The Fight for Social Security

MadFloridian with the latest from Bill Greider on Social Security “reform”:

In setting up his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Barack Obama is again playing coy in public, but his intentions are widely understood among Washington insiders. The president intends to offer Social Security as a sacrificial lamb to entice conservative deficit hawks into a grand bipartisan compromise in which Democrats agree to cut Social Security benefits for future retirees while Republicans accede to significant tax increases to reduce government red ink.

…”The president has stacked the deck to encourage this strategy. The eighteen-member commission is top-heavy with fiscal conservatives and hostile right-wingers who yearn to dismantle the retirement program. The Republican co-chair, former Senator Alan Simpson, is especially nasty; he likes to get laughs by ridiculing wheezy old folks. Democratic co-chair Erskine Bowles and staff director Bruce Reed secretly negotiated a partial privatization of Social Security with Newt Gingrich back when they served in the Clinton White House, but the deal blew up with Clinton’s sex scandal. Monica Lewinsky saved the system.

What’s extraordinary about this assault on Social Security is that a Democratic president is leading it. Obama is arm in arm with GOP conservatives like Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, who for decades has demonized Social Security as a grave threat to the Republic and has spread some $12 million among economists, think tanks, foundations and assorted front groups to sell his case. If Obama pulls the deal off, this will be his version of “Nixon goes to China”—a leader proving his manhood by going against his party’s convictions. Even if he fails, the president will get some protective cover on the deficit issue. After all, he is targeting Big Government’s most beloved and trusted program—the New Deal’s most prominent pillar.

Obama’s initiative rests on two falsehoods spread by Peterson’s propaganda—the notion that Social Security somehow contributes to the swollen federal deficits and that cutting benefits will address this problem. Obama and his advisers do not say this in so many words, but their rhetoric implies that Social Security is a big source of the deficit problem. Major media promote the same falsehoods. Here is what the media don’t tell you: Social Security has accumulated a massive surplus—$2.5 trillion now, rising to $4.3 trillion by 2023. This vast wealth was collected over many years from workers under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) to pay in advance for baby boom retirements. The money will cover all benefits until the 2040s—unless Congress double-crosses workers by changing the rules. This nest egg does not belong to the government; it belongs to the people who paid for it. FICA is not a tax but involuntary savings.

He warns us to fight. I doubt we will fight over this any more than people are fighting to keep this administration from privatizing education. It is being done right before our eyes, yet even at Democratic forums there is no outrage, just denial.

Citizens can win this fight if they mobilize smartly. We can do this by arousing public alarm right now, while members of Congress face a treacherous election and before Obama can work out his deal. Some liberal groups are discussing a “take the pledge” campaign that demands senators and representatives sign commitments to keep Hands Off Social Security Benefits. If politicians refuse to sign, put them on the target list for November. Barack Obama is standing on the third rail of politics—let’s give him a warning jolt.

6 thoughts on “The Fight for Social Security

  1. It’s not denial, it’s resignation. I learned my lesson in the fall of 2008, when our current president was whipping votes for bankster bailouts. I watched C-SPAN for two days, during which I saw people like Donna Edwards vote against it, then come back the next day with hollow eyes and say that she had been offered “assurances.” She voted for it. I watched senators say they had received mountains of mail, 90-10 against, but so what, they said, the rubes don’t know what they’re talking about. They voted for it.

    The banksters want the Social Security money. Everything’s now in place for them to steal it. Does anyone really think a letter-writing campaign, sternly-worded phone calls, or street protests are going to keep them from that goal? Please.

  2. Social Security does contribute to the deficit, but only in the sense that we have now reached the point where the treasury has to begin paying back the money it “borrowed” in the fat years when Reagan and Stockman raised the FICA and Medicare taxes to supposedly cover the expenses of the baby boomers.

    Obviously they never intended to repay this money, witness GWB’s remarks about the Treasury Bonds in the SS trust fund being actually “worthless IOU’s”. He and his pals knew that they were worthless because they never intended to pay them off.

    This is simply a matter of President Obama signing on to the plan to default on the bonds and essentially steal the money to pay for the wars, TARP bailouts and other boondoggles. I expect that the agreement was made back during the primary times when Senator Obama suddenly went ahead of Mrs. Clinton in fund raising from banks and Wall Street.

