Sunday, April 19, 2015

200.2 - Surprise! I might agree with Chris Christie on something

Surprise! I might agree with Chris Christie on something

In a bit of not actually Good News but at least surprising news, I might - heavily emphasize might - agree with NJ Gov. Chris Christie on something.

He has proposed an income cap on Social Security benefits. He proposes that if you have more than $80,000 a year in non-Social Security income, your benefits start to get phased out to the point where if you have $200,000 a year in non-Social Security income, you do not receive any Social Security benefits.

This certainly could help solidify benefits for the vast majority of us who don't make $80,000 (much less $200,000) a year by reducing the drawdown from the trust fund. But again the key word is "could" and as always the devil is in the details.

Because there are some real potential downsides to this, which is why I'm wary of it even as, well, I'm willing to take a look at it. For one, it would, admittedly in a minimal way but still it would, make Social Security a means-tested program, which it has never been. Once you cross that line, it becomes easier to talk about cutting benefits because they're no longer based on what you put into the system but on some argued-about level of "need." That alone could disqualify his plan.

Another issue is the fact that Christie talked about the impact on "younger taxpayers" of Social Security benefits going to those who, yes, we have to admit, clearly could get by without them. But that reference hints at the possibility that his proposal does not involve cutting the benefits of the rich to protect the benefits of the rest but rather of cutting the benefits of the rich to justify cutting the Social Security tax rate, potentially putting the stability of the trust fund at risk by reducing the amount of tax funds coming in.

In other words, this could just be another in the achingly-long string of right-wing attempts to undermine Social Security, attempts that quite literally date back to the program's inception.

So okay, I will listen, I will look at the fleshed-out proposal, but I remain quite suspicious, not only because history tells me to be, but also because this proposal comes as part of a PR campaign to present Christie as someone "not afraid to ask the hard questions." And whenever a conservative talks about "asking hard questions," the answer is usually "screw the poor and middle-class."

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