Since Republicans are pushing entitlement reform and Democrats like taking money from rich people, you might think they could agree on means-testing Medicare and Social Security as part of a deficit reduction deal. Yet many Democrats are surprisingly hostile to the idea of tailoring these programs to help people who actually need them.
There are two main reasons for this resistance—one strategic, the other ideological. Neither is persuasive, even from a progressive point of view, at a time when trillion-dollar deficits are the norm and publicly held federal debt is projected to reach 150 percent of GDP within two decades.
“I don’t see want to see Medicare turn into a welfare program, which is what it would be if wealthier people didn’t benefit from it or had a significantly reduced benefit,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. “It needs to be something shared that Americans are all in, that we all participate in and we all contribute to.” Ellison is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whichopposes any cuts to Medicare or Social Security benefits.
The strategic rationale for this position is that reducing or eliminating retirement subsidies for people who can easily get by without them would spoil the illusion that all of us are “entitled” to those benefits because we have “earned” them through our “contributions.” In reality, Medicare and Social Security are funded through intergenerational transfers from relatively poor workers to relatively affluent retirees.
CONTINUED at Reason. Written by Jacob Sullum.