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Peter Orszag Makes Up Stuff To Justify Cutting Social Security

In an op-ed published in the New York Times Opinionator section, former Budget Director Peter Orszag makes up stuff about Social Security and fabricates views of the “left” about how to protect it.

Orszag thinks this is a good time for Washington to “reform” Social Security, because he believes having a Democratic President and Deficit Reduction Commission led by such public spirited citizens as Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles can be trusted to “save” the program. And because Republicans are willing to “reform” Social Security too, the elections have improved the chances a “reform” can be approved.

“I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

The clowns who are coming to the next Congress have Social Security in their gun sights. They aren’t coming to “reform” it. And the belief it will be protected by this weakened President after he foolishly created the catfood commission and put Bowles/Simpson in charge of it is ludicrous. The only thing the elections made “more likely” is that Social Security benefits will be cut in one way or another. So Orszag is in fantasyland:

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of the fiscal commission due to report at the beginning of December, have both expressed a desire to restore solvency to Social Security. And Republican leaders have previously expressed a willingness to tackle the issue too.

Restore solvency? Uh, Social Security is not insolvent; it has a surplus of over $2.5 trillions which will ensure 100 percent payments on all scheduled benefits for nearly three decades, and at least 75-80 percent of scheduled benefits indefinitely thereafter. At no time will Social Security become “insolvent,” but using that term is exactly the type of misrepresentation — from the likes of Peterson, Knowles and Simpson — that poses the greatest threat to the most important safeguard seniors have. And Orszag know this.

But Peter Orszag isn’t finished misrepresenting the facts. He next claims:

The left, though, seems adamantly opposed to restoring actuarial balance to Social Security now. . . .

Given the left’s strident opposition to any serious discussion of Social Security reform, the issue will provide a key early indicator of the administration’s response to the election results.

Those are flat lies. The “left” is not opposed to “restoring actuarial balance,” nor is it opposed to a “serious discussion of Social Security Reform.” What the left and all genuine supporters of Social Security have said is that proponents of cutting benefits should stop lying about “insolvency,” stop linking Social Security to some structural deficit problem it has not created, and stop misrepresenting the Trust Fund surplus as meaningless I.O.U.s subject to likely sovereign default. They insist that unjustified budget deficit hysteria not be used as a cover for cutting Social Security benefits, for either current or future beneficiaries via postponing eligibility ages or other gimmicks. They repeatedly point out that a return to the percentage (90%) of income subject to tax that we once had — which means lifting the limit of $106,000 — is the simplest, fairest way to ensure 100 percent coverage of all scheduled benefits well beyond the next 30 years of coverage.

The “left” and other Social Security supporters have been the only groups actually engaged in a “serious discussion” of Social Security. They’ve told the truth. The Administration, Obama’s irresponsible catfood commission, the Peterson budget hysterics, and the Republicans have consistently lied about Social Security.

And Peter Orszag knows this.

John Chandley

Dean Baker, Peter Orszag and the drive to cut Social Security

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley