Sen. Sherrod Brown sees another big safety net fight looming: Social Security Disability, and he's seeing a real opportunity here for Democrats to start fighting on the critical front of expanding Social Security. He told Greg Sargent that Republicans have requested hearings on the program, and pointed out one Republican effort to cut the program:
Brown says Dems should seize this occasion to get behind a proposal that would lift or change the payroll tax cap, meaning higher earners would pay more, while adopting a new measure for inflation that would increase benefits for all seniors. Instead of getting drawn into debates about “Chained CPI” and other entitlement cuts, Brown says, Dems should make the case that stagnating wages and declining pensions and savings demand an expansion of social insurance.The disability portion of the Social Security trust fund, SSDI, is depleting, but a fix for that is a reallocation of funds that's been done before without much fuss, and can certainly be done again. Republicans, however, will make a fuss this time because, ultimately, destroying our social insurance programs any way they can is at the top of their agenda.
“We should stop playing defense on Social Security, and instead talk about why Social Security is a public pension that we should be proud of, that has lifted tens of millions of people out of poverty,” Brown tells me. “The three-legged stool—Social Security, pensions, private savings—has seen two of the legs sawed off for a large number of people. It's time to look at expanding Social Security as an issue of retirement security.” […]
“They want to separate ‘good’ Social Security (retirement security) from ‘bad’ Social Security (disability insurance), to win support for structural reform,” said Brown, who is holding a Senate Finance sub-committee hearing tomorrow on the overall program. “The attacks on disability insurance will accelerate. This is how they will try to back-door the dismantling of social insurance. But the public is with us on social insurance.”
Brown noted that such an issue could play well in the midterms. “The electorate is older, so the field is fertile for Democrats to talk about this,” he said. “We should turn up the volume.”
Brown is smart to be advising Democrats to go on offense with this one, and it does provide a tremendous opportunity to talk about the urgent need to expand Social Security. There's an acute retirement crisis looming, something everyone in the voting public even thinking about retiring in the near future is all too aware of. So it's another issue of smart politics and smart policy converging. Brown is absolutely right to be pushing it.