- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Maryland Democratic Rep. John Delaney laid out a series of proposed entitlement reforms Tuesday considered anathema to many of his fellow Democrats — such as raising the retirement age — but ones he said are necessary to balance the nation’s long-term budget.

The freshman lawmaker said that as part of “grand bargain” with Republicans, Democrats should explore means-testing to determine if wealthier seniors actually need government assistance; raise the cap on Social Security payroll taxes; increase the retirement age for certain workers; and change the formula for cost-of-living adjustments — proposals that don’t exactly sit well with many in his own party.

“The president is not there, but that’s where I think Democrats need to go,” he said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown.” “The American people do want the budget to balance, but they also want their representatives to be honest with them about the assumptions embedded in the budget. And right now, [GOP House Budget Committee Chairman Paul] Ryan’s budget doesn’t have honest assumptions.”

Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, said she could not support increasing the retirement age for Medicare or Social Security beneficiaries.

“And neither could the president, because it’s not necessary,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I could support changes to Medicare, Medicaid and eventually Social Security that are part of a grand bargain.”

The Democratic National Committee chair said that as part of a grand bargain, she didn’t think means-testing for higher-income beneficiaries would be necessary.

“Let’s do everything we can, and then if we still need more savings, then you look at things that might have to address benefits, but we don’t need to do that now — we haven’t wrung enough savings,” she said.

Mr. Delaney, who ran a financial firm before entering Congress, also said he favored the so-called “Buffett rule” that would increase the tax rate on high-end earners and look at discretionary spending on both the domestic and defense side.

But he repeatedly said that assumptions in Mr. Ryan’s proposal, which projects a 10-year balanced budget in part by slashing $4.6 trillion in spending, weren’t realistic, citing projections of future unemployment levels of and tax revenues as examples.

But he agreed that 20 years is a “reasonable” target date for a balanced budget, provided there is that combination of entitlement reform, increased revenues and other spending cuts.

“I do think there should be a target date. I think the 10-year window is, to some extent, artificial because most of our budget pressures actually come in years 11 through 20,” he said.