Why Chris Christie could give the GOP field a shot of courage

If nothing else, Chris Christie knows how to stand out from a crowd. (AP Photo / Jim Cole)

If nothing else, Chris Christie knows how to stand out from a crowd. (AP Photo / Jim Cole)

I do not think Chris Christie can win the GOP nomination. Most experts do not think Chris Christie can win the GOP nomination. Opinion polls do not suggest Chris Christie can win the GOP nomination.

And yet, there may be good reasons for Christie to seek the GOP nomination, even if he ultimately fails.

We got an example of such a reason on Tuesday, when the New Jersey governor proposed necessary, if perhaps unpopular, changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Here’s the gist from the Associated Press:

“Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie proposed pushing back the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare for future retirees on Tuesday as part of a plan to cut deficits by $1 trillion over a decade, an approach he said would confront the nation’s ‘biggest challenges in an honest way.’

“In a speech in New Hampshire, site of the first 2016 presidential primary, the New Jersey governor also proposed reducing Social Security benefits in the future for retirees earning more than $80,000 a year and eliminating them for those with annual incomes of $200,000 or more. He said seniors who work after age 62 should be exempt from the payroll tax.”

Eligibility for the programs would change as follows:

  • For Social Security, which is set to hit a full-retirement age of 67 in 2022, the age would increase by two months per year until it reached 69 (at that pace, it would reach that age in 2034) and then be indexed thereafter to gains in longevity. The early-retirement age would rise to 64 from the current 62.
  • For Medicare, the age of eligibility would reach 67 by 2040 and 69 by 2064. That’s an increase of one month per year.

Among Americans born in 1875 — i.e., the first people to receive Social Security benefits — only about half of men and 60 percent of women lived to age 65. Fifty years later, it was three in four men and five in six women. And those figures haven’t been updated (at least on Social Security’s website) in a quarter of a century; they’re no doubt higher now.

So a four-year increase in the full-retirement age over the course of almost one century is hardly extreme — even if Democrats and perhaps some vote-hungry Republicans will say it is.

The income thresholds (or “means testing”) for benefits will probably be even more controversial, even though it’s equally sensible. Democrats say they want to raise taxes on the rich; Republicans say they want to reduce spending. Phasing out Social Security benefits for wealthier retirees seems like a logical compromise between the two positions: It focuses on spending rather than taxes, but it also comes at the expense of “the rich” rather than middle-income Americans.

In fact, every Democrat, starting with Hillary Clinton, ought to be asked a simple question: If you favor raising taxes on “the rich,” why not support lowering Social Security benefits for them?

***

Elections are not normally times when these kinds of compromises are discussed. Enter the need for Christie’s candidacy.

Whether or not he — as opposed to the rest of us — thinks he can win, the premise of his entire political career has been his penchant for straight shooting about tough problems and hard solutions. As long as it emboldens his GOP opponents rather than turning them into pander bears, that could be a very good thing for his party’s primary contest.

Reader Comments 0

55 comments
MHSmith
MHSmith

Tell it like it is... 



"There's a new president coming, my friends," said New Hampshire GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn, praising the diversity of the Republican field. "I'd like to also recognize at this time the broad, diverse, qualified field of candidates being offered by our friends in the Democratic Party, but I can't."

MHSmith
MHSmith

Christie is another  want-to-be  who is going nowhere. Fortunately, the GOP has a very large rooster to draw from to  fill their top-of-the-ticket..


I've got my hopes up and fingers crossed on Gov. John Kasich  making a Presidential run in 2016.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MHSmith "A very large Rooster?" Heh heh.  How close you are to being correct!  They crow, preen, and dance around, trying to get attention.

ALibNotToBeMessedW/
ALibNotToBeMessedW/

@MHSmith

You are 100% correct that the GOP has very many roosters from which to choose.  Those of us who aren't ideologues and who just want a decent, rational, reasonable conservative to run against a decent, rational, reasonable progressive, are hoping the GOP ends up nominating a real human and not a rooster.

lvg
lvg

The only thing Chris Christie has going for him is that he cannot fit in one of those little GOP clown cars. My money is on Walker. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

No problem here. A redistribution of wealth from one generation to the next. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

I've already complained about Christie's proposal elsewhere, but why not here.

It's wrong because:

1. the "means testing" business wherein they start cutting back benefits for incomes between 80-200K sleazily fakes ever-so-slightly left -- hey, that sounds "progressive", right? making wealthier folks make do with less from Uncle Sugar? -- when it's really designed to anger a nontrivial number of folks who will justifiably wonder why they paid into the system all those years only to have their promised benefits yanked. That's how you start to tear away at a very successful program. Sleazy stuff. (and when you consider how much money we're likely "saving" by doing it, I suspect it's a relative pittance.

