Advancing a Free Society

Winners and Losers Under the Simpson-Bowles Social Security Plan

Monday, November 29, 2010

With the deadline for the President's fiscal responsibility commission fast approaching, I thought it might be useful to provide a brief summary of winners and losers under the Simpson-Bowles Social Security framework. 

Every Social Security plan has fairly clear winners and losers because Social Security is a relatively simple income transfer program.  In my initial piece on Simpson-Bowles, I explained the plan's basic provisions as well as the philosophical choices that it embodied.  This morning's piece breaks this down to explain clearly who would be the winners and losers under the plan.

In my piece at e21 I identify three main groups of winners:

  1. Low-income workers (and their advocates);
  2. Fiscal conservatives concerned about the growth of system costs;
  3. Advocates of bipartisan accomplishment.

And three main groups of losers:

  1. Advocates of making substantial tax increases inevitable through prolonged inaction;
  2. Advocates of improving intergenerational equity via personal accounts;
  3. Senior-scaring political opportunists.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does reflect the compromise choices in Simpson-Bowles.  I noticed after drawing it up that each of the three winners and losers contains one group thought of as being on the left, one on the right, and one more removed from partisan or ideological attachment.  This was a genuine accident; I didn't deliberately draw up the categories to produce this result, but it's an interesting reflection of the bipartisan nature of Simpson-Bowles.

The full piece goes through the plan's winners and losers in greater detail.