Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Conservatives Are Still Working Across The Aisle To Wreck Social Security


As the Republican Party has, over the past 3 decades moved further and further right, a certain kind of conservative Democrat unenamored of a progressive world view, has moved in into to fill the void on the center-right that the GOP has abandoned for their more and more commonplace, Hate Talk Radio-driven extremism. Conservatives have always loathed Social Security and have tried to stop it and undermine it since it was first proposed. Ayn Rand Republicans like Paul Ryan are convinced from their adolescent adventures with her books that Social Security and other social safety net programs make Americans weaker and cost their wealthy political financiers too much in taxes. And Republicans have whined for decades that Democrats have used Social Security as a cudgel against them every time an election rolled around. Unfortunately, now that Blue Dogs, the DLC, Third Way and the Wall Street owned-and-operated New Dems has sullied the Democratic brand, voters are confused about which party stands for what.

Most, but not all, Democrats still abhor moving away from Social Security and conservative establishment Democrats who have tried doing it have gotten burned. Yesterday, at HuffPo, Daniel Marans wrote that conservative Dems who have backed Republican proposals to cut Social Security are being treated the way Democrats have long treated Republicans. It's stung corrupt establishment types like Patrick Murphy and Chris Van Hollen, both of whom have advocated for cuts to benefits. Murphy and Von Hollen, as well as other conservaDems have tried to dial back their support for Simpson Bowles and its proposals to wreck Social Security. Clinton has been very careful to pretend she's progressive on issues like Social Security while she's in a fierce primary battle with one of Congress' staunchest advocates for expanding it. But some incumbents from her wing of the party are finding themselves easy targets for progressives appealing to Democratic primary voters. Marans dealt mostly with Senate races, but this is playing out in the House primary battles as well.
Democratic Senate candidates in several key races are attacking their opponents for being weak on Social Security. Only this time their opponents are not Republicans-- they are Democrats in contentious primaries across the country.

Social Security is an issue of interest to voters in both parties that could play a role in this year’s elections.

But it is also a key front in a war for the soul of the Democratic Party in which the populist, progressive wing is increasingly on the march against the party’s business-friendly elite. And the popularity in this year’s primary season of running against even the slightest openness to Social Security cuts is the latest sign that the former group, sometimes nicknamed the Elizabeth Warren wing, is ascendant.

The campaign of California Senate candidate and state Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) is hinting it will soon play the Social Security card in earnest against her top opponent, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.).

Harris’ campaign points to remarks by Sanchez expressing support for a “grand bargain” to reduce the debt modeled on the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson commission, which was appointed by President Barack Obama. Major cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age and cutting the cost-of-living adjustment, were among the bipartisan commission’s most controversial proposals.

“I mean, the reality is we do have to take a look at everything,” Sanchez told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly in October 2013, “as Simpson-Bowles did in their report and said, ‘Listen, you have got to put everything on the table-- entitlements, defense, everything else.’”

Sanchez added that she is “a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, that’s Democratic fiscal conservatives. And we endorse the Bowles-Simpson plan.”

Sanchez stands by her openness to broker a deal that includes Social Security cuts.
New Dems are less willing to publicly admit they're on the same page, but they are-- and that includes some of the most right-wing Democrats in the House, like Republican-lite Californians Ami Bera, Jim Costa and Scott Peters, each of whom was denied an endorsement by the California Labor Federation last week, as well as Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY) and, of course, Patrick Murphy (FL). Murphy's position on Social Security-- he's a rich spoiled Republican who recently decided to pretend to be a Democrat-- is typical of the New Dems. Watch:

"Grayson is pinning his hopes on a record of staunch opposition to Social Security cuts," wrote Marans, "and support for benefits expansion. Grayson told Politico Pro that Murphy became active as a freshman in 2013 in budget compromise efforts that would have cut Social Security." Murphy, panic-stricken, denies it and refuses to debate Grayson for exactly that reason.

Similarly Chris Van Hollen has also signaled he's willing to compromise away-- Republican style-- Social Security benefits the same way Murphy has. His progressive primary opponent, Rep. Donna Edwards, has voted against doing any such thing and her very first TV ad in the Senate race has been to remind Maryland voters that Van Hollen is no more their friend than Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell are, each of whose stated positions-- to "save" Social Security by cutting benefits-- are identical to Van Hollen's (and Murphy's).

A Pew study released on March 31 found that opposition to Social Security cuts is the only position shared by a majority of the supporters of all of the presidential candidates in both parties.

So when liberal groups first began to mobilize against cuts in the Bowles-Simpson era, they found fertile ground for changing the policy conversation. Progressives argued that Social Security should actually be expanded to address a growing retirement income deficit.

Elizabeth Warren’s impassioned November 2013 speech embracing benefits expansion became a turning point that helped move the idea into the mainstream. The New York Times editorial board endorsed Social Security expansion in January. And both Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to increase benefits, not cut them.

Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, one of the groups that led the charge to make Social Security expansion a progressive priority, called the era when Democrats flirted with bipartisan deals to cut the program an “aberration.”

Democratic Senate candidates’ punishment of opponents who were part of those efforts in any way is a vindication of the political, as well as the “obvious policy and moral” argument Social Security Works has made since 2010, according to Lawson.