2. Raising the retirement age qualification? More dishonesty--it's using the foolish old rhetoric about people are Living So Very Much Longer than they used to, as if SS's original authors didn't have access to actuarial tables and didn't know that life expectancies were increasing, and didn't plan accordingly. The retirement ages for receiving full SS benefits are already increasing, and will continue to. We shouldn't be accelerating this schedule.

Fortunately, I think we all know Christie won't be around for long in this primary race.


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex

1. I look at it the opposite way: Republicans would be content with a Social Security system that was truly a safety net and aren't looking to destroy it out of ideological hate for it. It's Democrats who, purely on ideological grounds, insist on its being a universal program -- and thus refuse pretty much any measure to make it more solvent unless it's a tax increase.

2. You say it's dishonest to suggest the original authors didn't anticipate longer life expectancies. OK, then why haven't retirement ages kept up with our longer lifetimes? Perhaps they anticipated it but simply made inadequate plans to account for it. That doesn't mean we shouldn't adjust the plan now.

While it's more likely they didn't anticipate the shrinking ratio of workers to retirees that is arguably a bigger problem, it's not as if we can create a bunch of new workers out of thin air to fix that. Even throwing the borders wide open to immigrants wouldn't bring us back to the ratio that held in the 1930s. Adjusting benefits and the retirement age are two of the options we do have.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex After you work for 45 years or so, you are ready to try to LIVE.  Just because we hold on longer does not mean we live with the same degree of zest at 75 than we do at 65.


Also, once you die, it is 100%.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

The GOP moneybags have NEVER liked the employer match, and pull the GOP sheeps strings. raise the rate, simple fix. President Reagan did.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex

OK, then why haven't retirement ages kept up with our longer lifetimes?

I am not sure who decided what kind of pace should be set between retirement age and median kicking off time, but I do think it shouldn't be a foregone conclusion that they should necessarily match perfectly.

Adjusting benefits and the retirement age are two of the options we do have.

As is taxing wealthier Americans more heavily to pay for any shortfalls that will occur, eventually (they aren't here yet; let's not forget that.)

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex "they aren't here yet; let's not forget that"

http://crfb.org/sites/default/files/general_fund_transfers_to_social_security_gdpindexed.png

Now, much of that light-blue figure for recent years was due to the "tax holiday" on part of our payroll taxes. But the whole "net interest" figure is also pretty much an accounting fiction. It's not as if some bank in another country is paying that interest. It comes out of regular taxes, too, and we wouldn't be paying benefits in full without it.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Christie will never be President, he won't even get the nomination. The bridge thing doomed him forever.

Eustis
Eustis

Remove the cap on earnings subject to SSA contributions.

straker
straker

Rafe - "so he decides"


Here's a tip.


What Obama proposes and what is actually decided are often two different things.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

We will cross that bridge when we get to it,  if is not closed.....

sssinff
sssinff

Considering the median age of a GOP voter is around 78, I'm not sure this is a great idea if you want to win a nomination for the party.


(Ok, the median age of a GOP voter probably isn't 78....but man are they old)

Sam_Hill
Sam_Hill

Raise the eligibility age for social security; cut taxes on capital gains and investments. The rich get wealthier and the middle class must work longer for less benefits and a shorter retirement. 

Sounds about right for the GOP.


Who cares if you worked all your life and paid SSI? We are moving the goalposts. The more middle class folks who die before they retire is better for the economy. Good thing those middle class voters don't matter.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Sam_Hill Those who earn up to $200K a year still get some Social Security payments under Christie's plan. I thought Democrats considered those people "the rich."

bu2
bu2

@Kyle_Wingfield @Sam_Hill 

Well if they are still working, that's dual income professionals, the most Republican group in the country.


You can solve the vast majority of the projected gap by:

1)  raising the retirement age; and

2) tying the benefits to the cost of living instead of wages.


These are both pretty simple and, in the last analysis I saw, covered 2/3 to 4/5 of the gap.  Minor tweaks can deal with the rest-maybe raising the cap without proportionately raising benefits.

bu2
bu2

@Kyle_Wingfield @Sam_Hill 

Its nice to see you writing about something you have knowledge of.  For some reason Jay keeps writing about Republicans.  He does much better with Democrats and music.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Arguing the details of Social Security reform proposals is a meaningless exercise in this context. Personally, as a conservative, I harbor no ill will toward Mr. Christie but I cannot envision any circumstance where I would vote for him in a GOP primary.


