A Line in the Sand on Social Security

With a national audience tuned in, tonight would be as good a time as any for President Obama to draw some lines in the sand and make some clear distinctions between his vision for the future and that of his opposition. The fact that the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union message will be given by Paul Ryan the Social Security and Medicare slasher and privatizer makes it an even more opportune time to point out the differences.

Starting with Social Security, and with clearing up the mixed messaging. Such as:

“The direction of Obama’s speech became apparent over the weekend, when the White House informed Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the elderly that he would not endorse the commission’s recommendation to raise the retirement age and make other cuts to Social Security – the single largest federal program.”


“Administration officials cautioned that Obama is not necessarily taking benefit cuts off the table.”

Say what? Stop with that and borrow from Bob Herbert’s op-ed in today’s New York Times. It might not be all civil and bi-partisany, but it’s the truth.

“If there’s a better government program than Social Security, I’d like to know what it is. It has gone a long way toward eliminating poverty among the elderly. Great numbers of them used to live and die in ghastly, Dickensian conditions of extreme want. Without Social Security today, nearly half of all Americans aged 65 or older would be poor. With it, fewer than 10 percent live in poverty.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us that close to 90 percent of people 65 and older get at least some of their family income from Social Security. For more than half of the elderly, it provides the majority of their income. For many, it is the only income they have.

The demagogues would have the public believe that Social Security is unsustainable, that it is some kind of giant contributor to the federal budget deficits. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the Economic Policy Institute has explained, Social Security “is emphatically not the cause of the federal government’s long-term deficits…

…There is a foreseeable problem with the program’s long-term financing, but it can be fixed with changes that do no harm to its elderly beneficiaries. One obvious step would be to raise the cap on payroll taxes so that wealthy earners shoulder a fairer share of the burden. [What candidate Obama said in 2007].

…The folks who want to raise the retirement age and hack away at benefits for ordinary working Americans are inevitably those who have not the least worry about their own retirement.”

Preserving Social Security is one of those rare instances where the right thing to do and the popular thing to do intersect, even 60% of Republicans don’t want to see cuts. Sixty-five percent of all those surveyed supported lifting the cap on payroll taxes. And talk about rare, Americans are even willing to pay more taxes. An AARP survey last August showed that:

“…half of all non-retired adults said that they would be willing to pay higher payroll taxes to ensure that Social Security will be there for them; 57 percent of adults under 50 would be willing to pay such a tax.”

 On the other hand, Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap” proposes cuts starting at 16% and going up to 28% over the long term, as well as diverting “large sums from Social Security to private accounts.”

Making that contrast clear also has strong political advantages for a president with an eye on re-election:

“Social Security offers an opportunity for Democrats to persuade swing voters while at the same time reassuring and pleasing their base…Imagine: Politicians can energize and reinforce their base, while at the same time attracting independents and persuadable members of the other party – using the same issue. It’s like a gift from the gods. All it takes to accept that gift is firmness and clarity.”

Just do it, Mr. President.


  1. shavedwombat says

    sooooo….the first act of “taking our country back” involves cluster bombing that which the people who swept them into office(ironically spurred by fear of what the evil Demoncrats were going to do to them and their benefits) depend on the most?
    As much as my first instinct is to say “you wanted it now choke on it”, not even I have the heart to tell ‘em i told ‘em so
    (that’s your cue Shortstuff)

  2. glennkoks says

    The program is solvent for the next 40 years. eliminating the cap adds billions to the pie and since people are living longer I don’t have a problem with raising the retirement age by a couple of years if it helps with the longterm stability of the program. The system clearly needs a little tweaking to insure it’s long term stability but it certainly does not need an overhaul.
    The Republicans have a short memory. They tried this before and were stopped dead in their tracks. The elderly vote.

  3. doug says

    Thanks Des.
    Apparently, enough Democrats put pressure on Obama that he is now going to back off on suggestions to cut Social Security..for now.
    Millions and millions of Americans would have seen their benefits cut by as much as 35% if Obama had gone ahead and raised the age of eligibility.
    That would have been shocking when you really think about it. Shocking.
    Thanks to all who publicized this issue, and that includes the bloggers and commenters on the Daily Hurricane (:

  4. carguy says

    One of the “lowlights” of any year there is a democrat in the White House (Not that that happens a lot lately) is the “republican response to the state of the union”. I always watch. But, I have my wife tie me to a chair, compeltely immobile, with a bit in my mouth so I can’t bite off my tongue.
    I supposse that with Mr. Ryan delivering the “message” from the despicable bastards across the aisle, that will prove to be a good plan.
    If ONLY I could hack into the audio feed in the middle of his address and yell “YOU LIE”.

  5. carguy says

    I have NEVER been a big fan of the other side getting the last word. Irrespective of the party. If you ain’t the president, you shouldn’t GET a captive audience for your message. Just my opinion. I could be wrong.
    Seating tonight SHOULD be interesting………

  6. carguy says

    How, exactly, do you suppose that the SOTU will play out with the republicans, sitting on their hands with their thumb in their ear, while a neighboring democrat is up on his feet applauding the president and his plan to bring the country back for the brink of disaster? A “brink” made possible by, guess who, the despicable lying bastards who usually sit on the other side of the aisle chanting “NO, NO, HELL NO!” and “YOU LIE”.
    Sure to be an “E Ticket” ride.

  7. WindorSolarPlease says

    Some of the elites would like to see Social Security and Medicare end, because it is not a profit to them, and they don’t care.
    Some would rather give out coupon vouchers, that we can use towards getting our own, through Corporations.
    I can see in the future that they will have their way, just because they can.
    For now, I would be very surprised if the President touched Social Security or Medicare.

  8. PJCarz says

    Carguy and AlienHunter make good points. I wonder how it will go tonight? Will somebody turn to his neighbor and start something? On the other hand, they might all just sit there like the “see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil” monkeys that so many of them are.
    I’ve got my ears open about Social Security, too. I’m old enough that it matters in the near future. I paid in on 100% of my salary for all my working life. Those folks who have a portion or most of their wages exempt on account of the law aren’t to blame, but the writers of the laws certainly are.
    The most reasonable thing seems to be to make benefits means-tested. But as we saw with stopping tax cuts for the rich, that won’t fly with the GOPs. Grrrr.

  9. Shortstuff says

    Was anyone else offended by the political cartoon concerning Social Security in today’s Houston Chronicle?
    I was. The artist evidently believes that seniors on SS get a boatload of money every month and are living high and wide. Frankly, it seems to be a very small amount. There are too many seniors who are dependent upon that SS check to just stay alive. I resent some jackwagon portraying a senior citizen as someone lying on a chaise lounge, surrounded by space heaters and being waited upon by the Democrats and the president, while the rest of the country is under a blanket of snow. I resent that.
    Senior citizens worked hard their entire lives. They EARNED that benefit, dammit! It keeps many of them out of homeless shelters or off the streets. It may keep them from having to eat CAT FOOD. Seniors are the most vulnerable and should be treated with the dignity they deserve.
    Damned jackwagon. Talk about the elephant in the room!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

× three = 21

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>