Christie would likely respond that his plan doesn't call for reducing the benefits of current retirees -- only those of future retirees who are taking in more than $80,000 a year while not working.
"The changes I propose today would not affect seniors currently in these programs or seniors approaching retirement," he said while making his proposal last week. "Anyone who tells you differently is simply not telling you the truth."
It's not completely clear from the outline of Christie's proposal whether that's a fair defense. He proposes raising the retirement age by two months a year for 12 years, and using a less generous measure of inflation called the Chained Consumer Price Index to calculate retirees' benefits.
So a worker in the middle of his or her career who has paid Social Security taxes for a long time would have to wait longer to retire, and then would receive less in benefits. At Bloomberg View, Christopher Flavelle cites new survey data showing that nearly 40 percent of workers aren't saving for retirement. That figure is slightly lower than last year, but still higher than before the recession.
Another objection to Christie's proposal is that it amounts to a major reduction in benefits for the poor and working class. As Kevin Drum notes at Mother Jones, they are more likely to work difficult jobs and to aim to retire early. This appears to be how Christie generates most of the savings in the plan, since likely fewer than 11 percent of retirees will take in more than $80,000 a year.
National Journal's Alex Roarty and Scott Bland explore whether Christie's proposals will damage him at the polls if he runs for president. Some GOP strategists say he's acting foolishly and risks alienating retirees, who increasingly vote Republican. The people who would be most affected -- blue-collar workers in middle age -- are also an important constituency for any prospective candidate.
What's in Wonkbook: 1) DEA chief to retire 2) Opinions, including Wolf on Greece 3) Clinton hedges on free trade, and more
1. Top story: Top drug cop will step down
Michele Leonhart will retire following a report detailing agents' misconduct overseas. "Leonhart, who has served at the helm of the DEA since 2007, has come under heavy criticism on Capitol Hill since an inspector general’s report last month documented a series of episodes in which agents hired prostitutes. Agents were also found to have had sex parties with some women hired by Colombian drug cartels." Ellen Nakashima in The Washington Post.
Supporters of legal weed were overjoyed. "Given the chance, marijuana policy activists—opposed to her strict opposition to both recreational and medicinal marijuana—would have voted her out several years ago. Now, they're hoping for someone who, like President Obama, is interested in a more science focused response to drug policy. ... Advocates were disappointed and shocked that Obama reappointed Leonhart—a holdover from the Bush administration—to the job in 2010. Since then she's taken a very firm anti-marijuana stance that has alienated supporters of less strict drug laws. In 2011 she was criticized for saying that increased drug war violence in Mexico, including the deaths of over a 1,000 children, was 'a sign of success in the fight against drugs.' During a 2012 House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Leonhart refused to say whether marijuana is safer than crack." Arit John for Bloomberg.
Now the hard question is whom President Obama will nominate to replace her. "Ms. Leonhart, 59, parted with the White House on marijuana policy, opposing moves by states like Colorado and Washington to legalize its use, even as the president said they should be allowed to go forward, and resisting a push to reduce penalties for its use and distribution. Her retirement could set off a battle on Capitol Hill over the nomination of her successor, with some liberal Democrats calling for Mr. Obama to name an administrator who backs a change in policy on marijuana, and conservative lawmakers opposing such a move." Julie Hirschfeld Davis in The New York Times.
2. Top opinions
WOLF: Financial mythology is stopping a resolution of the Greek crisis. "Nobody was forced to lend to Greece. Initially, private lenders were happy to lend to the Greek government on much the same terms as to the German government. ... Stupid lenders lose money. That has always been the case. It is still the case today. ... What is open is whether the Greeks will devote the next few decades to repaying a mountain of loans that should never have been made. What makes this far worse is that the debt burden has doubled, relative to GDP, despite a restructuring, since the crisis. Forgiveness is inevitable." The Financial Times.
FRUM: Republicans need a plan for health reform. "'Will you take away my health insurance?' That question does not get asked often at Republican presidential forums. Yet it will be the most decisive question in the 2016 presidential election. ... Repeal of the ACA is the declared goal of all Republican presidential candidates. While most have some vision of replacement, that vision tends to be highly unspecific—and still likely radically to reduce the coverage Obamacare now provides." The Atlantic.
BONNER: All journalists, not just Judith Miller, owe the country an apology for the Iraq War. "Her critics—they are many and loud—say the former New York Times reporter bears a responsibility for the Iraq war because the articles she wrote in the lead-up to the invasion advanced the Bush Administration’s contention that the country had weapons of mass destruction. It’s easy to disparage Miller. Too easy. Censure her and we can sidestep looking at our own reporting, at broader disquieting questions about journalism since 9/11. As journalists, we all let our guard down in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. We abandoned some of the most important journalistic principles—speak truth to power; hold governments accountable; display healthy skepticism—at the base of the American flagpole." Politico.
3. In case you missed it
Senators will vote on President Obama's nominee for attorney general. "Loretta Lynch, a U.S. attorney in New York, is expected to win confirmation as soon as Thursday under the deal, which ended a partisan dispute over abortion restrictions in an unrelated bill. Senate GOP leaders insisted on clearing that impasse before moving forward with Lynch." Mike DeBonis in The Washington Post.
Both parties are divided over Obama's Pacific trade deal. "The tensions broke into public view after [former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton hedged during her first remarks on whether she would support an Obama-backed trade package that is gaining traction in Congress but is opposed by some on the party’s politically potent liberal wing. ... Her remarks, which echoed a noncommittal statement from her presidential campaign late last week, placed her in an uncomfortable spot between the pro-business and pro-labor wings of the party. ... On the Republican side, most of the declared and prospective candidates hew to GOP orthodoxy in favor of free-trade deals. But the fissures also are widening on that side of the aisle as the fight for the Republican nomination gets underway and candidates give voice to grass-roots conservatives’ frustrations about the economy." David Nakamura and Anne Gearan at The Washington Post.
And to get a compromise through the House, Democratic and Republican leaders will have to cooperate. "Republicans have long said they cannot put up the votes to pass a fast-track agreement with only members of their conference voting in favor. They have instead called on the White House to step up lobbying efforts on House Democrats to ease passage. ... But partisan potshots already are casting doubt on the two parties' ability to work together. Democrats say GOP leadership hasn't told them how many of their party's votes they'll need, and they're casting the deal's still-uncertain prospects as another example of Speaker John Boehner's inability to corral his own caucus." Daniel Newhauser and Alex Brown in National Journal.
Regulators worry Comcast can't be trusted. "The Justice Department is evaluating whether the merger is anticompetitive and is scheduled to meet with Comcast on Wednesday to discuss it. The F.C.C. is considering whether the deal is in the public interest, and regulators in New York and California are also examining it. Should regulators approve the merger, they will most likely place conditions on it. How Comcast complied with the conditions of the NBCUniversal merger provides a window into how the company is likely to behave, some analysts and critics have said." Emily Steel in The New York Times.
Federal Reserve officials are worried about the global economy and the rise in the dollar. "As they discuss the outlook beyond midyear, officials are increasingly weighing how much the strong dollar might have hurt the prospects of achieving their economic forecast of annual growth of around 2.5%, gradual increases in inflation and continued declines in unemployment. Fed officials have said they won’t raise rates until they’re confident inflation is on track to rise toward their 2% target, and they want to see the job market keep improving. A stronger currency tends to undermine exports because it makes them more expensive. That slows growth and potentially hiring. Meantime, the strong currency holds down the prices of imports and broader inflation." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.
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