Durbin: Social Security reform a deal-killer for budget

posted at 2:15 pm on March 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

In order to solve the budget impasse, Dick Durbin says that everything has to be on the table. In almost literally the next breath, Durbin then says Social Security reform will kill any budget deal, because even though budget talks can’t be serious without entitlement reform, Congress will refuse to address one of the Big Three entitlement programs. If you think that’s incoherent, wait until you find out why:

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It’s very hard, very difficult, when you get into the entitlements, but you can’t have a serious conversation about the future of our economy and our deficit without putting everything on the table. Social Security is a little different. It does not add a penny to the deficit.

Er … what?  Right now, the Social Security Administration runs monthly deficits to pay benefits. That forces the SSA to cash in its Treasuries — it has no other cash reserves — to cover the shortfall.  Since the US is running $1.6 trillion deficits at the moment, Treasury has to borrow money to pay off those notes, which means it does indeed add lots of pennies to the deficit, in real terms, as well as to the national debt.

Let’s also talk about our debt position.  We owe over $14 trillion, of which more than $4 trillion is owed to SSA and other agencies of the government, thanks to decades of Congress raiding Social Security surpluses to hide earlier deficit spending.  The debt service on those notes counts as mandatory spending, which increases the deficit as well.  A significant portion of that debt service covers the bonds in the so-called SSA trust fund.  That also contributes lots of pennies to deficit spending.

Durbin complains that Republicans are listening more to Grover Norquist than Harry Reid:

When pressed on how both parties could come to an agreement, Durbin dug at GOP tax guru Grover Norquist and defended the interests of his party’s leadership.

“They don’t talk about Harry Reid, they talk about Grover Norquist, who won’t even let them say the word ‘revenue.’”

Reid’s pulling a Rip Van Winkle, declaring twenty years of sleep on Social Security reform; why would anyone listen to him snore?  As for opposing “revenue,” the US government already gets 20% of the nation’s GDP.  The problem isn’t a lack of revenue; it’s the fact that they want to spend 25% of the nation’s GDP.  We don’t need more “kinetic revenue actions,” we need spending cuts and entitlement restructuring across the entire breadth of federal mandatory spending.

Update: Keith Hennessey has a must-read post on deficits as “an important but incomplete metric”:

Almost all elected officials of both parties will tell you (and believe) that deficits are bad, that they don’t want to shift financing costs to future taxpayers. Yet they have a political incentive to do so, since they gain the political benefits of promising all sorts of government stuff today, and they have an incentive to avoid the political costs of imposing higher taxes on today’s voting taxpayers.

And while the public debate centers around budget deficits, the first allocation question is harder to resolve. The deep philosophical and partisan split in the American fiscal policy debate is mostly about the relative sizes of the government and the private sector, not about the allocation of the cost of that government between the present and the future.

Be sure to read it all.


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Incredible how a dunce like Richard (call me ‘DICK‘) Durbin is even given an audience by the media!

Oh wait – it’s the media – NEVER MIND.

jake-the-goose on March 28, 2011 at 2:20 PM

Well, no, social security does not add one penny to the deficit. Remember, Al Gore said the social security fund was going to be put into a lock box. So, that’s what they did, right? Al Gore wouldn’t lie, would he? /

Of course, social security adds to the deficit, and in a big way…and getting bigger each day. Within a decade we will be laying out more for social security payments than the entire defense budget…and both will be paltry when you compare both to the real costs of Obamacare if it is not killed soonest.

Washington is shifting the costs to our grandchildren…or they are shifting sh*t somewhere.

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 2:21 PM

Almost all elected officials of both parties will tell you (and believe) that deficits are bad, that they don’t want to shift financing costs to future taxpayers. Yet they have a political incentive to do so, since they gain the political benefits of promising all sorts of government stuff today, and they have an incentive to avoid the political costs of imposing higher taxes on today’s voting taxpayers.

Indeed. Prioity #1 for any elected officia is re-election. By the time unborn generations are faced with staggering inherited debt, these politicos will be long gone. They know that. They just need to posture long enough to enjoy the delights due any career politician. Things never change.

a capella on March 28, 2011 at 2:29 PM

Supplying more money (heroin) to the government (addict) will accomplish nothing and do more harm by putting off the day of reckoning.

We probably should leave South Korea. They don’t need more than a battalion there.

sharrukin on March 28, 2011 at 2:30 PM

“Social Security is a little different. It does not add a penny to the deficit.”––Dick Dirtbin

A deal-killer is having to negotiate anything with an utter whackjob like him. I have an idea. How about putting senate Dems in a “re-education camp” for remedial accounting?

cartooner on March 28, 2011 at 2:33 PM

..as long as we’re on the subject, even at full retirement age, SS is no bargain. I have chipped into this beast for the past 40 years and am staring at a little above TWO LARGE per month after full retirement. if it seems liek a decent payment, consider:

(1) I still have to work to support my family, therefore 85% of my SS income is taxable despite it having been taxed once before.

(2) I was of age this month (March) but was told I had to wait until the 13th of next month to receive my first installment. (Yet, those butt-pirate =government thieves started withdrawing SS from THE VERY FIRST PAYCHECK I RECEIVED.)

