Sen. Sanders’ Plan To Actually Fix Social Security

You hear over and over that Social Security is “in trouble” or that we “can’t afford it.” This is as far from true as can be, and the idea behind this is to convince people to just give up on defending the program and let the haters have their way. The people who hate Social Security the most are the ones who say they want to make these changes to “save” it. Well Bernie Sanders loves the program and has introduced a bill that actually will save it.
The Haters
Conservatives have hated Social Security from the start, because it is a program that demonstrates once and for all the value of progressive governance. Social Security is as clear an example of We, the People watching out for and taking care of each other as there ever was. It has made a huge difference n the lives of older people, and their/our families. It works, is cost-effective and requires minimal overhead to keep it going. So they hate it.
A very recent example of conservative hatred for Social Security came from Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who said, that We, the People helping each other makes us weak,

“These programs actually weakened us as a people. … All of a sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job.”

Substitute the words “We, the People” or “each other” for “government” in Rubio’s statement and you’ll get the point: people don’t have to worry so much because we’re taking care of each other. He says that makes us weak. Yikes!
Decades Of Attacks
For decades conservatives who hate Social Security have been using every trick in the book to turn people against the program. Over and over you hear, “It’s a Ponzi scheme.” “It won’t be there for you.” This latest attack is that it “makes us weak.” And of course the old classic: “Social Security is broke.”
The “it’s going broke” and “won’t be there for you” attack strategy goes back to a 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, “Achieving a Leninist Strategy” by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of the Heritage Foundation. The document is still available at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? from Z Magazine. If you have time it is worth reading the entire document (in particular the section “Weakening the Opposition”) to more fully understand the strategy that has been unfolding in the years since. But if you can’t, the following quotes give you an idea:

“Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent upon … its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. … we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy.”
” construct … a coalition that will … reap benefits from the IRA-based private system … but also the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans to the public.”
“The first element consists of a campaign to achieve small legislative changes that embellish the present IRA system, making it in practice a small-scale private Social Security system.
“The second main element … involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it.”
“The banking industry and other business groups that can benefit from expanded IRAs …” “… the strategy must be to propose moving to a private Social Security system in such a way as to … neutralize … the coalition that supports the existing system.”
“The next Social Security crisis may be further away than many people believe. … it could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible. But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform.”

Here is what to take away from this: Every time you hear that “Social Security is going broke” you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point that is part of a decades-old strategy. Every time you hear that “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme” you are hearing that strategy in operation. Every time you hear that “Social Security won’t be there for me anyway” ” you are witnessing that strategy unfold.
The Problem
The Social Security program is entirely self-funded, separate from the way that the government taxes and spends for other programs. People set aside money in their working years, they get a monthly amount when they retire. (The program also has other benefits including disability benefits, survivors funds and others.) Social Security does not contribute to the deficit in any way.
You never hear that the huge, vast, bloated, enormous, mammoth military budget is “going broke” or “won’t be there for you.” But year after year you hear that Social Security is “in trouble.”
Currently the program has built up a huge trust fund — over $2.5 trillion. This is invested in US Treasury Bonds, and is earning interest. But there are projections that this trust fund will be depleted in approx. 2037, and if this happens the program will have to cut payouts by as much as 25%. (Hey. when does the military budget Trust Fund run down?)
One big reason for this shortfall is that the last time the programs was comprehensively adjusted (1983, Greenspan Commission) certain economic growth and income projections were used to decide how much “payroll tax” to take out of people’s paychecks. They increased the amount taken out of paychecks, and set up an increasing “cap” on the income that would be taxed. Right now 6.2% (temporarily reduced to 4.2%) is taken out of paychecks, and employers kick in another 6.2%, on income up to a “cap” of $106,800. There is no “payroll tax” on amounts above that “cap.”
But something changed between 1983 and now: almost all the income gains have gone to a few at the very top. Instead of people who mostly were under that “cap” getting raises, thereby increasing the amount they pay into the fund, the raises went to people who already pass that amount, so the increased income is not contributing to the program. So that money that was calculated would go into the Social Security Trust Fund instead went to the top few. As a result the program is no longer bringing in enough money to keep the trust fund fully-funded past 2037.
Sen. Sanders’ Solution
Senator Bernie Sanders is introducing a bill to the Senate to fix this, once and for all. In simple terms, this bill will start taxing income above $250,000 a year to cover this Social Security shortfall. So instead of just “raising the cap” it lets that cap stay, and then takes it off again on income above $250,000. In effect it means there will be a gap between the current top income that is taxed, and $250K.
Get the money from where the money went: So because much of the real Social Security problem is that so much income is now going to just a few at the top, this gets the money to fix the problem from those top-level incomes.
Here is Sanders, talking about his bill:

