Is our country losing the vision and values which gave rise to Social Security?
Social Security benefits lag far behind those of other developed countries. A new analysis of census data shows that elder poverty is much higher than we first realized. And yet the discussion in Washington is of cutting, not expanding, it. The number of impoverished seniors would rise sharply if that happened, or if the Medicare cuts currently under discussion became law.
The numbers say that Social Security should be increased, not cut, and most Americans agree.
But the Social Security cutters, financed by billions and aided by their network of powerful friends in government and the media, are appealing to the human heart. That's a bitter irony for a policy prescription that even their own consciences must recognize is heartless.
We (heart) Social Security
Social Security, one of the most popular and reliable programs in the United States, is under concerted attack from corporate and Wall Street interests. Both the Republicans and President Obama have proposed to cut it.
The case against this ill-advised move has been made again and again. Polls, charts, graphs and logic have been deployed in support of a simple message: Social Security must be expanded, not reduced.
So why -- why, in the name of all that's good and decent -- aren't we expanding Social Security? Why does the president's proposed budget still include the "chained CPI," which would raise taxes on the drowning middle class while cutting Social Security benefits?
There have been several proposals to expand Social Security. These proposals would also make it fiscally impregnable for the foreseeable future, as far as the actuarial eye can see. Why have they received so little press attention and political support?
Maybe it's a matter of heart, of soul, of vision. The Social Security Cutters are putting all they've got -- personal and emotional, as well as financial -- into the fight against Social Security. They've created a narrative which is false, but is simple and internally coherent. Their vision can be summed up with these words:
We can't afford it.
That's not true. It's time for a better vision, one which is more fiscally sound -- and truer to our values as a society.
Motive and Opportunity
The Social Security Cutters are funded by hedge fund billionaires, major Wall Street bankers, and defense contractor CEOs. Their spokespeople include a handful of economists whose views get disproportionate attention, thanks to the money behind them, along with a hefty chunk of Democratic "centrists" whose policy prescriptions on Social Security are to the right of most Republicans.
The funders' motives are clear: Cutting Social Security would lead to more funds under Wall Street's management. It would also lead to less public pressure to tax ultra-wealthy individuals like themselves.