Here Are 5 Reasons Why Aging Gen-Xers and Boomers Need Democratic Socialism
Much has been written about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ ongoing appeal among Millennials and how a young Sanders ally like New York City-based Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who, at 28, is running against Rockefeller Republican Anthony Pappas in the 2018 midterms for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives—can energize the youth vote and advance Sanders’ movement for democratic socialism (which is really New Deal/Great Society capitalism). But if there is any demographic in the U.S. that has an especially urgent need for democratic socialism and a New Deal 3.0, it is Americans who are 40 and over.
Older Americans, especially white males in red states, are the ones most likely to be voting for Republicans this year—which is bitterly ironic because the GOP is overtly hostile to Americans over 40 in numerous respects, from tax policies that benefit the 1% at the expense of the middle class and the poor to Republicans’ relentless attacks on health care reform, Social Security and Medicare. And the more victories that Sanders allies like Ocasio-Cortez and Braddock, PA Mayor John Fetterman (who is running for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania) enjoy in the 2018 midterms, the better it will be for Boomers over 60 and aging Gen-Xers in their forties and fifties.
Here are five reasons why Democratic socialism of the Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez/Fetterman variety is great for older Americans.
1. Social Security
Back in 1935—when Social Security was launched as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal—Sen. Thomas Gore (an Oklahoma Democrat) had reservations about the program. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Gore asked Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, “Isn’t this socialism?.....Isn’t this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?” And 83 years later, the debate rages on, with Fox News trying to convince its older views that all forms of socialism are terrible even though many of them are collecting Social Security or about to start collecting it. Social Security has worked remarkably well for 83 years, but the program in its current form could cease to exist if it were privatized—an incredibly bad idea that countless Republicans have proposed, from President George W. Bush to House Speaker Paul Ryan. With social democrats like Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and Fetterman, however, there is no doubt where they stand on Social Security: they are as adamantly opposed to privatization as they are to any cuts in benefits. In 2017, Sanders introduced a bill to increase Social Security benefits by about $1300 annually for seniors making less than $16,000 per year
2. Medicare and Medicaid
Although Republicans have terrible ideas, they can be incredibly effective when it comes to messaging—so effective, in fact, that in 2009, President Barack Obama received an angry, comically ignorant letter from a woman who declared, “I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare.” She had been so thoroughly indoctrinated by far-right ideology that even though she was benefitting from Medicare, she didn’t realize it was a government-operated program (along with Medicaid, which was also a product of President Lyndon J. Johnson’s Great Society). And if voters like her weren’t so badly uninformed, they would be doing everything imaginable to get Bernie Sanders elected president in 2016. They would have enough sense to realize that while Paul Ryan and other Ayn Rand worshippers would like to replace traditional Medicare with a privatized voucher program that would offer much less coverage for seniors, Sanders allies like Ocasio-Cortez and Fetterman are aggressively defending Medicare in its present form.
3. The Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare
For all its flaws and shortcomings—and there are many—the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, brought health insurance to millions of Americans over 40 who didn’t have it previously. Being over 40 but under 65 can be a perilous situation in the U.S.: one is too young for Medicare, yet likely to be developing new health problems. And Trumpcare would have been a nightmare for aging Americans; according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican-sponsored American Health Care Act (which was defeated in the Senate last year) would have resulted in 23 million Americans losing their health insurance by 2026.
But Sanders not only voted against the Trumpcare abomination that Republicans had in mind—he realizes that the ACA doesn’t go far enough. And while he is opposed to overturning the ACA, his ultimate goal is something older Americans desperately need: universal healthcare.
4. Single-Payer/Medicare-For-All Healthcare
While Sanders and allies like Ocasio-Cortez and Fetterman have acknowledged the gains of the ACA, they also realize that it has left millions uninsured. Democratic socialists have a solution: a single-payer or Medicare-for-all system. And Sanders, who introduced a Medicare-for-all bill in the Senate last year, has been so influential on the healthcare issue that more Democrats who aren’t democratic socialists themselves are now coming out in favor of a single-payer system—including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, both of whom are seeking reelection this year and making universal healthcare part of their platforms.
5. Progressive Taxation
If parts of Ocasio-Cortez’ 2018 campaign platform sound a lot like FDR’s New Deal or President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society—expanding health coverage, a living wage, protecting Social Security—that’s not a coincidence: the democratic socialist movement spearheaded by Sanders and carried forward by Ocasio-Cortez and others is meant to reject neoliberalism and reinvigorate the Democratic Party’s New Deal/Great Society heritage. This movement should be called the New Deal 3.0 because that’s exactly what it is (the Great Society was New Deal 2.0). And progressive taxation is a crucial part of the movement. Older Americans have a hard time saving for retirement when they end up shouldering so much of the tax burden the 1% are able to dodge; thus, Sanders and his allies are pushing for progressive taxation in 2018 just as FDR and LBJ pushed for it in the past.