OMG! He Touched The Third Rail!

Michael O’Brien at The Hill:

A Republican-held Congress might look to raise the retirement age to 70, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested Monday.

Boehner, the top Republican lawmaker in the House, said raising the retirement age by five years, indexing benefits to the rate of inflation and means-testing benefits would make the massive entitlement program more solvent.

“We’re all living a lot longer than anyone ever expected,” Boehner said in a meeting with the editors of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And I think that raising the retirement age — going out 20 years, so you’re not affecting anyone close to retirement — and eventually getting the retirement age to 70 is a step that needs to be taken.”

David A. Graham at Newsweek:

In the face of plenty of demagoguing by both parties on deficits, Boehner’s stark statement is a welcome one. It’s a real policy suggestion, and it’s one that conveys to voters that they can’t get something for nothing: deficit reduction is going to be painful.

Some European countries are raising retirement ages as part of austerity measures: France’s decision to raise the age from 60 to the harrowing extreme of 62 years old practically caused riots, while Britain’s new government has announced plans to raise the retirement age from 65 to 66, with further increases likely. But in the U.S., there’s been little meaningful discussion on the topic.

That said, just making people work another five years probably isn’t quite the silver bullet Boehner suggests. For one thing, as Robert Reich and others point out, Social Security is a less serious problem than Medicare, the costs of which are growing faster. And liberal think-tankers wring their hands over such proposals, worrying that blue-collar workers, who are more likely to lose the ability to do their work at a young age, will bear the brunt of a retirement-age increase. No matter how overblown his rhetoric on the divisions facing the U.S., Boehner deserves credit for offering a serious, fiscally conservative suggestion, and openly discussing the sacrifices Americans will have to make.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

A month ago, John Boehner was warning that the commission planned to report its findings after the election, and that their plan could be passed by a lame duck congress with little fear of electoral accountability.

But in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Boehner is now publicly expressing support for the very same ideas Rivlin proposes.  And he wants to use Social Security benefit cuts to fund the wars:

Ensuring there’s enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country’s entitlement system, Boehner said. He said he’d favor increasing the Social Security retirement age to 70 for people who have at least 20 years until retirement, tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation and limiting payments to those who need them.

Boehner has a three-point plan here to get money for mo’ war: 1) raise the retirement age to 70, 2) adjust Social Security’s cost of living increases (COLA), and 3) reduce payments to those with higher incomes.

Jed Lewison at Daily Kos:

This is a big deal. It’s not just that he wants to cut Social Security, it’s that he says cutting Social Security would be at the center of the GOP’s fiscal policy if Republicans win the November elections.

And not only is Boehner saying he wants to raise the retirement age to 70, he also is proposing to ban Social Security recipients from earning “substantial” amounts of outside income. That’s a truly radical notion: John Boehner thinks people who have paid Social Security taxes their entire life should be denied Social Security if they earn outside income above a certain level.

So in Boehner’s view, everybody should pay for Social Security, but only some people should get it, and they shouldn’t get it until they are 70. And he’s pledging to push that agenda as Speaker. I think his ideas are ridiculous but he’s right on one thing: they do deserve to be at the center of the debate. Voters deserve to know that Republicans will try to gut Social Security if they win the elections this fall.

Jake Sherman and Simmi Aujla at Politico:

Democrats are attacking House Minority Leader John Boehner for his comments to a Pittsburgh paper about how America is in “revolt” similar to 1776 and Wall Street reform is like “killing an ant” with a nuclear weapon.

Boehner also touched on the third rail of politics, claiming that Social Security should raise the retirement age to 70.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a statement blasting Boehner, as did the Democratic National Committee and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Operatives are blasting his statements to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review all over the blogosphere.

But the reality is that Boehner’s comments are hardly out of line with what his own party has said – especially on Social Security and financial reform.

Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), while noting he didn’t see Boehner’s comments, said that he wasn’t going to vote for the financial regulatory bill because “it’s going to hurt small banks, community banks…that weren’t doing the collateral debt obligations, collateral debt swaps and derivative trading.”

On Social Security, Sullivan seems to be in lock-step with Boehner.

“If we want to really get our debt down and really truly reform spending and what we do here in Washington all entitlement programs need to be looked at,” he said. “I think Social Security should be on the table. Whether we raise the age or not, that should be looked at.”

And the reality is that even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) may even find some agreement with Boehner on Social Security – in a recent speech Hoyer said raising the retirement age needs to be on the table.

Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.) said “we need a national dialogue about how we make Social Security solvent” – but he wouldn’t touch Boehner’s words, saying he hadn’t read them and wasn’t familiar with the context.

“When you look at the fact that we’re blessed that we’re living so much longer with fewer workers, because of those kind of things, I believe it’s going to take the president, both houses of Congress, the American people buying whatever we do,” Boozman said Tuesday.

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Filed under Entitlements, Political Figures

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