of fiscal discipline.  Let's show that we do.

Originally posted to Crashing Vor on Fri May 15, 2009 at 04:57 PM PDT.

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