(3) I still will be contributing to SS from my earned income paycheck. Despite this, my benefits will remain the same except in the unlikely circumstance I should see a COLA ever.

..almost at the top row of the Ponzi scheme and I’m still covered with manure.

Twenty years ago, if I had invested the FIVE LARGE these bastards took from me, I coulda been in much better shape.

The War Planner on March 28, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Er … what? Right now, the Social Security Administration runs monthly deficits to pay benefits. That forces the SSA to cash in its Treasuries — it has no other cash reserves — to cover the shortfall. Since the US is running $1.6 trillion deficits at the moment, Treasury has to borrow money to pay off those notes, which means it does indeed add lots of pennies to the deficit, in real terms, as well as to the national debt.

We’ve graduated from monthly deficits to annual ones. Last year, it was $48.9 billion (on a cost of $712 billion). By 2031, according to the 2010 Trustees’ intermediate case, that deficit will grow to $491 billion (on a cost of $2,453 billion).

The last I checked, the CBO wasn’t exactly declaring the remainder of the budget in surplus, and at least on a combined basis, is saying SocSecurity will never see a cash surplus again, which by definition means SocSecurity is adding to the yearly deficits.

Let’s also talk about our debt position. We owe over $14 trillion, of which more than $4 trillion is owed to SSA and other agencies of the government, thanks to decades of Congress raiding Social Security surpluses to hide earlier deficit spending. The debt service on those notes counts as mandatory spending, which increases the deficit as well. A significant portion of that debt service covers the bonds in the so-called SSA trust fund. That also contributes lots of pennies to deficit spending.

Minor point of order – the debt service adds to the deficit only when the “Trust Funds” cash out the securities. On the last business day of December and June, the interest accumulated on the holdings gets rolled right back into the Treasury and is “deficit-neutral”. Of course, that just means it will be added to the deficit at a later date.

As for the larger tax revenue position, it has dropped well below 20%…because we’re disproportionately taxing the “rich” and effectively not taxing the “poor” at all at a time the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy (™ Tom Blumer) is destroying the “rich” and making everybody poor.

steveegg on March 28, 2011 at 2:33 PM

kicking the can down the road part 4,578

cmsinaz on March 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM

Once again, I read the drivel coming out of Dork Durbin here and I keep trying to figure out why people in my state keep voting this duncecap back into office over and over and over again!

pilamaye on March 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM

Shouldn’t Durbin be fellating an Alderman or something?

mojo on March 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM

REACTIVE instead of PROACTIVE…that is how this congress works….

epic fail

cmsinaz on March 28, 2011 at 2:40 PM

Every day, the GOP has to make their case with the American people, the sales pitch has to be relentless.

Speakup on March 28, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Welfare Democrats protecting the “free government money” they rely upon to keep voters reliant upon Welfare Democrats. Same old, same old.

And they’ll lie, cheat, and steal to protect it. They’ll insist something that costs a fortune is free. They’ll tell you grass is purple with polka dots.

Republicans won’t win until they understand this. The Welfare Democrats have no interest in playing fairly or being honest. They intend to win at any cost.

amerpundit on March 28, 2011 at 2:43 PM

Dick Durbin

He certainly is ….

Jerome Horwitz on March 28, 2011 at 2:45 PM

Social Security is a little different. It does not add a penny to the deficit.

Hey, I didn’t know Durbin was auditioning for a job as a comedian.

Vyce on March 28, 2011 at 2:46 PM

Increasing government revenue will never, ever balance the budget, even if the revenue hits 100 percent of GDP when a good half of Congress believes that spending is a good in and of itself. It’s similar to an addict believing that if he only had a little more money his addiction would be under control.

Fred 2 on March 28, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Absolutely shameless.

Durbin doesn’t give a rip about the “children” who are going to have to pay the bill – he’ll be dead & gone (or at least retired) before then, right? It’s all about now – meaning, it’s all about HIM and his party’s current electoral prospects.

BD57 on March 28, 2011 at 2:52 PM

can’t wait for the next time I am engaging a Liberal on Barry Hussein’s policies and I will be told Social Security doesn’t add to the deficeit……SHEEP…paging all stupid lazy SHEEP to the MSNBC room for a mandatory viewing….

SDarchitect on March 28, 2011 at 2:54 PM

He’s not called Dick for nothing…

PatriotRider on March 28, 2011 at 2:55 PM

So who is this Dick? And why do we care?

Move forward.

tarpon on March 28, 2011 at 3:11 PM

2/3 of the budget is in entitlements.
And we ain’t gonna see any of it

Kini on March 28, 2011 at 3:16 PM

As for the larger tax revenue position, it has dropped well below 20%…because we’re disproportionately taxing the “rich” and effectively not taxing the “poor” at all at a time the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy (™ Tom Blumer) is destroying the “rich” and making everybody poor.

steveegg on March 28, 2011 at 2:33 PM

But wait I thought that “everybody should have some skin in the game”. That’s what my President told me.

