The reason that Social Security is called “the third rail of politics” is because touching it is political death. The new Lake Research Poll for Social Security Works again proves this classic piece of wisdom. The poll found an overwhelming 82 percent of likely midterm voters oppose cutting Social Security to reduce the federal deficit. Across the political spectrum, Democrats (83%), Republicans (82%), and Independents (78%) are effectively all equally opposed to cuts.
Framing cuts to Social Security benefits as a way to make the trust fund solvent doesn’t make them popular. A solid super-majority of 67 percent of likely voters oppose cutting benefits to make the program solvent long term. Similarly, the poll found that 69 percent of voters opposed raising the retirement age to 69 as a means toward making Social Security solvent.
While cutting benefits or raising the retirement age–which is a de facto cut in benefits–are both extremely unpopular, there is strong support for the progressive, preferred solution to deal with any projected future Social Security shortfall. There is 66 percent favor gradually requiring employers and employees to pay Social Security taxes on income over the $106,800 cap. That is income is currently exempt from the Social Security tax.
Cutting Social Security benefits, either directly or by raising the retirement age, is deeply unpopular. No Democrat should even entertain the notion, especially given that the trust fund currently solvent for the next two decades, and the public is clearly behind the more progressive alternative to dealing with any future shortfall.
If Democrats in Congress or President Obama seriously try to advance these two regressive and damaging ideas put forward by Catfood Commission co-chairs Eriskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, one can only assume it would be a monumental political disaster for the party. The fact that Obama has not already moved to quickly distance himself from these recommendations is, in itself, already an action of political malpractice.