Dialogue Heats Up on Social Security Reform

From Ted Marmor in today’s Huffington Post:

What we have is a case of ideology masked as fiscal prudence. There is every reason to believe that Peter Peterson and the personnel of his foundation believe profoundly in the virtues of a smaller public sector, a robust means-tested conception of social welfare policy, and the importance of not providing most citizens with a collectively financed system of income protection against major losses in family income from recognized and understood risks. So they are advancing their cause as prudent, fiscal watchdogs.

But the distortion of this longstanding approach is evident in the concentration on Social Security rather than the most important threat to America’s fiscal future, the continuing, disproportionate rates of increase in medical care spending, both private and public. The health reform legislation of 2010 was celebrated as insurance expansion for millions of uninsured Americans, but it did not seriously take on medical inflation. There is a big problem in this policy space, but the Fiscal Commission meetings of late June 2010 are not focused there. Instead, they are locked on the one sphere of American domestic policy that has been a substantial success over its history since 1935.

It is ironic — and infuriating — to have a debate in 2010 about Social Security when that program had nothing to do with the transformation of the nation’s fiscal policy from surplus to deficit since 2000. Two wars, Bush tax cuts, and the fiscal consequences of the economic crash of 2008-9 explain the size of the deficit. Why are we even talking about reducing Social Security at this time? It is not because there is a good rationale, but because of the money behind the rationalizers of a smaller government. See full column here: