And rightly so. It may be good short-term politics, but it's bad public policy and a potential long-term political headache for Democrats and progressives.
The liberal senator was unusually tough in criticizing Obama, who Harkin said would deprive the Social Security fund of roughly $100 billion by extending the two-percentage-point payroll tax cut through the end of 2012. That tax funds the Social Security trust fund.http://thehill.com/...
“I never thought I would have to see the day when a Democratic president of the United States and a Democratic vice president would agree to put Social Security in this kind of jeopardy," exclaimed a visibly agitated Harkin from the Senate floor. "Never did I ever imagine a Democratic president would be the beginning of the unraveling of Social Security.”
Harkin predicted that Americans would become addicted to the payroll tax cut, which has been in place since the begiining of last year.
Harkin is correct. It's bad enough that the social security trust fund is going to potentially lose $200 billion dollars in 2011 and 2012. But who's to say it won't continue indefinitely. Will Obama let the extension expire? Will he back off in the face of Republican cries of a "tax hike"? Will he veto a bill that includes an extenstion? Will he agree to the extension in trade for something else?
And if a Republican is elected president, you can be sure it will be extended. And when the inevitable funding shortfall is raised, you can be sure Republicans will scream "bankrutpcy" and "personal accounts" (privatization).
It was encouraging that Tim Geithner said yesterday that he was not in favor of an extension.
But he's leaving soon, and Obama has not been heard from on the question. I hope he will take a firm and clear stand in favor of expiration before the end of the year.