The Social Security Scam: a Bipartisan Plan to Put the Squeeze on Older Americans
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Social Security, in other words, is a political test case for the “new austerity.”
The same conservative experts will keep repeating the mantra that “we” can’t afford for blue-collar workers to be paid middle-class wages anymore (thus the 50 percent wage cuts at the car companies bailed out by the government). “We” can’t afford to pay public employees a decent wage or pension anymore.
“We”—we’re all in this together—have to tighten our belts to make up for our irresponsible spending on ourselves during better times. “We” were so reckless that even the old will have to suffer. The more the public buys the notion that there is no money there, the less likely they are to resist the takeaways.
RED INK FOR A REASON
The origins of the feds’ red ink are not a mystery, though. Deficits have soared because of tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, fighting two wars on borrowed money, the deep recession that has savaged tax revenue, and the long-term consequences of trade deficits and deindustrialization.
But taking on those issues would require politicians to challenge the most powerful interests. That’s why they think it’s easier to whack old people, and hope future retirees who are the real victims won’t notice.
If political elites get away with raising the retirement age or cutting benefits some other way, it would represent a historic bait-and-switch swindle.
For the last generation, everyone has paid higher payroll taxes to prepare for when the baby boomers retire. Now we are told the country can’t afford it. In fact, if modest adjustments are made any time in the next 30 years, the system will be sound for the next 75 years.
Here’s what happened to your paycheck deductions. The federal government has borrowed trillions from the Social Security Trust Fund and spent it on other things (like wars and tax cuts). Some right-wingers claim the Social Security surpluses no longer exist, but that’s not true.
When the government borrowed from the trust fund, it issued IOUs that are the legal equivalent of interest-paying Treasury bonds, backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States. By cutting benefits now, some right-wing politicians imagine they can get out of repaying the government’s debts to workers—a slow-motion swindle.
Look at it this way: American workers are collectively the government’s largest creditor, even larger than China. We know the U.S. would not dare default on China. Washington better not try to stiff America’s own workforce.
Our side can win this fight if we mobilize quickly and smartly. Whatever Washington claims to believe, the people have their own consensus about Social Security, shared by both young and old, left and right. Americans are overwhelmingly opposed (85 percent in an AARP poll) to reducing Social Security benefits to address the deficit. A strong majority (65 percent) thinks Social Security benefits should now be increased, given everything else that has happened to people.
The political problem is, how do we make the people’s will felt if neither party is willing to stand up for it? One answer, developed by a galaxy of labor and progressive groups, is to confront individual members of Congress, Republicans as well as Democrats, with a straightforward demand: Take the pledge. Hands off Social Security. Commit to vote against whatever benefit cuts the deficit commission dares to propose.
If senators and representatives decline to sign the pledge, put them on the target list in this fall’s elections. MoveOn, Campaign for America’s Future, the Teamsters, and other organizations are actively collecting signatures. For more information, contact Alex Lawson at the Campaign for America’s Future.