Senate Republicans have Social Security in their sights, as usual, but this time they're going to be trickier about it. The trust fund for the Social Security disability insurance program is going to be depleted
in 2016, a situation that has happened before and has been resolved before by a reallocation of payroll taxes. But Republicans see "crisis" and the opportunity to push for more Social Security benefits cuts.
But now Democrats see opportunity, too, to point out how this funding crisis points to the the critical need to expand Social Security. Sen. Sherrod Brown is taking the lead on this one, Greg Sargent reports:
Senator Orrin Hatch has requested a Finance Committee hearing into Social Social Security Disability Insurance—whose trust fund is set to be depleted soon—and Dems on the committee have agreed. It may take place this month, before the August recess.
[Tuesday], Brown will give a speech to the Center for American Progress at which he will attempt to preview the Republican criticism and outline a Dem response. Brown will argue that Republican criticism of SSDI is part of a “divide and conquer” strategy designed to pit supposedly undeserving recipients of disability insurance (who are allegedly defrauding the program, threatening its financial foundations) against deserving recipients of retirement benefits (i.e., the elderly). Brown will argue that this is part of a broader GOP assault on the basic principles undergirding social insurance programs, and urge Dems to counter with an expansive moral defense of them.
From Brown's prepared remarks:
There is a quiet, covert war being waged on Social Security. The tactic? Divide and conquer.
They have made so-called “structural reforms” their goal. But it’s up to us to call it like it is: privatization. […]
We need to recognize these attacks for what they are—backdoor attempts to weaken Social Security by dismantling disability insurance.
It's a smart counter for Democrats to this Republican tactic. Conservatives always have a measure of success in scaring older voters (death panels), and in pitting them against other vulnerable populations. In this case, it's by telling them that younger people are pretending to be disabled to take Social Security away from them. But a strong push by Democrats to expand
Social Security, to make benefits more generous and more secure, can counteract that fear.
Sargent points out that Brown's speech will be given to the Center for American Progress, which is also releasing a report to rebut Republican lies about the disability insurance program. What's significant is that CAP is giving Brown a forum for talking about what just a few years ago was something only dirty hippy bloggers talked about: expanding Social Security. It's becoming a mainstream Democratic issue to at least discuss. Which means elected Democrats can indeed learn. Working to protect and expand Social Security is just smart, all the way around. It's fair, it's just and it's popular.