Election 2014  
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What You Need to Know About Obama and the Social Security Sell-Out

The Raiders of Your Lost Retirement are busy laying plans in Washington. Will Obama help them if re-elected?

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The Success of Social Security

There was a time, a couple of generations back, when old age carried the threat of the poor house. In a more agrarian society, you hoped you had enough children to help support you to avoid this fate. Today, when people have fewer kids, not to mention shoddy retirement plans and disappearing pensions, there is very little to come between you and economic disaster in your golden years. Except Social Security. Today, Social Security benefits represent about 39 percent of the income of the elderly. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 45 percent of Americans over 65 would plunge into poverty without Social Security.

Taxed-advantaged 401(k)s and IRAs will help the affluent, but they will not do enough for middle and working class people in retirement. Plans to cut the Social Security favored by Bowles and his partner in crime Alan Simpson, including raising the retirement age, are nothing more than bad policies based on economic falsehoods. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman pointed out recently in the New York Times, raising the retirement age is “totally at odds with the reality of an America in which rising inequality is reflected not just in the quality of life but in its duration.” Life expectancy, he reminds us, is actually falling for a substantial part of the nation.

When Social Security raiders claim that the program needs to be “fixed,” they are getting out their crystal balls and talking about 2033, when, according to forecasts by the trustees of the Social Security trust fund there might – key word, might – be a shortfall in revenues against predicted claims. And that’s only in the context of a very conservative view of economic growth. It might be reasonable to imagine that there could be adjustments that need to made a couple of decades down the road  -- such as making the rich pay social security taxes on the money they make over the current low ceiling of just over $100,000 -- but there is no justification for doing anything now. The Raiders of Your Lost Retirement use the excuse of the Great Recession, which destroyed jobs and therefore revenue, to jump on the program and start shredding it.

Americans are smart enough to see through this. A 2011 poll shows that most do not believe the program is in crisis, despite all the political lies and posturing. In fact, most men and women would like to see benefits increased! Why? Because unlike Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, they are not wealthy, and after decades of of hard work they feel they have earned the right to a dignified old age.

Occupy 2.0?

The fact that Americans are not fooled by the political lies brings me to another point.

Remember, the long, hot summer of discontent in 2011, when all you heard about was the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan and the manufactured crisis of the debt ceiling? The public disgust over that dismal spectacle set the stage for the Occupy movement to take off in early autumn.

If a re-elected Obama tries to cut Social Security while bargaining over a non-existent fiscal cliff, we might just get Occupy 2.0. Polls are clear: most Americans, regardless of political affiliations, support Social Security. They don’t want benefit cuts and they don’t want the retirement age raised. They know perfectly well that the idea of blue-collar folks working until seventy is cruel and absurd, and that the notion that there are jobs growing on trees for older Americans to pluck is completely out of touch with the ongoing employment crisis. It may be a long time before young people face the reality of retirement, but Generation X is starting to look that beast in the face. And they don’t like what they see: financiers making money hand over fist while plans to squeeze every penny out of future retirees is deemed acceptable in Washington.