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First Target for House Republicans? Cutting Social Security

NCPSSM photo

On the very first day that the new larger House Republican majority got to work, it made a move that could mean some 11 million people who receive Social Security disability benefits will see their lifeline benefits cut by 20% in 2016—or even cuts to Social Security retirement benefits for everyone.  

No, Republicans didn’t pass a bill or hold a lengthy debate on something so important. Instead, buried in a package of rule changes, they included a provision that the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) says:

would allow a 20% benefit cut for millions of disabled Americans unless there are broader Social Security benefit cuts or tax increases improving the solvency of the combined trust funds.

Republicans didn’t call it a Social Security cut. They just said they were changing the rules on what is known as reallocation, i.e., the routine transfer of funds between the Social Security retirement trust fund and the disability program.

Congress has approved those transfers 11 times in the past, but now, under the changes Republicans approved Tuesday, any reallocation must also “improve the overall financial health of the combined Social Security Trust Funds.” That, say experts, means either new revenue or benefit cuts. Dylan Scott at Talking Points Memo writes:

New revenues are highly unlikely to be approved by the deeply tax-averse Republican-led Congress, leaving benefit cuts as the obvious alternative.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) slammed the House Republican action and said in a statement:

Reallocation has never been controversial, but detractors working to privatize Social Security will do anything to manufacture a crisis out of a routine administrative function. Reallocation is a routine housekeeping matter that has been used 11 times, including four times under Ronald Reagan. Modest reallocation of payroll taxes would ensure solvency of both trust funds until 2033. But if House Republicans block reallocation, insurance for disabled Americans, veterans and children could face severe cuts once the trust fund is exhausted in 2016.

The Alliance for Retired Americans called the House action:

A direct attack on seniors, disabled Americans and the Social Security trust fund…[and] a complete disregard for keeping the promise to hardworking Americans who have contributed to Social Security.

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