By Matthew Rothschild on November 25, 2008

Barack Obama’s choice to head the budget office is on record favoring a reduction in Social Security benefits.

On Tuesday, Obama picked Peter Orszag to direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Orszag believes that Social Security benefits should be cut back to help balance the Social Security Trust Fund over the next 75 years.

He spells out his views in a paper he wrote with Peter A. Diamond for the Brookings Institute back in 2005, called “Saving Social Security: The Diamond-Orszag Plan.”

In it, they call for “a reduction in benefits, which would apply to all workers age 59 and younger.”

The younger you are, the more you’ll get hurt.

“The reduction in benefits for a 45-year-old average earner is less than 1 percent,” the plan says. “For a 35-year-old, less than 5 percent; and for a 25-year-old, less than 9 percent. Reductions are smaller for lower earners, and larger for higher ones.”

In the paper, Orszag and Diamond come out strongly against replacing part of Social Security with individual accounts, which Republicans have proposed. The authors call this “a grave mistake.”

But Orszag and Diamond say that there is no free lunch in making sure Social Security remains solvent. So they propose cutting benefits and raising Social Security taxes.

The Social Security Trust Fund’s reserves are projected to run out in 2041. At that point, the system will be bringing in less than it is committed to paying out.

But the consequence of that may be exaggerated.

“It’s not exactly the end of the world,” write Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot in Social Security: The Phony Crisis.

“For one thing, the Social Security system would be far from ‘broke.' While it would indeed be short of revenue to maintain promised benefits, it would still be able to pay retirees higher real benefits than they are receiving today. And the nation has managed obligations of this size in the past: the financing gap would be roughly equal to the amount by which we increased military spending between 1976 and 1986 (a period in which we were not, incidentally, at war).”

When Barack Obama announced his OMB choice, he said we “have to be willing to shed the spending we don’t need.”

Some of that spending may be on Social Security, if Peter Orszag has any say over the matter. And he’s in a position to have a big say.

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The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) poses as an independent science-based organization devoted to...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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