Posted by: David Offutt | November 17, 2014

Saving Social Security: Who You Vote For Matters

I’ve heard many people lament that Social Security won’t be around by the time they need it. Social Security is quite sound and is well run. It has to be tweaked from time to time to keep it that way, and that’s where the voters come in. If the voters put people in office who support it, Social Security will continue to thrive. If the people vote for candidates like Tom Cotton (Repub., Ark.) who oppose it, and if people like him achieve a majority in Congress with a like-minded President, Social Security will indeed fade away. It depends on whom the voters elect.

 

Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan: O'Neill served in the House from 1953 to 1987. He found that Reagan was the least informed President that he had ever worked with. However, he found that Reagan was likeable and someone he could talk to and negotiate with.

Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan: O’Neill (Dem., Mass.) served in the House from 1953 to 1987. He found that Reagan was the least informed President that he had ever worked with. However, he found that Reagan was likeable and someone he could talk to and negotiate with.

Both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush believed their elections in 1980 and 2004 were mandates to privatize and initiate the systematic destruction of Social Security. A Democratic majority in the House led by Speaker Tip O’Neill reached a compromise with Reagan to save it, and Reagan is still hated by many because of some of his cuts in benefits. Mr. Bush was stopped primarily by a horrified public. His sneak attack on Social Security may have played a huge role in the Democrats’ return to control of both houses of Congress  in the 2006 elections.

 

President Obama stunned nearly all of his supporters in his first term when he put Social Security and Medicare on the negotiating table to achieve a “grand bargain” with the Republicans on the budget. Luckily, the GOP didn’t realize they had won and turned him down because they had decided to never agree with him on anything. Many of Obama’s 2008 voters have never trusted him since. If he had agreed to weaken those programs, Mitt Romney would probably be President today because many previous Obama voters would have stayed home on Election Day 2012.

 

Bill Clinton: His worst official act as President was signing the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which deregulated banks and ultimately led to the Great Recession. Most people aren't aware of that, so he still quite popular and admired. But if he had weakened Social Security, as he planned, would he still be so well liked?

Bill Clinton: His worst official act as President was signing the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which deregulated banks and ultimately led to the Great Recession. Most people aren’t aware of that, so he’s still quite popular and admired. But if he had weakened Social Security, as he planned, would he still be so well-liked?

You may not be aware that Bill Clinton during his second term was also on the verge of negotiating away Social Security standards and essentially selling out the middle class and seniors. Neither Clinton nor Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (Repub., GA) trusted each other, but they both trusted the corporate Democrat and investment banker Erskine Bowles. According to Steven Gillon (author of The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry That Defined a Nation), it was Bowles’ secretive shuttle diplomacy that worked out a tentative deal to “fix” Social Security.

 

Under Clinton, the unemployment rate was down and the stock market was up, so they thought they might be able to get some public support for privatizing Social Security, raising the age of eligibility, and lowering the cost of living adjustments. All congressional Republicans would go for it, and they might get would enough corporate Democrats to go along.

 

Monica Lewinsky: Bill Clinton cheated on Hillary with this White House intern. Kenneth Starr was the special prosecutor who was assigned to find some reason to impeach Clinton. The Starr could do was to get Clinton to lie about his illicit relationship under oath.

Monica Lewinsky: Bill Clinton cheated on Hillary with this White House intern. Kenneth Starr was the special prosecutor who was assigned to find some reason to impeach Clinton. The best Starr could do was to get Clinton to lie about his illicit relationship under oath.

Fortunately, the Monica Lewinsky affair prevented the seniors and middle class from getting screwed. Their irresponsible eagerness to find a reason to impeach Clinton helped the Republicans lose some seats in the 1998 elections, and Newt Gingrich resigned from the House in humiliation. Because the House actually impeached him during the following lame duck session, Clinton needed all his Senate Democrats to support him. If they had known what he had been up to on Social Security, they may have abandoned him and let V.P. Al Gore become President. Thanks to Miss Lewinsky (bless her heart), we got rid of Gingrich “Khan” and saved Social Security at the same time.

 

On November 4, a majority of the 37% of registered voters who bothered to vote put both houses of Congress in the hands of the Fox-Republican-Tea Party, which is obsessed with sabotaging and ultimately destroying Social Security and Medicare. (That was the lowest voter turnout since 1942 when the nation was united by WWII.) That also means that the other 63% who neglected their obligation to democracy also “voted” to undermine Social Security and Medicare as well: silence is consent.

 

Tom Cotton: In Spite of having a very mean-spirited voting record in the House, Arkansas voters elevated him to the Senate. He is among the congressional majority who support Paul Ryan's scheme to "reform" and privatize Social Security.

Tom Cotton (Repub., Ark.): In spite of having a very mean-spirited voting record in the House, Arkansas voters elevated him to the Senate. His election may be emblematic of the darkness to come.

 

With the election of Mr. Cotton to the Senate, my home state of Arkansas doesn’t have a single supporter of Social Security and Medicare in Washington. Our four representatives in the House and now both senators are devoted to the agenda of the reactionary plutocracy that wants to dismantle our social safety net and return to the precarious past: the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist, Club for (Greed) Growth, Americans for Prosperity, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), et al.

 

Erskine Bowles and President Obama:  Bowles was Clinton's chief of staff (1997-98) and was no defender of Social Security. As co-chair of Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (2010), and he recommended austerity and deficit reduction at a time when we needed additional spending to recover from the Great Recession.

