Two members of the Senate's Tea Party caucus joined up with Sen. Lindsey Graham today to introduce the Social Security Solvency and Sustainability Act of 2011. Graham showed reporters a vintage 2005 copy of Congressional Quarterly, from the Bush era Social Security fight, reminding us that he'd tried to broker a compromise back then.
"It says, 'maverick,'" he pointed out.
The new plan, which has been scored by the Social Security administration, does not do much of what Republicans wanted in 2005. There are no private accounts. There are only cuts. It features a gradual increase in the retirement age, which goes to 70 by 2032, with an increase in the early retirement age to 64. The full retirement age is fungible -- it will be "indexed to increases or decreases in life expectancy." The big cost-saver, though, is the change to benefits that starts in 2018. After that point, benefits for people who make more than $43,000 "will be calculated at a lower rate as earnings rise."
Why no personal accounts? Paul, after all, had always been for personal accounts.
"As you've learned," he said, "I'm a moderate."
Graham explained that it was a matter of vote counts. "I can tell you things that won’t be on the table," he said, "personal accounts and raising taxes." And this sounded like a bit of pre-gaming for the only Social Security reforms we're hearing about before the president's setpiece speech.
Because a number of Republicans have said they could vote to raise the debt limit
if and only if
entitlement reform was part of the deal, I asked the senators if a vote on this proposal would do the trick. Graham: Yes. Lee: No. Paul: The question is irrelevant.