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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

 
Paul Ryan is now free to let the House freak flag fly

by digby

Here's Social Security Works on the budget deal:
Statement on Budget Act of 2015

“Last night, the Republican leadership agreed to release their hostages: the need to raise the debt limit, the need to keep the government operating, and the need to ensure that all Social Security benefits can continue to be paid in full and on time beyond 2016. When hostage takers release their hostages, we are, of course, relieved that the hostages are no longer in harm’s way, but this is nothing to celebrate. That the ransom isn’t steeper is also not something to celebrate.

Among the ransom is a diversion of Social Security resources towards virtually nonexistent fraud. Those provisions will likely require workers with disabilities to wait longer to receive their earned benefits and may prevent some from receiving their earned benefits completely. That is wrong. The legislation has some good provisions, along with the ransom. It does ensure that Medicare beneficiaries will not experience drastically large premium increases. It also closes a loophole that was introduced in the law relatively recently that allows wealthier Americans to game the system by claiming extra benefits inconsistent with the goals of the program. Though some provisions are positive, Social Security legislation, as a matter of principle, should go through regular order, in the light of day.

If that were done, Social Security would be expanded. As the overwhelming majority of Americans recognize, Social Security’s one shortcoming is that its benefits are too low. Congress should follow the will of the people by expanding those modest but vital benefits and restore the program to long range actuarial balance by requiring the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.”

The best and simplest budget agreement would be to formally lift sequestration altogether and go from there. These ongoing "trade-offs" will continue to have a stranglehold on government until they are.But what they've come up with could be worse. The above statement from SSW is signed by Nancy Altman who told Greg Sargent this morning:
On Medicare and Social Security: Nancy Altman, the president of Social Security Works, a group that strenuously opposes benefits cuts and argues for their expansion, tells me that the deal “doesn’t actually cut benefits or really hurt beneficiaries who aren’t gaming the system.”

Altman says the Medicare cuts are all on the provider side, which could harm beneficiaries at some point, but it’s not a major concern. “On the Medicare side, they limited their cuts to far in the future, and to providers,” Altman says. “There’s time to correct that.”

On the change to Social Security, Altman says: “They stiffened the penalties for fraud, they extended nationwide efforts to make sure that payments are accurate and they closed a loophole in which people were gaming the system. They didn’t change eligibility requirements or reduce the level of benefits.”

Altman notes that Republicans had been threatening to demand serious Social Security and Medicare cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit, but adds this threat has been defused. “The hostage has been released,” Altman says.

That is about as positive an endorsement you are going to get from an expert who has been working in the "entitlement" trenches protecting the programs for years.

We can now see why Ryan was willing to take the job. If Boehner can successfully take the basic requirements to keep the government running off the table Ryan can indulge his Freedom Caucus with endless witch hunts and crazy maneuvers for two whole years before any chickens come home to roost. If they ever do. Get ready for a very theatrical political freak show to try to appease the rubes. It's what they really want.  Planned Parenthood is up next.


Update: Brian Beutler at TNR

Democrats didn’t force Republicans to abandon the strict limits they won on annual appropriations. They acceded to Republicans that sequestration will act as a control on government spending at a more universal level. Democrats can secure relief from sequestration for a year or two at a time, but only by drawing on other government resources to pay for it, and only by extending the caps into the future, preserving downward pressure on the budget indefinitely into the future.

Sequestration was intended to prod Republicans and Democrats into agreement on a plan to increase taxes and hold down social spending, so that the federal budget, and all of the legislative landmines it contains, would be deweaponized for a decade. Indiscriminate cuts to non-defense spending were meant to motivate Democrats to accept more tailored cuts to programs like Social Security; indiscriminate cuts to defense spending were meant to motivate Republicans to accept higher taxes on affluent Americans. But it was badly calibrated. Democrats (and even some Republicans) failed to grasp that conservative opposition to taxes runs much deeper than support for military spending. After months of wrangling, Republicans decided to pocket sequestration cuts as a victory in and of itself. Democrats must now concede entitlement cuts or other mandatory spending cuts to Republicans in exchange for temporary sequestration relief. Tax expenditures for wealthy Americans remain as exorbitant as ever.

There’s no easy way out of this trap for Democrats. A big electoral victory in 2017 might cow Republicans into renegotiating the budget in a more thoroughgoing way. But it’s more likely that Republicans will continue to control the House and hold on to sequestration as a perennial source of leverage until single-party control is restored.