  3. Pragmatic,
    Obama started off raising more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history. He’s a bad guy.

  4. Stealth candidate, stealth agenda, stealth enactments. That’s our DINO prez, Obama.

    What to do?

    Tomorrow, calls to both my Dem senators and to the DNC. And then call Bill Clinton’s office in NYC.

    You mess up SocSec, you’ve lost my support AND VOTE for the rest of my life. Since I’m only 252 days away from Medicare, I just might be able to hold to such a vow. When the Obama/Peterson “Let Them Eat Cat Food” Commission gets done with us, we seniors without private wealth won’t be doing very well. Choices between health care and food, shelter and food, you name it. We’ll be dying earlier than our parents, in all likelihood.

    Obama is working behind closed doors to sell our retirement security out to Wall Street, just as he sold out our health CARE to the Big Health Insurance Corporations.

    I’ll be saying to my representatives and VIPs in the Dem Party that if you Dems want to be corporate fluffers and Wall Street enablers, you’ve lost me and a whole lot of other voters.

    Will Obama get the money for lowering the debt? Somehow I don’t think that’s in Peterson’s or the Wall Streeters’ game plan. They want those huge amounts of money to add to their kitties for out and out gambling and self-enrichment.

    Wow, Obama, our first Republican elected as a Democrat. Not with my vote, but that makes absolutely no difference. In truth, if I’d been in a state that was in any danger of going Repub, I probably would have voted for Obama, since, while I knew he was not a liberal, I still thought he was going to be better than McCain! Hah! If McCain did one tenth of the things Obama is doing, he’d be hamstrung by Congress.

    Instead, we have the Dems unable to stand up to the DINO president!

    I never believed BushCo could be as bad as it was; I surely never dreamed Obama could be this bad. With Bush I realized early on that I had to try to envision the very worst he could do, because then I might be somewhat prepared for just how bad his actions really would be…. Same with Obama.

    Stealth candidate, stealth conservative.

  5. Any more ideas as to what to say to my reps and Dem VIPs? Wording would be very welcome.

    What would you say if you had time with some Dem leaders? Clinton? Biden? Obama himself?

  6. Well I would tell them:

    “Social Security isn’t broke. It has a tiny 25 year gap between projected income and cost (0.17% of payroll) and a somewhat larger one over the next 50 years (1.51%) that may or may not even happen, if we grow the economy in the next fifty years like we did the fifty years prior to Bush II the gap vanishes altogether.

    If you look at the actual numbers and stop listening to the liars around Peter G Peterson (Bixby, Walker, MacGuineas and assorted Clintonistas)”

    Shit if we could get every politician to read and understand Dean’ Baker’s 1998 book (into available here: they would understand why Dean and colleague Mark Weisbrot named it ‘Social Security: the Phony Crisis”.

    One component of Social Security, its Disability Insurance program IS broken. But the fix required is less than a dollar a week for most households. The OAS program is by the Trustees’s own stated standards fine until 2026, and even then will still be 10 years from an actual gap. 95% of what even friends of Social Security know about its state of finance is wrong, and the enemies are relatively evenly split between the liars and the fooled.

    Yes I know about increased longevity and 2:1 worker retiree ratios (which actually are not there, they had to twist the definition of ‘beneficiary’ to produce that’), all those factors are built into the model. And it still isn’t broke. Yes it is hard to believe, that is the direct result of a plan written up and published by Cato in 1983 under the authorship of Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis. They named the paper ‘Social Security Reform: Achieving a Leninist Strategy’ and that strategy worked to perfection. They set out to convince every worker currently under the age of 40 a set of ‘facts’ about Social Security that just are not true at all. Read Leninist Strategy and then Phony Crisis and realize just how deep the con went. ‘Leninist Strategy’ is the 11th paper down. Note the names of all of the authors of the papers in this Social Security issue. Many of them are still active today.

    Nobody like to admit they were taken for a ride, so this may be painful. But do it, your retirement is riding on it.

    (P.S. there was no ‘raid’ on Social Security, neither by Reagan or either Bush, every penny is exactly where it is supposed to be, the belief that something nefarious went on is just another part of the ‘Leninist Strategy’, one that requires some thinking through to see the fundamental dishonesty of the argument.)

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