Robert Reich on Social Security

Former Secretary of Labor; Democratic Challenger MA Governor

Open the lockbox & throw away key: Better reforms needed

A serious approach to reforming Social Security would involve reforms like raising the retirement age to 70 (sensible, given that we’re living longer) and making the benefit formula more progressive so wealthy retirees don’t end up collecting such fat Social Security checks every month. But keeping sacrosanct a fictional account called the yearly Social Security surplus is the silliest way imaginable. Not only does it require balancing the rest of the budget even when deficit spending is needed to keep the economy moving, but it also prevents the government from borrowing money to spend on all sorts of other useful objectives--including objectives that might fuel economic growth and help save Social Security.

By pledging not to touch the Social Security surplus and by criticizing Bush for doing so, Democrats are putting themselves in a fiscal straitjacket that has nothing to do with the real issues facing the country. They’d be wise to open the lockbox and throw away the key.

Source: The New Republic, “Out of the Box” , Sep 10, 2001

Privatization is the first cousin of social Darwinism

Democrats have attacked Bush’s tax plan for sloppy math. “No way the numbers will fit” is the common complaint. Inevitably, the Bushies will have to raid the Social Security trust fund, say Democrats. Yet Democrats won’t commit to repealing the tax cut. As a result, they’ve sprung a fiscal trap on themselves-[requiring] even deeper cuts in spending, in order to keep the budget balanced.

The fiscal trap undermines the Democrats’ contention that Bush’s one-sided Social Security commission has painted a misleadingly bleak picture of Social Security’s future. If the Bush tax cut is as fiscally irresponsible as the Democrats say, then Social Security’s future is indeed bleak & they should commit to repealing the tax cut. The issue isn’t the “solvency” of the system but whether we participate together in providing that support or decide that individuals and families should be on their own. Privatization is the first cousin of social Darwinism. That’s what Democrats should be shouting about.

Source: The American Prospect, vol.12, no.15, “Fiscal Irresp.” , Aug 27, 2001

Keep Trust Fund as federal “insurance pool”

[When departing as Labor Secretary], I knew Medicare and Social Security would be revisited. Republicans wanted to turn Medicare into private medical savings accounts, and Wall Street was salivating over the prospect of “privatizing” Social Security. I wanted to be there to argue that the wealthier and healthier shouldn’t be allowed to opt out of these insurance pools, that we can’t have still more shredding of what’s left of the social compact.
Source: Locked in the Cabinet, p.345 , Feb 16, 1997

Other governors on Social Security: Robert Reich on other issues:
MA Gubernatorial:
Deval Patrick
MA Senatorial:
John Kerry
Scott Brown

Newly seated 2010:
NJ Chris Christie
VA Bob McDonnell

Term-limited as of Jan. 2011:
AL Bob Riley
CA Arnold Schwarzenegger
GA Sonny Perdue
HI Linda Lingle
ME John Baldacci
MI Jennifer Granholm
NM Bill Richardson
OK Brad Henry
OR Ted Kulongoski
PA Ed Rendell
RI Donald Carcieri
SC Mark Sanford
SD Mike Rounds
TN Phil Bredesen
WY Dave Freudenthal
Newly Elected Nov. 2010:
AL: Robert Bentley (R)
CA: Jerry Brown (D)
CO: John Hickenlooper (D)
CT: Dan Malloy (D)
FL: Rick Scott (R)
GA: Nathan Deal (R)
HI: Neil Abercrombie (D)
IA: Terry Branstad (R)
KS: Sam Brownback (R)
ME: Paul LePage (R)
MI: Rick Snyder (R)
MN: Mark Dayton (D)
ND: Jack Dalrymple (R)
NM: Susana Martinez (R)
NV: Brian Sandoval (R)
NY: Andrew Cuomo (D)
OH: John Kasich (R)
OK: Mary Fallin (R)
PA: Tom Corbett (R)
RI: Lincoln Chafee (I)
SC: Nikki Haley (R)
SD: Dennis Daugaard (R)
TN: Bill Haslam (R)
VT: Peter Shumlin (D)
WI: Scott Walker (R)
WY: Matt Mead (R)
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Page last updated: Nov 23, 2011