SittingDeadRed on March 28, 2011 at 3:17 PM

Remember when SSA runs in the red it is the ‘grandchildren’ paying for it. And since SSA is cashing in treasury securities it had and adding to the deficit… we are the grandchildren who are paying for it!

Bet you didn’t think you would get stuck with the tab, didya? Tricky Dicky is trying to continue the scam.

If you think that a scam is being perpetrated and you are looking to see who the Mark is: YOU are the Mark.

You are the Mark ‘grandchildren’ paying up for this scam.

Time to wake up!

ajacksonian on March 28, 2011 at 3:22 PM

Durbin’s STUPIDITY no longer astonishes me.

GarandFan on March 28, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Twenty more months of this.

Akzed on March 28, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Durbin is a certified liberal nut with no redeeming values.

rplat on March 28, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Dick the Weenie Durbin is a first rate turd.

Jaibones on March 28, 2011 at 3:37 PM

When I was 62, I applied for Social Security. As I was leaving the office, an individual in a wheel chair that looked like it came from an attic or rummage sale was trying to enter. The odd thing was that he wasn’t used to the chair and was trying to get in the door by pulling it open from the front.

Now, it seems to me that I’ve seen most chair bound people get sideways to a door or put their back to the door if they’re not being assisted. I also ought to mention that this individual was wheeling in from the parking lot and was unaccompanied. Oh, the individual appeared to be in his late thirties.

I suspect that there are a lot of false disability claims on the Social Security system.

Special Forces Grunt on March 28, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Not living in the real world

Done That on March 28, 2011 at 4:28 PM

Since the US is running $1.6 trillion deficits at the moment, Treasury has to borrow money to pay off those notes, which means it does indeed add lots of pennies to the deficit, in real terms, as well as to the national debt.

If Tricky Dick wants to count pennies, our national debt is now 1.4 QUADRILLION pennies.

Steve Z on March 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Dick “head” Durbin. Biggest fool in the Senate since Sloe Joe Biden left. Combined IQ of those two would freeze water if it were a temp.

Webrider on March 28, 2011 at 4:52 PM

It’s a trick because our government keeps two sets of books.

clement on March 28, 2011 at 4:54 PM

He is right, it doesn’t add to the deficit…now run along and play…

right2bright on March 28, 2011 at 5:20 PM

I suspect that there are a lot of false disability claims on the Social Security system.

Special Forces Grunt on March 28, 2011 at 4:17 PM

My contention has always been, we have the money, we have the heart, to help the least among us. We can take care of the mentally ill, the abused, the less fortunate, with no problem…if we got rid of the fraud and the scammers.
What the liberals have done is allow the suffer, to continue to suffer so that they can feel good.
Our society is set up to handle those poor unfortunate souls who really do need assistance…but our government, how it is now, only makes them suffer more each day.

right2bright on March 28, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Back Off SS rally today with dingy harry….

PATHETIC

cmsinaz on March 28, 2011 at 6:18 PM

I read and hear lots of entitlement bashing from the right, but few if any solutions…if, indeed, solutions are needed. Obamacare’s Death Panels might actually be the only peaceful solution. A WW3 would offer some helpful solutions, if it were fought mainly here in America.

The right needs to have some kind of a rolling list of solutions site, IMHO, because bashing entitlement programs isn’t going to solve anything.

Karmi on March 28, 2011 at 6:28 PM

Karmi on March 28, 2011 at 6:28 PM

Communities, local groups, churches, counties and states can easily take care of their own if they all did not have the heel of federal government on their necks. Lutheran Aid, Catholic Services, and the like provided the bulk of assistance to the disadvantaged for decades long before the federal government decided to take the reins.

Do not underestimate the ability of individuals to care for their own, if permitted. And it would not cost hundreds of billions to do so. The War on Poverty and The Great Society Programs were all designed to make Washington DC be the granter and giver of any and all assistance. And they have all failed if one uses their original yardsticks of success as a template. The overall result a massive bureaucracy that is more interested in its own than in actually solving the problem….and the service workers unions who control hiring and firing among the various agencies; and a bureaucracy that has no way of identifying who may be bilking the system, as there are nearly a hundred million Americans who receive some sort of entitlement assistance from the federal government at any given moment.

Such breeds fraud, plain and simple.

I’d rather give my money to the entity closest to the problem and closest to home than have Washington take my money and provide no explanation as to how it was spent.

Besides, there is no “generally support welfare” clause in the Constitution, so the federal government shouldn’t be involved at all.

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 7:07 PM

Social Security is a little different. It does not add a penny to the deficit.

Major: All expenditures contribute to a deficit.
Minor: Social Security payments are expenditures.
Conclusion: Social Security payments contribute to a deficit.

Kralizec on March 28, 2011 at 7:55 PM

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 7:07 PM

10,000 – Baby Boomers Retire: As the year 2011 began on Jan. 1, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation celebrated their 65th birthday. In fact, on that day, today, and for every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65.

I couldn’t wait until 65, so took my $669 a month at 62, and getting on medicare this June. Someone has been taking money from these 10,000 per day for decades now, and making promises. Bashing entitlement programs just isn’t going to work…

Karmi on March 28, 2011 at 9:35 PM