I agree with Ed Kilgore and disagree with Paul Krugman and Duncan Black
I think it is good politics and good policy for Barack Obama to claim there is a social security crisis and propose to raise the FICA ceiling.
This is seriously alarming. I actually agree with everything Kilgore wrote, so I don't have much to add.
Krugman doesn't even get around to mentioning Obama's proposal. He argues, convincingly, that Obama's framing of the issue is not completely honest proving that not everything politicians say is the unvarnished truth. Knowck me down with a wrecking ball.
He then asserts "And on Social Security, as on many other issues, what Washington means by bipartisanship is mainly that everyone should come together to give conservatives what they want." OK Paul if you have evidence that conservatives want the FICA ceiling raised, put it on your blog, I'm all eyes.
Fortunately, I mostly agree with Kevin Drum except for the minor bit about what is to be done. For some reason, which I'm sure he has explained but I missed it, Drum is opposed to raising the ceiling.
On that question, I guess the view is that a middle class tax increase will free up funds which will be used for tax cuts for the rich (at least compared to what they would otherwise pay). To me this is a starve the beast argument that the worse things are the better they are and should appeal to those who admire both David Stockman and Vladimir Lenin.
The assumption appears to be that the Republicans will be in charge so any spare money will be given to the rich. Quite frankly, I don't see how anyone with that assumption hasn't given up on the whole opinion leading business. There is no way that progressives can obtain a decent outcome if the Republicans are in charge.
However, it is possible that they will be in opposition for a long time. The Democrats will not be allowed by filibustering Republicans, pundits and the gullible public to expand programs while there is a huge deficit (starve the government spending beast worked fine when Clinton was President).
It will be relatively easy to increase taxes paid by the super rich. Once that debate is in the open, the Republicans can't win it no matter how much money they get from rich pundits.
It is very hard to increase taxes on the middle class, yet, I think that will be necessary to fund medicare let alone universal health insurance. Calling it a Social Security crisis when it is a medicare crisis is a small price to pay for convincing people to pay what they have to pay to live in a decent society.
Paris is worth a mass and medicare is worth a fake social security crisis.
update: Welcome economist's viewers
I have more as a comment there. I will put it here too.
What "bipartisanship" means depends on which party controls the White House and the majority in congress. It always means reaching agreement and, in 1995, that clearly meant Democrats signing on to a Republican initiative. Things said by a presidential candidate are mostly important if that candidate becomes president. I think it is fairly clear that the main problem for president Obama or president Clinton will be the filibuster (it was the only thing that saved us from Bush to the very limited extent we were saved). A filibuster is definitely not bipartisan.
Obama is using the word now, because he thinks it will be useful to him if he is elected. Planning on Republicans always having the initiative makes no sense. Assuming that "bipartisanship" will continue to mean giving in to conservatives is assuming that the way Washington works can't be changed. If one assumes that, why would one bother to run for President ?
Some above thinks Krugman writes hastily. I think he writes brilliantly. My problem (if any) is that he is being honest. He wrote a column about whether there is a social security crisis, not about whether it will be useful to Democrats to pretend that there is. If Obama were as frank as Krugman, he would say that there is a medicare crisis and it can't be solved just by taxing the super rich so upper middle class people who want to be guaranteed health insurance when they are old better be willing to pay more in taxes, oh and by the way, while we're at it it will be no big deal to provide health insurance to all (which for all we know will save money in the long run as fewer people reach 65 after decades of untreated high blood pressure and diabetes (treated before age 65 but after years or decades of damaging kidneys and eyes and stuff)).
OK so you people who think Krugman writes sloppily, how about the sentence above (the one with nested parentheses (one pair inside the other)). Now *that* is writing sloppily.
Obama is a politician, Krugman is a commentator. Obama is using claims which poll well, Krugman is calling them like he sees them. Neither one is making a mistake. They are each playing different socially necessary roles brilliantly.
I agree with everything Krugman says here. In fact I agree with everything he wrote about Obama except for who is playing whom for a fool. I think Obama is outsmarting the villagers.