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January 27, 2011

Boehner Goes Wobbly On Social Security Retirement Age

Politics, not reality, continues to drive the entitlement debate or rather the lack of one.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he "made a mistake" when he suggested raising the retirement age to 70 last year.

The Speaker indicated he was premature in suggesting raising the legal age at which retirees are eligible for full Social Security benefits, since he didn't want to pre-judge a debate over how to fix the entitlement program. He said he wouldn't rule out raising the retirement age, however.

"I made a mistake when I did that, because I think having the conversation about how big the problem is is the first step," Boehner said Wednesday evening on CNN. "And once the American people understand how big the problem is, then you can begin to outline an array of possible solutions."

He can say he doesn't want to pre-judge the debate but the fact is, you can say you're going to debate how much 2+2 is but everyone can "pre-judge" that the final answer is going to be 4. That's just a fact. Also a fact: a program established to provide retirement benefits at age 65 when the average life expectancy in this country was 61 years old for men and 65 years old for women, doesn't work when the current life expectancy is over 78 years. Math might be hard but it can also be obvious.

I get the politics of this, I really do. There's no point politically in Boehner or the GOP going first on this. The Democrats will do what they always do when anyone dares to bring reality into the world of Social Security...lie to get old people to vote for them.

The reality is the GOP can't do any entitlement reform with just control of the House, so why give the Democrats 2 years of free shots at them and maybe prevent the GOP from getting enough votes to eventually do something?

The problem with that strategy is unless the GOP starts laying the ground work with the public about the facts of life, they'll never get a mandate to actually do what has to be done (which probably suits plenty of old school Republicans just fine).

There's simply no good answer that works politically and economically.

My one disappointment with the Ryan speech is that he didn't use the opportunity to introduce the Roadmap he's been working on. Again, I get the politics of it but I thought when the GOP picked him to do it they were biting the bullet and launching a trial balloon. Other than introducing the Roadmap, what's the point of having a relatively unknown Congressman do that speech? If you're just going to give a "GOP is different than Obama" speech, why not pick a freshman tea party type like Kristi Noem of South Dakota?

As always though, as much as politicians of both parties want to kick the can down the road, reality always gets a vote...Social Security is running a permanent deficit now, not 2016 as previously forecast.

Bernie Madoff is in jail for running pretty much the exact same system. He just ran out of people willing to put money into his system.


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posted by DrewM. at 10:39 AM

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