Sunday, August 15, 2010

And Again

They're at it again, GOoPers trying to undermine Social Security, as they have since it was created in 1935:

Congressman John Taber, a Republican from New York, proclaimed that "Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people." His New York colleague, GOP Congressman Daniel Reed, warned that if it passed "the lash of the dictator will be felt." The American Medical Association denounced it as a "compulsory socialistic tax." Silas Strawn, former president of both the American Bar Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, described it as "economically preposterous and legally indefensible." It was, he said, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to "Sovietize the country."

What was this threat to American prosperity, freedom, and democracy they were all decrying? It was Social Security, which President Roosevelt signed into law on August 14, 1935 -- 75 years ago.

At the time, the opponents of Social Security were not right-wing lunatics (the Depression-era cousins of today's Tea Party), but rather the business establishment and the mainstream of the Republican Party.

So now that it's been proven to keep elderly Americans out of poverty -- more than 50% of America's elderly lived in poverty before it was passed and it now keeps more than 20 million Americans out of poverty -- the only reason for the current crop of opportunistic dimwits to attack it is political gain. Yep, this is, per many economists including Paul Krugman, yet another fake Republican crisis:

About that math: Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax (“FICA” on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget. This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.

But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.

Meanwhile, an aging population will eventually (over the course of the next 20 years) cause the cost of paying Social Security benefits to rise from its current 4.8 percent of G.D.P. to about 6 percent of G.D.P. To give you some perspective, that’s a significantly smaller increase than the rise in defense spending since 2001, which Washington certainly didn’t consider a crisis, or even a reason to rethink some of the Bush tax cuts.

So where do claims of crisis come from? To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count — because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget — while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable — because hey, the program has to stand on its own.

This week is the 75th Anniversary of the most successful social program in the history of America. Here's President Obama commemorating it:

Welcome to the 2010 election, with Republicans once again running on a crypto-promise to gut it:
One high-profile House Republican recently called for the government to "wean everybody" off Social Security. A day later, another House Republican endorsed Social Security privatization. Two days later, yet another House Republican endorsed Social Security privatization.

Keep it straight: privatization means massive fees for Wall Street, with the huge burden on risk once again on American citizens themselves. The market tanks? Tough luck.

It won't even disturb John Boehner's golf at least $82,998/year.

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