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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/29/13

Say: "Make Social Security Fair."

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3c23278u Let's finish what FDR started!
3c23278u Let's finish what FDR started!
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3c23278u Let's finish what FDR started! by Children's Bureau Centennial

Say: "Make Social Security Fair."

by Susan C. Strong

Although many have bitterly protested the President's proposal to substitute a new-fangled "chained consumer price index" for normal methods of calculating cost of living increases for Social Security, we need to say a lot more than "no" or "don't do it."

  "Chained?" Sounds like a chain gang, doesn't it. Or at least something to do with crime or slavery. In fact, many knowledgeable critics have said that the "chained CPI" will harm our seniors and disabled folks, the very people Social Security was designed to help. Unlike younger, more able citizens, they cannot easily choose cheaper products or services, given their special needs. In short, they will become the de facto "slaves" of today's misguided budget cutters.

But it looks like those same deficit hawks are themselves the dupes of what has been recently revealed to be nothing but a form of "junk economics."   New research has found important errors in the economic model on which all the debt hysteria is based. (1) The original Reinhart-Rogoff study on the effect of government debt on economic growth has been shown to be full of Excel errors. Their results could not be replicated in some separate independent economic research. It may sound harsh to accuse the authors of the original study of "junk economics."   But when Excel errors are taken for gospel truth, it's time to get tough with our framing. Real people and economies are getting hurt everywhere, not just here at home.

Of course, we know that the G.O.P. won't admit the mistake. They will just go on screaming about the deficit and the debt, because it serves the ultimate goal of their corporate masters.   They want to drown our government (and the American people) in a bathtub of human misery. They aim to see the American public reduced to such desperation that big corporations can get away with anything and everything they wish. They are just fine with cutting jobs   everywhere   and   watching the U.S. economy slow, stall, and spiral down. They're o.k. with consigning countless perfectly able American citizens to the new hell of the "unemployable," if they have been out of work for more than six months. The G.O.P. believed they could drive the American public into this corner, because they used the power of the "household budget" metaphor to argue that cuts are the cure. However, new chaos in the airline industry and fear of food poisoning at meatpackers show that cuts can kill instead.   Already Congress is starting to back up on pieces of the sequester.

  When it comes to the Social Security issue, the best defense is also a good offense. That's why I favor the idea that we should issue a call to "make Social Security fair" instead of just saying "no" to the chained CPI.   How to make it fair? Say: "Dump the income cap." (I know that "scrap the cap" is out there, but we need to specify what the "cap" is. Mainstream America may not know about the "cap.") It's amazing that there ever was a level of income beyond which people didn't have to pay into the Social Security fund.   It certainly was never fair to have an income cut off figure of $113,700, beyond which the rich got off scot free. Economists who have studied the matter say that making this single change would correct every problem the coming baby boomer bulge is expected to create. Moreover, getting rid of the income cap would be a way to do something about the biggest economic problem we have today--the income inequality that is keeping us trapped in a sluggish economy. (2)  

  We need to get Social Security back to being the dangerous to touch "third rail" of American politics. If the G.O.P. screams that getting rid of the income cap is a tax increase, let them. That should be our opening gambit, not the chained CPI. Democratic politicians, including the President, need to learn that we aren't going to just say "no."   We need to invoke the same sense of drastic unfairness that is driving such dramatic reform in the fields of gay rights and immigrant rights.   Senior rights and disabled rights are at stake in this fight.   Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and founder of the new blog, Mythic America, , has pointed out that the deficit hawks are invoking a decades-old but fundamental American myth , the homeland insecurity myth. This story is being used to destroy the New Deal social contract story, on which fairness in our society depends. (3)   Well, two can play the homeland insecurity game, and it's time we stepped it up. Once it becomes o.k. to start stealing a little from seniors and the disabled, they will go on to steal more and more, and our republic will be in even more danger of economic collapse than it is now.

Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of The Metaphor Project," target="_blank""">, and author of our new book, Move Our Message: How To Get America's Ear.   The Metaphor Project has been helping progressives mainstream their messages since 1997.

l. Annie Lowrey, "A Study That Set the Tone for Austerity is Challenged,"   Economix Blog, , The New York Times,   4.16.2013, and Paul Krugman, "The 1 Percent's Solution," The New York Times, 4.25.13,

2. Robert Reich, "Why This Is the Worst Recovery on Record," Robert Reich's blog, , 4.16.13.

3. Ira Chernus, "Social Security Cuts: More Than Money At Stake," Mythic America, , 4.08.2013.

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Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Metaphor Project. She is also the author of our new book, MOVE OUR MESSAGE: HOW TO GET AMERICA'S EAR, available on our website. The mission of the Metaphor Project is helping (more...)

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