“When [Social Security] was developed, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty. Today, poverty among seniors is too high, but that number is ten percent. Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do!”

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Washington Post Joins Wall Street Sneak-Attack On Social Security

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
At the end of the year the Washington Post published as “news” a story, “Support grows for tackling nation’s debt” that pushed the idea of “a special commission to make the tough decisions that will be required to dig the nation out of debt” and “rein in skyrocketing spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security” before the “unsustainable entitlement spending” before it can “undermine the nation’s economy.”
The Post called that “news.” No alarm bells went off in their editorial department.
Where did this “news” story come from? The Washington Post has a deal with an outfit called “Fiscal Times” to provide “news” articles like this one. But Fiscal Times doesn’t really provide news, it is in reality a “front” – one of many – for an organization called the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Peter G. Peterson, a Wall Street billionaire, set up this foundation many years ago ostensibly to advocate that the government reduce its deficit spending and debt, but in reality the foundation advocates reductions in government benefits to citizens, forcing the citizens who can afford it to purchase private services instead. (Those citizens who can’t afford it? Well, too bad but “the market” isn’t about them.) The foundation says little about the larger government spending on military (cut “waste”) and tax cuts for the rich (ending them “wouldn’t come close to addressing our fiscal gap”).
The Peterson “news” story quotes people from other Peterson front groups like the Concord Coalition. So in essence the Peterson story quotes the people that Peterson pays to put out quotes. But it creates the impression that lots of “experts” agree this is what is needed.
This strategy goes back to a larger Wall Street effort to get rid of Social Security. A 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, “Achieving a Leninist Strategy” by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of Heritage lays it out for us. The document is still available at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? from Z Magazine. It is worth reading the entire document (in particular the section “Weakening the Opposition”) to understand completely the strategy that has been unfolding in the years since, but the following quotes give you an idea:

“Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent upon … its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. … we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy.”
” construct … a coalition that will … reap benefits from the IRA-based private system … but also the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans to the public.”
“The first element consists of a campaign to achieve small legislative changes that embellish the present IRA system, making it in practice a small-scale private Social Security system.
“The second main element … involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it.”
“The banking industry and other business groups that can benefit from expanded IRAs …” “… the strategy must be to propose moving to a private Social Security system in such a way as to … neutralize … the coalition that supports the existing system.”
“The next Social Security crisis may be further away than many people believe. … it could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible. But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform.”

So there you have it. Every time you hear that “Social Security is going broke” you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point. Every time you hear that “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme” you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point. Every time you hear that “Social Security won’t be there for me anyway” ” you are hearing a manufactured propaganda point.
Don’t fall for it. If they can gut Social Security they stand to make a lot of money but you stand to lose your retirement. Ask the government to look into better ways to cut spending and mostly to go back to taxing the wealthy like they did back when there were no deficits and the economy worked for every one, not just a few wealthy people sat the top of the pyramid.

What People Mean When They Criticize “The Democrats”

At MyDD there is an excellent post on a right-wing corporatist organization called ALEC: Exposing The Machinery Of The Corporate Right,

Up in Wyoming, the local Casper Star-Tribune decided to take a look at the machinery that pushes conservative laws in the state’s legislature. Many here at MyDD may be well aware of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded rightist law-writing factory that works behind the scenes to cram their agenda on the states. But I have a feeling it’s a group that isn’t discussed very often among readers of the Star-Tribune (or, for that matter, any local paper outside of Washington, DC). That’s why their coverage of ALEC is so important.

Please go read the post.
Well I left a comment, based on a line in the post. Readers here might be familiar with this, but repetition works, and this can’t be said often enough:

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