Top Republican: Make Social Security recipients pay for endless war

House Republican leader John Boehner gave a revealing interview to the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this week. He dismissed the need for more financial regulations, saying the draft Wall Street reform bill is like “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.” Boehner also dabbled in Steve King-style rhetoric, accusing Democrats of “snuffing out out the America that I grew up in.” Then he spoke frankly about Republican priorities:

Boehner had praise, however, for Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan and stepped-up drone attacks in Pakistan. He declined to list any benchmarks he has for measuring progress in the nine-year war, at a time of increasing violence and Obama’s replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus.

Ensuring there’s enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country’s entitlement system, Boehner 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.

“We need to look at the American people and explain to them that we’re broke,” Boehner said. “If you have substantial non-Social Security income while you’re retired, why are we paying you at a time when we’re broke? We just need to be honest with people.”

Boehner handed our president the opportunity to highlight the differences between Republicans and Democrats. Last year Boehner advocated a federal spending freeze, which would have made a severe recession much worse. Now this guy still doesn’t understand how serious the 2008 financial crash was. President Barack Obama plans to slam Boehner’s comments about financial reform at a town-hall event today.

Ideally, Obama would also bash Boehner’s plans for entitlement reform. The top House Republican wants to reduce Social Security benefits for future recipients in order to keep us on a war footing indefinitely. In other words, make working Americans pay the bills for endless war.

Unfortunately, our president seems less and less committed to a timeline for ending the war in Afghanistan. David Dayen predicts, probably correctly, that the July 2011 deadline for drawing down troops in Afghanistan will disappear now that General David Petraeus has replaced General Stanley McChrystal as commander in the theater.

Obama’s unlikely to go to the mat to preserve Social Security either, having just appointed Republican Alan Simpson to co-chair a deficit commission. Simpson wasn’t serious about addressing the budget deficit as a U.S. senator, and his “zombie lies” about Social Security are notorious.

I never expected Obama to be a partisan warrior, but if he can’t be bothered to help build the Democratic brand, could he at least protect Social Security, one of the greatest programs the Democratic Party ever created?

UPDATE: The president shouldn’t count on Americans supporting endless war in Afghanistan.

  • Well

    People are living longer and working longer so raising the retirement age is something I would likely support.  The war in Afghanistan may be somewhat fruitless if the Afghans don’t want to diversify their economy, but I think we may disagree on these two issues somewhat.

    I think raising the cap on taxable income when it comes to Social Security makes sense.  I oppose having it means tested

    I was proud of Loebsack for voting against the Kucinich Amendment on Afghanistan.  I’ve always been in a tough spot on foreign policy in the Democratic Party because my views are similar to Joe Biden’s on such matters.  I don’t please the hawks or the non-interventionists.  

    • I would also favor raising the cap

      but Obama’s commission will never support that. Republicans who demagogue about Social Security being “broke” won’t ever ask high income-earners to pay a penny more in; they just want to cut benefits for people.

      • Lots of people don't know about the cap

        When I told a conservative friend about the cap on SS wages, he was outraged.  He stopped talking about balanced budgets, and started talking about equal taxation.  

        If Democrats can make the point that millionaires don’t pay social security taxes, then we can win this argument.

        • good point

          Very few people understand how this works. It’s one reason why Warren Buffett has a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.

  • Means Testing

    To finish my thought on means testing, it just strikes me as unfair to ask someone to pay into a system and then not reap any of the benefits from the program.  

  • Should we expend the public treasury fighting insane wars?

     Not sure where I am going with this.

    When BUSHCO steered this nation into two neverending wars, with no real stated objectives other than to win, I told my wife and anyone who would listen that the only real objective of these insane moves were to burn through money. Then when a democrat was elected as was inevitable, Republicans would immediately blame the debt on Dems and declare the country bankrupt so they could

    1) stop any attempt at a universal health care and

    2) start dismantling what little was left of the new deal and subsequent democratic social legislation.

    The bankruptcy would prove that the US could not sustain fighting great enemies and social programs.

    It is the old guns or butter discussion last heard during Vietnam.

    And to forestall any social legislation, we just need to keep America in some war someplace forever. Enemies are easily conjured up and inflated to the greatest threats ever. Democrats refuse to end these wars because media will portray them as ‘weak’ and right wingers will forever have an election issue.

    As for means testing. One of the beauties of social security and of medicare is that these are universal programs. The republican party wins by dividing and conquering. If you start dividing SSI recipients into categories and one segment gets something another segment doesn’t get, Republicans have an opening to cause division.

    They should ask their supporters to voluntarily give up SSI payments if they are so concerned about the debt.

    This is one of the reasons that Republicans absolutely must never allow universal single payer HC to exist. If all citizens were treated the same they would not have the divisions to exploit.

    And of course, the fear of national bankruptcy is yet another fear for Republicans to exploit. They created the situation just as they did the wars and the hollowing of the middle class and most of the other problems in this country.

    And there are solutions which include raising taxes to previous levels and leaving the middle east. But I have yet to see anyone wih enough guts, save Alan Grayson and Dennis K to even say such, let alone try do do something about it.


  • In a recent letter from Senator Tom Harkin...

    received in response to questions about his position on funding the war in Afghanistan, it is apparent that he supports increased taxation for all.

    The reasoning being, why should the soldiers and families of soldiers be the only ones forced to make sacrifices in the global war on terror?  

    Shouldn’t the average person also be expected to make sacrifices?

    • if we're raising taxes

      the first people to get tax hikes should be the people who reaped 95 percent of the benefits of the Bush tax cuts. But I take your point.

      Average Americans are making sacrifices to pay for the war, because the war spending has contributed to our deficits, which in turn squeeze out a lot of domestic spending we need.

  • Is Boehner even on the Democratic National radar?

    The repubs make concerted efforts to get our congressional leaders beaten by election – remember Sen Daschle? and currently they’re really going after Reid and Pelosi – but I personally don’t notice any equivalent efforts aimed at Boehner, for example. Is his district maybe a particularly ‘fail-safe’ one or am I just not hearing about it?  

    • I don't think we could win his district

      and there doesn’t seem to be much of an effort to demonize him, or Mitch McConnell–not compared to what the right-wing noise machine did to Daschle.

    • forgot to mention

      Boehner represents Ohio’s 8th district (in the western part of the state along the border with Indiana). It has a partisan voting index of R+14. He’s going to end up in a safe seat even after the post-census redistricting.

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