House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) penchant for playing golf is well known, and now, it seems, so is his tendency to pull a mulligan once in a while.
In an interview with CNN’s Kathleen Parker on Wednesday evening, Boehner admitted he erred when he suggested to a Pennsylvania newspaper in June 2010 that the retirement age for Social Security should be raised to 70.
“I made a mistake when I did that because I think having the conversation about how big the problem is is the first step,” Boehner said. “And once the American people understand how big the problem is, then you can begin to outline an array of possible solutions.”
Before he became Speaker though, he and several conservative Democrats agreed — raising the retirement age over time is a necessary step. “I think raising the retirement age going out 20 years so you’re not affecting anyone close to retirement, and eventually getting the retirement age to 70 is a step that needs to be taken.”
Advocates of raising the retirement cite the increase in life expectancy between the founding of Social Security and today to support their proposal. Boehner himself cited the same fact in his interview.
“When you look at life expectancy in America today and you look at the Social Security system, we’re all living far longer than anyone had ever anticipated and the result of these big demographic changes is having a disastrous effect on the Social Security program,” he said. “And so raising the retirement age or considering it is something that ought to be on the table.”
But that increase has much more to do with curbing mortality early in life. The relevant metric — one’s life expectancy once they reach the age of 65 — hasn’t changed very much at all, particularly for poor people. Social Security’s long-term solvency problem could also be fixed by raising the payroll tax cap, so high earners pay into the trust fund with a slightly bigger chunk of their income.
Now that the GOP is in charge of the House, and is about to outline just how they propose to address spending and entitlements, everyone’s growing squishy.
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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.