Progressive Caucus tells deficit panel: “Take Social Security off the table”

WASHINGTON (PAI) – Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have told the two co-chairs of President Obama’s deficit-cutting commission to “take Social Security off the table,” caucus co-chair Rep. Raul Grijalva says.

In an Aug. 24 telephone press conference about the nation’s top retirement program, the Democratic lawmaker from Tucson, Ariz., added that he and his colleagues suggested other ways of stemming the flood of federal red ink in future years.

Their proposals included closing corporate tax loopholes, letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, imposing higher royalties on firms that take valuable resources – such as minerals and oil – from federal lands and cutting defense and homeland security spending, Grijalva reported.

The 12 to 15 Progressive Caucus lawmakers who met with Grijalva and deficit commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles, a former top Democratic White House staffer, and Alan Simpson, a former GOP senator from Wyoming, also made the point that cutting Social Security wouldn’t fly politically, either in Congress or the country.

“This was an affirmation of where we stand and of what we won’t tolerate” in deficit-cutting plans, Grijalva added. “Because of its size and its impact, it’s important to make the point now that Social Security must be off the table,” he said – even before the deficit-cutting panel issues any findings and recommendations.

That ban includes any proposals to raise the retirement age, as GOP House Minority Leader John Boehner favors, or to cut benefits, Grijalva added.

Grijalva discussed the caucus meeting with Bowles and Simpson, which occurred just before Congress recessed in early August, as the Economic Policy Institute marshaled arguments to take Social Security off the deficit-cutting list. The commission co-chairs were non-committal, saying everything is being considered including the nation’s retirement program, the congressman reported.

It shouldn’t be, said EPI’s Ross Eisenbrey, along with former Social Security chief actuary Harry Alexander and Nancy Altman, co-chair of a coalition – including the AFL-CIO and many major unions – formed in July to protect Social Security from the deficit-cutters.

That’s because Social Security has its own trust funds and does not contribute to the flood of red ink the presidential panel is investigating, the four said. The lawmakers’ caucus made that same point to Bowles and Simpson, Grijalva added.

Photo: Progress Ohio 



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.