Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Democrats Apparently Join Bipartisan Effort To Shovel Social Security Bullshit


Most of us who have at least half a brain are familiar with the simple facts presented (for example) in Dean Baker's and Mark Weisbrot's Social Security: The Phony Crisis, all of which boil down to this: Social Security is solvent, unchanged, for approximately the next 30 years. Moreover, minor changes will extend even that unprecedented longevity.

Yet there is a growing caucus in Congress and elsewhere that repeatedly and stridently shouts that Social Security is going under. One has to make some unsupportably dire assumptions... microscopic growth rates and failure of all kinds of safeguards... to advocate this argument without being laughed off the public stage. But all kinds of people have advanced this position for long enough that many people believe it, evidence be damned. From the above-linked book, published in 1999 but as valid as ever:

The Social Security system is currently threatened more than ever before in its [75]-year history. The problem is not financial, economic or demographic — the standard projections provide no basis for serious concern about the program's financial survival. Nor is the problem a lack of political support for Social Security. This continues to be overwhelming. The problem is that people have become convinced that the program is in serious trouble. As a result of a steady stream of misinformation, the public could possibly allow a program that it values immensely to be seriously undermined or dismantled. Ironically, the greatest threat to Social Security has come from its would-be rescuers.
In the 12 years since Baker and Weisbrot wrote those words, many Republicans have seized upon the opportunity to plant the notion of the impending failure of Social Security deep in the public consciousness, advocating dismantling or privatizing Social Security for what I trust is their own obvious political advantage.

Now it appears many Democrats are joining the effort to misrepresent the status and projected survivability of Social Security, as Brian Beutler of TPM explains:

There's no big surprise there. The Republican minority in the House doesn't have a lot of power, but if Boehner had his druthers, he might well take things quite a bit further. He's the one, after all, who won't take Social Security privatization off the table if Republicans retake the House.

It's the Democrats who have progressives feeling queasy.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer explicitly put the idea on the table as well in a speech last month. "We should consider a higher retirement age or one pegged to lifespan," Hoyer said.
Et tu, Brute?

The Democrats appear to be abandoning, not just the left, not just the center, indeed not any particular political position, but arguably the most popular public program in American history. It ain't broke. But with the Republicans, they intend to fix it.

It's time to get out your pitchforks and torches, folks... metaphorical or otherwise.

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