Is the Gang of Six plan really just a cynical move to steal from the poor and elderly in order to give to the rich? That’s what Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), says.
The budget plan produced by the Senate’s “Gang of Six” offers the promise of huge tax breaks for some of the wealthiest people in the country, while lowering Social Security benefits for retirees and the disabled. Despite claiming that they will "reform" Social Security on a "separate track, isolated from deficit reduction," the plan includes cuts to Social Security that would be felt in less than six months, as the plan calls for a new inflation formula that will reduce benefits by 0.3 percentage points a year compared with currently scheduled benefits. The plan also calls for a process that is likely to reduce benefits further for future retirees.
"The proposed cuts to Social Security are cumulative. This means that after ten years, a beneficiary in her 70s will see a cut of close to 3 percent. After 20 years, the cuts for beneficiaries in their 80s will be close to 6 percent, while the reduction in annual benefits will be close to 9 percent by the time beneficiaries are in their 90s. For a beneficiary in her 90s living on a Social Security income of $15,000, this means a loss of more $1,200 a year in benefits.
"The plan also calls for large cuts in tax rates including a targeted top rate of between 23-29 percent, which will be at least partially offset by elimination of tax deductions. For the highest-income people, this is likely to mean a very large reduction in taxes. For example, Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, the CEOs of J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, respectively, are both paid close to $20 million a year at present. If this pay is taxed as ordinary income, then they would be paying close to $7.5 million a year in taxes on it after 2012. However, if the top rate is set at 29 percent, they may save as much as $1.9 million a year on their tax bill. If the top tax rate is set at 23 percent then the Gang of Six plan may increase their after-tax income by more than $3 million a year.