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GOP Senators Want to Take the Debt Ceiling Hostage in Order to Raise the Retirement Age

Senators Corker and Alexander are threatening more economic chaos in order to achieve one of the most regressive potential policy changes.
 
 
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Two Republican senators want to use the threat of an economic meltdown to raise the retirement age and cut Medicare. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN)  introduced a plan today that would raise the federal debt limit by $1 trillion in exchange for $1 trillion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, as The Hill reported:

The Corker-Alexander dollar-for-dollar plan has several components.

It would structurally reform Medicare by creating competing private options giving seniors greater choice of healthcare plans. It would not, however, cap Medicare spending.

The plan would also give states more flexibility to manage Medicaid programs and prevent states from “gaming the federal share of the program with state tax charges.”

It would gradually raise the Social Security retirement age and use the “chained CPI” formula to calculate cost-of-living adjustments, curbing the growing cost of benefits.

In exchange, it would direct the debt limit be increased by the same amount as the savings generated from entitlement reform.

The U.S. will hit its debt limit  on or around December 31st. The Treasury Department estimates that, using extraordinary measures, it could avoid default for another two months or so. Allowing the U.S. to default on its debt via not raising the debt ceiling could cause a complete financial meltdown. The 2011 debt ceiling debacle — during which House Republicans nearly pushed the country into a default due to their intransigence on taxes — cost the country  about $19 billion in higher interest payments and  at least one million jobs.

Corker and Alexander are threatening more economic chaos in order to achieve one of the most regressive potential policy changes. Though lawmakers point to America’s increasing life expectancy in order to justify raising the retirement age, life expectancy is only increasing  for wealthier workers in non-physical jobs. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research put it, “there has been a sharp rise in inequality in life expectancy by income over the last three decades that  mirrors the growth in inequality in income.”

Pat Garofalo is economic policy editor for ThinkProgress.org. His writing has also appeared in the Nation, the Atlantic, U.S. News & World Report, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Garofalo.

 
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