What Robin Hood?

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As usual, E.J. Dionne has a wonderful column on Social Security, lambasting the press for praising the president’s supposedly Robin Hood-like proposal for Social Security. Progressive? Please. Taking an axe to every middle-class man, woman, and child in America, and then telling those making under $20,000 a year that they’ll be spared from the slaughter, is not what normal people consider progressive. Luckily, Dionne’s not among the deluded:

Bush has refused to put his own tax cuts on the table as part of a Social Security fix. Repealing Bush’s tax cuts for those earning more than $350,000 a year could cover all or most of the 75-year Social Security shortfall. Keeping part of the estate tax in place could cover a quarter to half of the shortfall. Some of the hole could be filled in by a modest surtax on dividends or capital gains.

But Bush is resolute about protecting the interests of the truly rich by making sure that any taxes on wealth are ruled out of the game from the beginning. The Social Security cuts he is proposing for the wealthy are a pittance compared with the benefits they get from his tax cuts. The president is keeping his eye on what really matters to him.

Ayup. And this underscores how ridiculous the whole debate is. The president has said that “all solutions are on the table” for fixing Social Security, but at the same time he’s flatly ruled out tax increases, as well as dedicating any general tax revenue to fixing Social Security. (Unless, of course, we’re privatizing the program, in which case he apparently has no problem funneling in trillions of dollars.) Well, that leaves only one option: benefit cuts. And since middle- and low-earners receive most of the program’s benefits, that means benefit cuts for them. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s what Bush has chosen. And sure, if you assume from the start that benefit cuts are the only option, then within that framework you’re going to look awfully compassionate for shielding the poor from the worst of those cuts. May as well laud a murderer for his “thoughtfulness” because he takes care that no blood stains the carpet.

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