Lawson said putting a political price on past support for Bowles-Simpson “is not an ideological purity thing. This is about millions of Americans somehow getting by on benefits of $14, $15, $16,000 a year and elected officials thinking they can cut benefits.”
The founder of Lawson's outfit, SocialSecurityWorks is Eric Kingson, who is running for a Syracuse-based upstate New York congressional seat held by anti-Social Security Republican-- a would-be privatizer-- John Katko. Eric also has two plodding Democratic establishment primary opponents who are versions of Van Hollen and Murphy. Kingson is in no mood to compromise away the earned benefits of working men and women in need of the social safety net. In explaining what motivated his run for Congress, he told us, "No question, I want to keep fighting powerful interest groups advocating cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, when the average benefit of today’s retirees is just $16,000, and when these benefits need to be expanded, not cut.  I want to continue the work of blocking cuts and laying the foundation for expanding Social Security as an instrument of social justice... [D]don’t believe the 'chattering class' intonations about not being able to afford Social Security, that it is going broke. Social Security has three streams of income, two of them ongoing no matter what-- contributions from the earnings of workers and income from treating some Social Security benefits as taxable. It’s an extraordinary efficient system. Less than 1% of its expenditures go toward paying for its administration (hmm… imagine what percentages Wall Street and financial managers would take if they could get their hands on our Social Security!). Today’s Social Security expenditures represent only 5.1% of GDP; and will be roughly 6.2% of GDP at the height of the retirement of baby boomers in 2035 and about the same until the end of the century. As a growing number of Democrats propose, if Congress passed legislation requiring millionaires and billionaires to make the same payroll contribution of 6.2% on all their earnings (just like everyone earning under $118,500 do today), roughly three-quarters of the projected shortfall would disappear overnight. And there are many other reasonable revenue changes that can and should provide resources for expanding benefits for today’s workers and today’s Social Security beneficiaries."

Eric promises to work for a program of Social Security expansion that includes these 7 point:
increase monthly Social Security benefits by roughly $100;
assure that Social Security’s cost-of-living-adjustment fully maintains the purchasing power of benefits;
strengthen Medicare, including adding dental, hearing and eyesight protections;
expand home and community services that support people of all ages with severe disabilities and their caregivers;
lower the age of eligibility for Medicare;
increase minimum wages to a living wage which will result in more income today and a larger Social Security benefit in the future; and
add paid family leave to Social Security to support those needing time away from work to care for family members or when sick.
That's very different from what the Blue Dogs, New Dems and Republicans want. Another Blue America-backed candidate on the same page as Eric is fighting the good fight clear across the country from Syracuse. Former Oregon state legislator Dave McTeague is taking on the head of the Blue Dogs, Kurt Schrader who gives idiots like Loretta Sanchez their talking points. Last June the Northwest Labor Press exposed Schrader by reminding Oregonians that two years earlier (2013) Schrader "introduced legislation directing President Obama to follow the unofficial Simpson-Bowles recommendations. The recommendations included cutting Social Security benefits, shifting Medicare costs to beneficiaries, lowering tax rates for the wealthy and corporations, and increasing tax incentives for shipping jobs overseas." Schrader referred to AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka as "a bully" for standing up for working families and retired seniors. Last night McTeague told us that "Social Security is the most important safety net program ever enacted in the United States. It provides a minimal but base level of income for senior and disabled persons, without which millions would be completely destitute. I strongly oppose any cuts and oppose all efforts to 'privatize' the system. I support Sen. Bernie Sander's plan to lift the cap on income taxed for social security purposes. This allows us extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 50 years. With this we will be able to to expand benefits by an average of $65 a month; increase cost-of-living-adjustments; and lift more seniors out of poverty. This will help millions of people and make the underlying taxation for Social Security more progressive."

Alex Lawson from SocialSecurityWorks pointed out yesterday that "Greedy liars on Wall Street have used income inequality to build wealth and power for decades. They have used this wealth and power to attempt to dismantle our Social Security system, Medicare, Medicaid, and any regulations that stand between them and consolidating more power." The DCCC and DSCC oppose all of these candidates and are working furiously to undercut them and bolster the election efforts of the Patrick Murphys, Chris Van Hollens, Kurt Schraders and the others from the Republican-wing of the Democratic Party. Please consider supporting Alan Grayson, Donna Edwards, Dave McTeague, Eric Kingson and the other Social Security expansion supporters on the list of candidates you'll see by clicking on this lovely blue thermometer:
Goal Thermometer

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At 7:32 AM, Anonymous willf said...

Ii is heartening to see lefty Democrats going after the DINOs who would try to gut Social Security benefits. It is past time that the greed-headed DLC types paid a price for trying to dismantle a popular and necessary program that has helped so many.

One quibble with the PuffHo story linked above:

Harris’ campaign points to remarks by Sanchez expressing support for a “grand bargain” to reduce the debt modeled on the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson commission, which was appointed by President Barack Obama. Major cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age and cutting the cost-of-living adjustment, were among the bipartisan commission’s most controversial proposals.

The Simpson-Bowles commission (not Bowles-Simpson) never released ANY recommendations. The final committee, stacked though it was with Peterson flacks, still could not come to a final agreement on a statement. The two people at the head of the committee (Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles) released a statement of their own that made the suggestions the PuffHo author mentions. But they were NOT the official recommendations of the committee (even though Obama went ahead and acted like they were such).


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