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The War on Social Security

January 6th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Have you received your “Social Security Statement” from your friendly neighborhood federal Social Security Administration yet? Did it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside to see that your government cares enough about your financial future you send you these figures to help you plan for your retirement?

Or did you look past the genial rhetoric and notice these two paragraphs?

Since 1935, America has kept the promise of security for its workers and their families. Now, however, the Social Security system is facing serious financial problems, and action is needed soon to make sure the system will be sound when today’s younger workers are ready for retirement.

In 2012 we will begin paying more in benefits than we collect in taxes. Without changes, by 2037 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted and there will be enough money to pay only about 76 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits. We need to resolve these issues soon to make sure Social Security continues to provide a foundation of protection for future generations.

How good of them to issue this warning. If they hadn’t explained to us so nicely that Social Security is danger, we might have been inclined to protest any cuts to the program that they’re getting ready to propose.

Don’t fall for this, America. This country’s biggest power-brokers have had their greedy eyes on the Social Security Trust Fund for a long time, and now they can smell the opportunity to finally start chipping away at it. Sure, 77 percent of Americans still oppose any cuts to the program, but now they’ve got a Democratic president who is willing to play ball, and enough Congressional Democrats to go along with him. You’ve got Democratic Senators going on TV and talking about how we really need to consider things like raising the retirement age, and refusing to pledge to vote against any piece of legislation that cuts Social Security. You had the bipartisan deficit commission issued by the president make cuts to Social Security one of their top recommendations, and now you’ve got the Social Security Administration itself sending you a letter telling you that changes need to be made or else

They know this is tricky business. Anyone who takes an independent look at the facts about Social Security can discover that the program is perfectly solvent until 2041, and that without any change it could cover at least three-quarters of benefits until 2083 (when I will be 99 years old). There is no crisis. They just want you to think that there is so you won’t raise your voices too loudly when they start meddling with it.

It’s true that the program will start running deficits in 2017, but with a few minor tweaks this problem can be fixed. Simply raise the payroll tax a little bit and everything will be just fine. There’s no need to raise the retirement age or pay out less benefits for anyone who retires after a certain year.

Or if you don’t like the idea of raising the payroll tax, how about looking at other ways to reduce the deficit, like not fighting two (arguably six) wars simultaneously, or not extending tax-cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans that will explode the deficit by $900 billion?

Social Security is one of the strongest social safety-nets the middle class in America still has. We pay into it our whole lives with the expectation that we’ll be able to get something out of it when we retire, so that no matter what happens we won’t be starving on the street when we’re 65. But the people who own the Republican Party and most Democrats and who write the script that both parties play by have decided that now is the time to try out the storyline in which the deficit takes a hit so they can keep more money for themselves, which they then fix by giving us less of our money back. With the government as the middle-man, it’s like they’re literally taking the money directly out of our pockets and putting it into their own.

Don’t buy the hype. If the deficit needs to be fixed, insist that they fix it another way—one that leaves the middle class alone. Call your senators and representatives and ask them if they would be willing to pledge to vote against any legislation that makes cuts to Social Security. You’ll probably find that they won’t make that commitment right now because any proposed cuts will be a part of a much larger piece of legislation that they can’t promise to vote against. Make it clear to them that you won’t tolerate any yes vote on any piece of legislation that touches Social Security no matter what else it does.

They’ve been planning this war on Social Security for a long time, and they believe that conditions are finally ripe to fire the opening shots. Make sure they know that we’re prepared to fire back.

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