Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why So Many Republican Politicians Want To Destroy Social Security


Monday Paul Krugman used his column to explain why-- after 80 years-- Republicans are still working to wreck Social Security. Americans love Social Security and it's not a smart move to try to undermine it... but then Republicans know their potentially suicidal moves won't destroy them, because of a confused and thoroughly dysfunctional Democratic Party. So why not take a shot? Krugman:
The retirement program is, of course, both extremely popular and a long-term target of conservatives, who want to kill it precisely because its popularity helps legitimize government action in general. As the right-wing activist Stephen Moore (now chief economist of the Heritage Foundation) once declared, Social Security is “the soft underbelly of the welfare state”; “jab your spear through that” and you can undermine the whole thing.

But that was a decade ago, during former President George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize the program-- and what Mr. Bush learned was that the underbelly wasn’t that soft after all. Despite the political momentum coming from the G.O.P.’s victory in the 2004 election, despite support from much of the media establishment, the assault on Social Security quickly crashed and burned. Voters, it turns out, like Social Security as it is, and don’t want it cut.

It’s remarkable, then, that most of the Republicans who would be president seem to be lining up for another round of punishment. In particular, they’ve been declaring that the retirement age-- which has already been pushed up from 65 to 66, and is scheduled to rise to 67-- should go up even further.

Thus, Jeb Bush says that the retirement age should be pushed back to "68 or 70." Scott Walker has echoed that position. Marco Rubio wants both to raise the retirement age and to cut benefits for higher-income seniors. Rand Paul wants to raise the retirement age to 70 and means-test benefits. Ted Cruz wants to revive the Bush privatization plan.

For the record, these proposals would be really bad public policy-- a harsh blow to Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution, who depend on Social Security, often have jobs that involve manual labor, and have not, in fact, seen a big rise in life expectancy. Meanwhile, the decline of private pensions has left working Americans more reliant on Social Security than ever.

...What’s puzzling about the renewed Republican assault on Social Security is that it looks like bad politics as well as bad policy. Americans love Social Security, so why aren’t the candidates at least pretending to share that sentiment?

Wealthy individuals have long played a disproportionate role in politics, but we’ve never seen anything like what’s happening now: domination of campaign finance, especially on the Republican side, by a tiny group of immensely wealthy donors. Indeed, more than half the funds raised by Republican candidates through June came from just 130 families.

And while most Americans love Social Security, the wealthy don’t. Two years ago a pioneering study of the policy preferences of the very wealthy found many contrasts with the views of the general public; as you might expect, the rich are politically different from you and me. But nowhere are they as different as they are on the matter of Social Security. By a very wide margin, ordinary Americans want to see Social Security expanded. But by an even wider margin, Americans in the top 1 percent want to see it cut. And guess whose preferences are prevailing among Republican candidates.

You often see political analyses pointing out, rightly, that voting in actual primaries is preceded by an “invisible primary” in which candidates compete for the support of crucial elites. But who are these elites? In the past, it might have been members of the political establishment and other opinion leaders. But what the new attack on Social Security tells us is that the rules have changed. Nowadays, at least on the Republican side, the invisible primary has been reduced to a stark competition for the affections and, of course, the money of a few dozen plutocrats.

What this means, in turn, is that the eventual Republican nominee-- assuming that it’s not Mr. Trump-- will be committed not just to a renewed attack on Social Security but to a broader plutocratic agenda. Whatever the rhetoric, the GOP is on track to nominate someone who has won over the big money by promising government by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent.
The oldest candidate Blue America has endorsed this year is Eric Kingson, in NY-24. He's a Social Security expert and he agreed with Krugman's characterization of the nature of the Republican opposition to it. This morning he reminded us:
The super-rich who are funding Republican presidential candidates, and trying to turn American politics into their personal financial Game of Thrones, don't care a whit about working Americans. As Krugman writes, because Social Security is the finest example of government that works well for the American people, they want their presidential candidates to advocate pulling it apart bit by brick.
The youngest House candidate endorsed by Blue America this cycle is Alex Law, who will turn 25 just in time to take his seat if he defeats corrupt New Jersey DINO Donald Norcross. Law's empathy for senior citizens makes him wise beyond his years.
Republicans who are trying to raise the retirement age of Social Security are looking at the problem in entirely the wrong way," he told us today. "Rather than forcing middle class Americans to work even longer before retirement, we should look to raise the threshold of income that is taxes for social security. By doing this, we secure the future of Social Security without harming the millions of Americans that depend on it.
And our most recent endorsee, Paul Clements, who has decided to give reactionary anti-Social Security Republican Fred Upton a run for his money-- and Upton inherited millions of dollars-- again this cycle, has urged his fellow Democrats to "stand up to Republican attacks on Social Security! We need to strengthen it-- by removing the ceiling on income subject to Social Security tax." That's exactly what he intends to work for if southwest Michigan voters send him to Congress next year.

If you want to make sure Social Security stays healthy and vibrant, defeating Republicans at every level of government would make a lot of sense. And electing Social Security boosters like Alex Law, Paul Clements and Eric Kingson, co-founder of SocialSecurityWorks, would make just as much sense. They're all on the same page.

UPDATE: Grayson Says There's Still Hope For Some Republicans

He won't need that many to get his new Social Security expansion bill through Congress-- and he thinks he can find enough decent Republicans to do it. Grayson told Mitch Perry, a writer for Florida Politics that the 300 billion seniors have been cheated out of can be solved with his new legislation. For Grayson, like all progressive Democrats scrapping the cap is key. But his new bill, Seniors Have Eyes, Ears and Teeth Act expands Medicare to include exams, treatments, and medical devices for eyes, ears, and teeth, which are currently excluded. He immediately picked up 76 co-sponsors for the bill (in just 2 days)-- from the most liberal Members of the House like Mark Pocan (D-WI), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Donna Edwards (D-MD), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) to the most conservative Democrats in Congress, like Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL), Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE), and John Delaney (New Dem-MD). But what about Republicans? Grayson says that "We’re talking about being fair to seniors. Seniors can be Republicans, Democrats, independents. This is not really an ideological matter in any real sense. It’s a matter of the government essentially cheating seniors out of large amounts of money, and I think the Republicans should be just as sensitive of that as the Democrats, that we need to be fair to everybody and keep the promises that we make." There are now 80 co-sponsors, but none are Republicans-- and the "ex"-Republican running against Grayson for Florida's open Senate seat, Wall Street owned and operated subsidiary Patrick Murphy, has also refused to sign on.

And Joe Scarborough didn't even get to Social Security this morning in his denunciation of the field of sociopaths his party is offering for the presidency. This is worth watching:

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At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not that "Republican politicians want to destroy Social Security."

Social Security is a massive collection of "other peoples' money." As such it cannot be considered "a valid governmental function" unless and until the major part of that collection is funneled directly into their own off-shore, non-taxed bank accounts.

They are 1) the nation's true thugs, 2) the creators & major beneficiaries of the "entitlement/dependency" mentality and 3) general, death-dealing, societal parasites. (This characterization originates among the various puppet masters of said GOP politicians.)

Note: I read only the title before above ventilation.

John Puma

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Theodore Wirth said...

There's nothing puzzling about it. Republicans are the puppets and big money are the ventriloquists. They can't gamble with that big pot of mmoney and it engrages them. Besides, its clear that Republican candidates do not give a hoot about what a majority of voters think from the get-go.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing that an article can go on about Republican thugs who want to destroy Social Security and mention Democrats like, say, Barack "Grand Bargain" Obama only glancingly at the very beginning. Fact is, we have about 1 3/4 Republican Parties right now.


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