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I Support Social Security

Save Social Security: Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary

7 January 2013 at 8:47:41 PM

From "Many American liberals and economic populists are on guard in the wake of the fiscal cliff deal between Congress and the President on taxes and revenue because what Washington expects to negotiate in the next two months is cuts. With the automatic Pentagon cuts of the "sequester" postponed, rather than canceled, we're still operating in the framework of the Budget Control Act, which mandates $1.2 trillion in reduced projected government debt over 10 years. The deal on revenue took care of half of that. The Washington understanding is that the other half will come from cuts.

The two most dangerous proposed cuts from the point of view of the long-term interests of the majority of Americans are the proposal to cut Social Security benefits forever by reducing the annual cost-of-living increase (using "chained CPI," a measure of inflation that rises more slowly than the currently used measure) and the proposal to cut Medicare benefits forever by raising the Medicare retirement age to 67, forcing more seniors onto the private insurance market. Many establishment Republicans want these cuts; many Wall Street Democrats want these cuts; and the President has signaled his potential willingness to agree to these cuts as part of a "big deal." Most liberal groups vehemently oppose these cuts, and the majority of Americans would never go along with these cuts - reducing the benefits working families have already paid for through their payroll taxes - if they have effective say.

But two months from now, automatic cuts to Pentagon discretionary spending will again loom, tax increases will likely not be on the menu of negotiations and Republicans may again try to wield the purported threat of default by saying that they won't raise the debt ceiling without big cuts, including cutting Social Security and raising the Medicare retirement age.

Two months from now, who do you want leading the President's negotiating team? Someone who will fight tooth and nail to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits, or someone who will trade those paid-for benefits away in order to protect bloated Pentagon spending and endless war?

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who has led the President's negotiating team, is stepping down. President Obama has not yet named his replacement.

Beltway conventional wisdom is that the Treasury secretary has to be vetted by Wall Street. In the wake of the financial and economic crisis brought on by Wall Street gambling, that's a bad idea to start with. We need a Treasury secretary who can stand up to Wall Street, not a Treasury secretary chosen by Wall Street.

But the fact that negotiations over 10 years of cutting debt are hanging fire makes the idea of a Wall Street-chosen Treasury secretary especially dangerous, because Social Security and Medicare benefits are in peril, and bigfoot military contractor lobbyists will be pushing Congress to cut domestic spending instead of Pentagon spending. Now, more than ever, we need a Treasury secretary for the 99%. We need a Treasury secretary who will see job creation, not austerity, as job one."

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