The core issues
- Our enormous unemployment, much of which is seriously in danger of becoming permanent unemployment.
- The deterioration of manufacturing, meaning offshoring of manufacturing. The only way that can be dealt with is by cutting back on the overvalued dollar, which would improve possibilities for exports.
- The healthcare system, which is grotesque -- it's an international scandal;
- The outrageous amounts of military spending along with obscene amounts of spending on "Homeland Security," which now employs one million Americans, all across America, at a cost no one will tell us;
- The comparatively very low taxes for the rich and for corporations
All these are fundamental problems that have to be dealt with if there's going to be anything like successful economic and social development in the United States.
The entitlements crisis?
Once again, Social Security is not in any crisis. The trust fund alone will fully pay benefits for another 30 years. And after that, taxes will easily provide almost the same benefits. To worry about a possible problem 30 years from now, which can be fixed with a little bit of tampering here and there, as was done in 1983--to worry about that now just makes absolutely no sense whatsoever -- unless you're trying to destroy the program! It's a very successful program. A large number people rely on it. It doesn't pay munificently, but it at least keeps people alive -- not just retired people, but people with disabilities and others. It has very low administrative costs, is extremely efficient, and is no burden on the deficit. The effort to try to present the Social Security program as if it's a major problem, is nothing more than a stealthy way of trying to undermine it and destroy it.
There has been a lot of opposition to it since the 1930s, on the part of "extreme wealth and privilege," especially financial capital. They don't like it, for several reasons. One is that for the rich, it's meaningless. For anyone who's had a fairly decent income all their life, it's a tiny addition to your retirement and therefore doesn't mean much. Another, and much more important reason is that if the financial institutions and the insurance companies can get their hands on this huge financial resource, this immense amount of capital, they can make billions in profits from it. For example, if it gets privatized in some way, such as through vouchers, that would provide a huge bonanza for the Wall Street crowd. They would have trillions of dollars to play with -- the banks, the investment firms and so on.
But there's an even more disgusting reason why they're opposed to the current Social Security program, and it's rather similar to the reason for the effort to pretty much dismantle the public education system: Social Security is based on the principle that you care about other people. You care whether the disabled widow across town is going to be able to have food to eat. And if you're rich, and want to get richer (no matter what the costs to others), that's a notion you have to drive out of people's heads. The idea of solidarity, sympathy, mutual support -- that's doctrinally dangerous.
For most of the rich, the preferred doctrine is: just care about yourself, don't care about anyone else. For that's a very good way to trap and control people. The very idea that we're in it together, that we care about each other, that we have responsibility for one another, well that's sort of frightening to those who want a society which is dominated by their power, authority and wealth, in which the rest of us are passive and obedient. And this provides a considerable part of the drive, on the part of small, privileged sectors, to undermine what is a very efficient, very effective system on which a large part of the population relies, actually relies more than ever. Why reliant? Because their wealth, i.e. the wealth of the larger part of the middle class, was very much tied up in the housing market. Their homes represented the bulk of most of these folks' personal wealth. And that wealth quite predictably collapsed -- totally collapsed for vast numbers of middle-class Americans. These folks aren't (yet?) destitute by the standards of, say, slums in India or southern Africa, but very many of them are suffering severely. And now many of them, growing numbers of them, have nothing else to rely on except the pittance that they're getting from Social Security. (Ten thousand baby boomers now reach the age of 65 every day!) To take Social Security away from them would be just disastrous. And yet that's the Republican plan.