Monday, August 20, 2012

Social Security Under Siege: Sen. Bernie Sanders

I could not possibly describe the situation better than Sen. Sanders does:

... Before Social Security existed, about half of America’s senior citizens lived in poverty. Today, less than 10 percent live in poverty.

Today, Social Security not only provides retirement security but also enables millions of people with disabilities and widows, widowers and children to live in dignity and security.


In these highly-volatile economic times, when millions of Americans lost their life savings in the 2008 Wall Street crash, it is important to remember that since its inception, through good economic times and bad, Social Security has paid every penny owed to every eligible beneficiary.

... Social Security, which is funded by the payroll tax, does not contribute to the deficit. In fact, the Social Security Trust Fund today, according to the Social Security Administration, has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay 100 percent of all benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 21 years.
... Social Security is run with very modest administrative costs.


As Sen. Sanders emphasizes, the same is very much NOT true of Wall Street firms, where people like Paul Ryan and Pete Peterson want to put Social Security money. We all remember what happened in 2007 when the last bubble burst, yielding the great crash of 2008. If you believe the future does not hold a similar crash at some point, you are a sucker, ready to be taken for everything you've put into Social Security through the payroll tax over the years. Sucker, or smart taxpayer... which will it be?

Sen. Sanders is rightly wary of President Obama's approach to Social Security: the president emphatically said "no cuts" before the 2008 elections, and now isn't saying anything much, except vague statements that it may have to be cut. Sen. Sanders has challenged this by introducing a bill that advocates exactly the program Obama advocated in 2008. I have my doubts that that bill will have any champions except for Sanders in this Dog-awful Congress we have today.

There is no rational basis for cutting Social Security at all:
  • It works... well. 
  • It is solvent. 
  • It is in no way a financial burden; indeed, it runs a surplus. 
  • It will pay out its scheduled benefits for 21 years with no alterations. 
  • With one small change (and this is the crux of the radical Right's real objection), it could continue paying out scheduled benefits indefinitely. 

The change? apply the payroll tax to annual income above $250,000. I have never understood why there is a cap on the payroll tax income in the first place, but we will somehow have to beat down the wealthy bastards, the Pete Petersons, the Mitt Rmoneys, the Paul Ryans of the country, to achieve fairness on this issue. In the Declaration of Independence, there is a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no similar right to be obscenely wealthy and not share that wealth with society. Benjamin Franklin said it superbly well:
Private Property therefore is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society, whenever its Necessities shall require it, even to its last Farthing; its Contributions therefore to the public Exigencies are not to be considered as conferring a Benefit on the Publick, entitling the Contributors to the Distinctions of Honour and Power, but as the Return of an Obligation previously received, or the Payment of a just Debt.
And there you have it.


  1. Well done. The clarion call for alarm is shrill now, and still the mass of Americans dull their way through another day. Both
    Hedges and Paul Craig Robert are beyond alarmed:

    and: 28a

  2. karmanot, it is late at night here, and I am drunk on cheap wine. That is not unintentional. Despite the pain in my foot, I actually drove out and bought the wine, knowing exactly the state I would be in within a couple of hours. At least the foot pain is numbed a bit. The soul pain is more resistant.

    Those two articles you linked are tough to absorb. Given the authors, they are probably largely true. I have ceased my resistance (in vain) to believing conspiracy theories; forgive me, sainted Molly Ivins, who believed that ignorance, greed and incompetence were sufficient to explain anything otherwise attributable to conspiracy. Conspiracies are real, Molly notwithstanding.

    The more I read about the vast capacity and capability of the human brain, the more I regret its probable engineering of its own total demise. No grand destiny begot this horror: it was ours to choose, and some of us chose it. For the rest of us.

    I cannot begin to address all of what Hedges and Roberts offer. It is horrifying to a degree and in a manner that simply cannot be answered. Simple aggressive Republican misogynism seems positively innocuous by comparison, as repugnant as it may be.

    At the moment, I am without hope. I fear we cannot win this one... and by "we" I mean the people of good will in the world, and by "this one" I mean the survival of human freedom.

    Dog preserve us all!

  3. Steve,
    Excellent post!
    Deeply touched by your reply to karmanot ...

    (as far as I am concerned, I have not always time to do research, but I try to help and contribute as I can)

  4. Thanks, Enfant. I do tend to turn loose my most passionate diatribes after several glasses of wine! :-) Amazingly I do not have a headache this morning, but I still have that sense of overwhelming sadness that I had last night. I hope I can overcome it. Actually, I hope the reasons for it can be made to go away!

    Your research has helped me greatly, and I am sure you will help again when time permits. Thank you!



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