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Cut Social Security to Fund the War?

In a remarkable interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, House Republican Leader John Boehner explicitly called for cutting Social Security in order to pay for the war in Afghanistan. The article reports:

“Ensuring there’s enough money to pay for the war will require reforming the country’s entitlement system, Boehner said. He said he’d favor increasing the Social Security retirement age to 70 for people who have at least 20 years until retirement, tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation and limiting payments to those who need them.”

In principle Boehner gave the Democrats as much ammunition as a serious political party could want. After all raising the retirement age and cutting Social Security benefits to pay for the war in Afghanistan is an idea that consistently polls in the high single decimals. We should expect every Democratic politician in the country to be jumping up and down demanding to know whether the Republican leader speaks for all Republicans.

That would be the case, unless of course the Democrats actually hold similar views. After all, several prominent Democrats have been saying in public recently that we will have to cut Social Security benefits (benefits workers have already paid for). These prominent Democrats also support the war in Afghanistan.

So, they may not use the same words as Mr. Boehner, but it seems that many Democrats may effectively agree that we have to cut Social Security to pay for the war in Afghanistan. It would be nice if they would insist that this is not true.

DEAN BAKER is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.

This column was originally published by TPM Cafe.

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Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

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