Erskine Bowles and President Obama: Bowles was Clinton’s chief of staff (1997-98) and was no defender of Social Security. As co-chair of Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (2010), he recommended austerity and deficit reduction at a time when we needed additional spending to recover from the Great Recession. The commission was deadlocked, and its final report was officially rejected. Nevertheless, Obama has been steadily reducing the deficit every year since, which helps explain our much too slow recovery.

Regrettably, even Pres. Obama has stacked his current 18-member Deficit Commission with 14 participants who favor cutting Social Security benefits. The meetings are held behind closed doors, and Erskine Bowles is its chairman! You’ve heard it before: they’re probably planning to recommend balancing the budget on the backs of the seniors.

 

 

 

The OCED (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) has compared the social security benefits of its 34 member nations and 8 other major economies and found the U.S. near the bottom. American workers’ benefits rank at number 36 among the 42 nations studied, right below Slovenia. We ought to be ashamed. Social Security is one of our most efficient and effective programs, but it should be made even better.

 

Instead, In January 2015 we will have a majority in Congress, and seemingly a President, that maliciously wants to reduce benefits, raise the age of eligibility to 70, and privatize it so the plutocracy can make a profit from it. This is what the majority of 2014 voters and all the no-shows evidently want. If that is what the richest country in the world truly desires, the future for American workers and seniors looks very bleak.

by David Offutt

A version of this essay was published in the November 20, 2014, edition of the Arkansas Times as a letter to the editor and in the November 26, 2014, edition of the El Dorado News-Times as a Guest Column.

 

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Great essay, David !

    The politics of SS are complicated, and date back to FDR. Contrary to popular perception, FDR was a pro-business conservative who had to be coerced to support progressive programs, including SS.

    As you know, during the early 30’s there were several popular movements to establish a national pension. Huey Long’s “Share Our Wealth” plan called for a generous national universal pension starting at age 60. Francis Townsend’s “Townsend Plan” also called for a generous pension at age 60. Both plans were wildly popular. Even Republican banker Marriner Eccles (later to become FDR’s Fed Chair) called for an old age pension when he testified to Congress in 1933. And then there was founding father Thomas Paine, who called for an old age pension starting at age 50!

    Faced with massive civil unrest, and the threat of Huey Long running as a 3rd party spoiler candidate in 1936 (which would have split the liberal vote and handed the White House to the Republican so that Huey could run again and win in 1940) FDR felt like he had no choice but to co-op a watered-down version of Huey’s plan, to “steal his thunder.”

    But while Huey Long and Marriner Eccles recommended funding pensions from the general budget, conservative FDR viewed such funding as an immoral “handout.” Instead, FDR wanted people to “pay for” their pension, hence we ended up with the regressive FICA tax and the so-called trust fund, even though FDR’s economic advisors strenuously objected to the regressive FICA tax. Interesting background story at the link: http://www.ssa.gov/history/Gulick.html

    Progressive taxation is one of the core policy positions of the left. No progressive should ever advocate regressive taxation, and yet here we are with a highly regressive FICA tax, thanks to conservative FDR. Lifting the cap would make FICA less regressive, but still regressive nonetheless.

    You never hear people saying “the CIA is in trouble because the CIA trust fund is running out of money.” Or “we can’t afford to bomb brown people because the Pentagon trust fund will run out of money 75 years from now.” That’s because those programs are “paid for” from the general budget, and a government that prints its own currency can pay any bill, limited only by inflation.

    Instead of making SS more secure, FDR’s conservative trust fund concept has become a noose around SS’s neck. It’s time to follow the advice of FDR’s economic advisors — get rid of the regressive payroll tax and instead “pay for” SS from the general budget, just like any other Federal program.

    Both corporate parties support the conservative “trust fund” concept and both corporate parties want to cut SS, differing only on details, so I don’t think it does matter much who you vote for.

    I agree with Howard Zinn that “voting is easy and marginally useful but a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.” The original SS program came into being because of the direct actions and public speaking of people like Huey Long, Francis Townsend, Marriner Eccles, and the various strikers and protest movements of the 30’s. FDR only reluctantly co-oped the old age pension concept he saw that the popular movement was unstoppable. We would do well to learn from the 30’s radicals — stop obsessing over which corporate politician to vote for, and instead support 3rd party candidates, speak out for radical changes, and participate in popular movements. Just my 2 cents. :-)

  2. UNIPARTY CUTS MEDICARE
    .
    “It includes $70 billion in offsets by making two structural changes to cut Medicare spending: force high-income seniors to kick in more for their care and reduce spending on supplemental Medigap plans.”
    .
    ‘There are also cuts from hospitals and skilled nursing centers.’
    .
    ‘Pelosi praised the deal, saying it had been a “privilege” to work with Boehner “in a bipartisan way on this legislation.’
    .
    “I hope it will be a model of things to come,” she said.
    .
    “I hope this bipartisan approach is contagious,” Jim McGovern (D-Mass) said.
    .
    President Obama gave it a strong endorsement, saying he has his “pen ready” to sign it.
    .
    http://mythfighter.com/2015/03/25/what-could-be-worse-than-this-congressional-bitter-disagreement/
    .
    http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/237068-house-passes-medicare-deal-in-overwhelming-392-37-vote

  3. More people are beginning to catch on to the latest Medicare “reform.”
    .
    “Reform” is politican-speak for anal rape.
    .
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/26/1373467/-180-House-Democrats-Just-Voted-to-Cut-Medicare-Benefits-Paving-Road-for-Future-Entitlement-Reform


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: