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Thanks For Asking, Fix the Debt!

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Richard Eskow
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The folks behind Fix the Debt, the corporate- and billionaire-funded group lobbying against Medicare and Social Security benefits, asked if people like me have a "solution" for Social Security's benefits or would rather "do nothing."

Hey, thanks for asking!

Like most Americans, I support increasing Social Security benefits and understand that there are very practical ways to make that happen. So we'll be glad to answer your question, Fix the Debt, about what really needs fixing.

Then we have a few questions for you.

A little bird told me ...

I recently published a column warning that the White House and Congress may be headed once again toward the entitlement-cutting "Grand Bargain." Both the Republicans' wish list and President Obama's budget include the "chained CPI" cut in Social Security benefits, and these cuts are being heavily pushed by lobbying groups like Fix the Debt.

That prompted this Twitter response from Fix the Debt:

@rjeskow Re: your column, is your solution to do nothing? If that's so, SS Trust Fund will exhaust in 2033 forcing 23% across-the-board cuts

Their tweet reflects what has become a very familiar tactic from the anti-Social Security playbook.

Bait and Switch

It works like this:

  1. First, create a false sense of crisis around an assumed problem -- one which is based on current projections about what will happen two decades or a quarter-century from now.
  2. At the same time, ignore the more immediate crises around us -- especially the crises of joblessness and stagnant wages which is making these long-term projections worse.
  3. Pretend that the long-term funding imbalance is not largely caused by the behavior of some Fix the Debt patrons -- especially the large Wall Street firms who wrecked the economy -- and isn't exacerbated by the taxpayer-bilking defense firms who are also funding Fix the Debt.
  4. Act as if the very real solutions which are out there -- and which the public is eager to support -- simply don't exist. (See, for example, economist Alice Rivlin. She is affiliated with billionaire Pete Peterson's anti-Social Security efforts. Fix the Debt CEO Maya MacGuineas also runs a group that's openly linked to Peterson's foundation.)
  5. This game of false premises even extends to purportedly liberal associates of the corporate anti-entitlement crowd, who write editorials which claim to lay out all the available options, but ignore the ones that corporations and wealthy individual funders dislike.
  6. Lastly, having created a false sense of emergency and artificially limited the debate, pretend that those who have better solutions aren't willing to make "tough choices" and would prefer to "do nothing." Hence the tweet from Fix the Debt.

We're glad you asked

Despite its wealthy funding sources, its c onservative ties, and its history, we will assume that Fix the Debt has asked their question in good faith -- and we're so glad they did. Those of us who are fighting to defend Social Security do have a "solution" to that long-term funding imbalance. In fact, we have a whole toolkit filled with them.

To improve a situation, you must first understand how it came to pass. Social Security's long-term shortfall was caused by factors which include:

Wealth inequality. Economist L. Josh Bivens and others have shown how the shift in national income to the wealthiest among us lowered Social Security's revenues.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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