Given recent past history the idea that there will be any meaningful public or Congressional debate on Social Security reform appears far-fetched at best, and quite unlikely. Which is a shame.

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

Great idea as long as you means test every year. A lot pension plans pay all out in ten years so people might need to come back to SS if they defy ezekial emanuals suggestion to drop dead at 75.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

The SS solution is simple,  if folks are living longer, they should pay in more.  Raise the rates.  Older people don't need to work longer just because they live longer.  Again the greed of people shows.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Not much different between him and Newt,  unless he doesn't cheat on his wife.

PinkoNeoConLibertarian
PinkoNeoConLibertarian

In general, I like some of the recommendations as long as they don't start upping the ages for IRA, 401(k) and other types of retirement plans. It's getting very difficult already to keep and/or get a job after 60. If they start raising the age limits for when you can tap into other retirement plans (penalty free) as well, you're going to have a lot of seniors eating cat food because it's cheaper than dog food.


Naturally, that assumes that they can afford and have some other form of retirement plan. That's another issue altogether.


RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@PinkoNeoConLibertarian Well both Clinton and Obama have in the past talked about taxing these retirement investments because it is unfair that some have so much set aside and others do not make enough to set ANY aside.  What would you say, if the Dems get their wish?

PinkoNeoConLibertarian
PinkoNeoConLibertarian

@RafeHollister @PinkoNeoConLibertarian I'm not familiar with those ideas. But it depends on the investment. If you were taxed on that contribution prior to putting into the investment, it should not be taxed again. For me the sticky wicket would be the gains from the investments. Again, if you have already been taxed for those gains, they should not be taxed again. The reason it's a sticky wicket is that now those gains could be considered capital gains. Do we tax them as CG or as income? That's another discussion though.


IMHO. 



RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@PinkoNeoConLibertarian @RafeHollister Well if I remember right Obama was talking about an across the board tax, something like 5% or so of the total, to help the poor.  I don't think he could get it through but he seemed to be doing some wishful thinking.

bu2
bu2

Means testing kills social security.  It undermines the contract and the whole basis.


Raising the age is not particularly controversial.  Every group proposing changes has included that as part of the solution.  It would already have happened except the Democrats demagogue and claim there is no problem with social security.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@bu2 They include it until THEY get in their 60s. Then reality kicks in.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Christie, you gotta be kidding me.  He is just slightly more honest and trustworthy than Hillary and a lot more beefier.  He stuck a knife in Romney's back in 2012, so who would trust him?

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@RafeHollister See, this is what I was talking about.  


You can't even hear the message regarding changes to Social Security because of who the messenger is. 



RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@LogicalDude @RafeHollister You can't hear the message when the messenger has no credibility!  Take Obama as an example, he can talk all day about what he proposes, but when you compare what he said in the past, with what turned out to be truthful, you soon decide that listening is a waste of time.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@RafeHollister You are right, he is a lot more beefier than Hillary but not by too much. He is a lot younger than Hillary but everyone is but me. She, like John McCain, is too old to be POTUS. If she gets that 3am call, she would never wake up to answer it, since she definitely needs a full night sleep of beauty rest. Sorry, I could not resist! I guess all the fat jokes about Christie will stop, since we have an elderly plump (that's about as nice as I can say it)woman running on the other side?

bu2
bu2

@TomGaff @RafeHollister 


Most presidents look a lot older when they leave office.  Bill definitely did.  W did.  Obama does.  But Hillary has aged more than all of them and she was just Secretary of State.  She looks older than John McCain.  Not quite Strom Thurmond when he was still in the Senate, but she is working on it.

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

"Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie proposed pushing back the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare for future retirees on Tuesday as part of a plan to cut deficits..."

But, but, but... didn't Ronnie say that none of those affected the deficit?  Isn't the money for SS in a lock box?  I wonder where the money went?  Don't Social Security payroll deductions go into a special account that Congress (and isn't Congress controlled by Republicans) has set aside to pay back to us when we reach retirement?   

straker
straker

If Christie wins the nomination, I would vote for him over Hillary.


If a goodly number of other Democrats feel the same, then Republican pollsters will know it and inform the Party leaders.


Then, he just might get the nomination after all.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

"Phasing out Social Security benefits for wealthier retirees seems like a logical compromise"


I have no problem with this. GOP has the House and the Senate so what are you folks waiting on?