In 1983, President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, D-Mass., agreed on a bipartisan reform package for Social Security. The deal created “public trustees” for Social Security and Medicare on the theory that the programs’ annual technical documents would gain credibility if reviewed by unpaid outside experts — one from each party — in addition to three Cabinet officers.
The current trustees, nominated by President Obama in 2010 and approved by a Senate voice vote, include Robert Reischauer, a Democrat, and Charles Blahous, a Republican. Recently, Obama reappointed them to four-year terms. Then on June 8, all 14 Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee voted to confirm them, while all 12 Democrats voted “no.”
It’s clear that Democrats’ main target is Blahous, whom they denounced as a Koch-brothers-funded academic who worked on President George W. Bush’s 2005 Social Security “privatization” plan and, they say, has exploited his authority to agitate for cuts in Social Security on op-ed pages. Democrats are campaigning on those talking points in close Senate races.
Blahous is, indeed, a conservative who is skeptical of Social Security and Medicare sustainability. However, there is no evidence his views have distorted the staff-written trust fund reports.
No doubt the GOP poisoned the atmosphere with its obstruction of Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court pick. But this time, the Republicans are cooperating with the White House.
The ultimate victim of this petty politicization will be the perceived nonpartisanship and objectivity of key government reports.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST