Tag Archives: Reagan

Social Security’s future is being written in the streets of Ferguson

Bernie Sanders’s confrontation with members of Black Lives Matter should teach a lesson to everyone engaged in the struggle to defend Social Security: Unless the campaign for economic equality recognizes the need to prioritize racial equality as well—that racial and economic issues are not separate—preserving and expanding Social Security will become increasingly difficult.

In politics, context is everything. The most passionate advocacy, even for an utterly righteous cause, can sound presumptuous when the advocate ignores another issue more important to the same audience. Witness Sen. John McCain’s recent humiliating treatment by the Navajo, who chased him off their reservation on August 16, when he came to discuss a feel-good memorial to the World War II Code Talkers—but refused to address complaints that he had failed to protect tribal water rights or to oppose a copper mine that’s about to be built on Oak Flat campgrounds, an area of spiritual significance to the Apache.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Sen. Bernie Sanders recently received a similar lesson. On July 18, Black Lives Matter protesters disrupted a Netroots Nation forum in Phoenix Continue reading Social Security’s future is being written in the streets of Ferguson

It’s All About the Taxes

It’s a simple question that progressive types – and many non-Washingtonians, for that matter –ask themselves all the time: If Social Security needs more money in coming decades, why not just raise the payroll tax? It’s how we’ve done it in the past, why can’t we just do it again? The reason is that the far right and the center-right – Washington’s Very Serious People – have agreed that the low-tax regime they’ve collaborated on putting in place for the affluent is here to stay, along with the income inequality it’s helped to spawn.  There will be no further increases, even in a comparatively un-progressive levy like the payroll tax, they insist.

It’s not news that you can’t mention the words “tax increase” in Washington without someone attaching an epithet like “job-killing” or “politically unpopular” to them as a matter of reflex. This goes for the payroll taxes that fund Social Security as for any other tax. House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan says Continue reading It’s All About the Taxes

People’s Pension – the Book – Available Soon

It’s been a long time in the works, but The People’s Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan will be available from booksellers by approximately mid-March. The worthy folks at AK Press are bringing out my book, which traces the 30-year war against Social Security and the struggle to defend it. You can find out more about the book here. The People’s Pension is the only book that covers this crucial slice of U.S. history, from the beginning of the war under Reagan right up to the present.

I’ll be posting more news about the launch of People’s Pension: The Book (to those of you who’ve been reading this off-and-on blog for some time) as it’s available. Possibly even more exciting is the kick-off of my tour to promote Continue reading People’s Pension – the Book – Available Soon

Who’s Going to Defend Social Security?

Strangely enough, it’ll probably be the Republican right. Once again.

Congressional Republican and Democratic leaders have chosen the members of the “Super Congress” that will determine round two of the spending cuts – and, possibly, tax increases – under the Budget Control Act of 2011. As expected, the GOP members are all hardliners on taxes – so much so that they all received the blessing of Citizens for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist. (I mentioned tax increases above because the joint deficit committee has the right to include them in its legislation, not because there’s much chance it will.)

Most of the attention, therefore, has focused on the Democratic members. Continue reading Who’s Going to Defend Social Security?

Times’s Leonhardt misrepresents Social Security, Medicare

David Leonhardt, along with Matt Bai, is part of the New York Times’ center-right Washington tag team. So it’s no surprise when he mourns Congress’s failure to “rein in” entitlements. But every so often he goes a bit too far.

In today’s column, he makes the legitimate point that cutting discretionary spending as part of what’s become a bipartisan drive to reduce the deficit, isn’t such a good idea.

Discretionary spending let the Defense Department build the Internet. It let the National Institutes of Health finance life-saving research. It has helped make possible the semiconductor, the broadband network, the highway system and airports.

True enough. The private sector has never been the fount of creativity that free-marketeers would have us believe. But Leonhardt goes too far when he lumps in defenders of Social Security and Medicare with Republican foot-in-the-door opponents of tax hikes. Continue reading Times’s Leonhardt misrepresents Social Security, Medicare

A Short Guide to Social Security Doublethink

Figuring out what Social Security’s critics really want is sometimes difficult. They’ve become so afraid of being tarred as “privatizers” that they’ve developed an elaborate vocabulary of code words to soften the edges of their positions on the issue. A closer examination clears away some of the fog, however.

The polite way to describe them is “terms of art.” George Orwell came up with a cruder but more forceful alternative: doublethink. Either way, the language that Social Security’s critics use to state their position is calculated to calm the fears of the vast majority of Americans who don’t want to see the program privatized. This has been going on for at least 15 years, ever since the first serious proposals to carve private accounts out of the program were tabled on Capitol Hill and Democrats pounced on them. Today, if use of the term “privatization” is the litmus test, there’s only one lawmaker in Congress Continue reading A Short Guide to Social Security Doublethink

Who Are the Tea Partiers, and Who Speaks for Them?

Dick Armey certainly thinks he does. As a self-appointed spokesperson for the movement, he’s trying hard to make Social Security privatization one of the big issues in the upcoming midterm election. It’s not clear his Tea Party comrades are behind him, however.

The silly season is upon us, when the Democratic and Republican establishments become obsessed with wedge issues and rallying their respective “Bases.” In the case of the Republicans, keeping the Tea Party movement enthused and eager to vote this November are crucial. Understanding who these people really are and what they want is essential.

What do the Republicans think they know, and what is the reality?

Continue reading Who Are the Tea Partiers, and Who Speaks for Them?


The last time Washington created a new social insurance program, a backlash caused it to be repealed 14 months later. Because it’s voluntary, the new long-term health benefit might avoid that fate. But its chances of survival are still uncertain.

The most intriguing component of health care reform, to me, is the new long-term care program. As more and more families are finding out, this is a huge problem. People are living longer, households are debt-ridden, and that being the case, how do you take care of aging parents and other relatives?

More than 10 million Americans, mostly elderly, need long-term fare, according to a 2007 Georgetown report, but it’s expensive and most can’t afford it. Meanwhile, loosely regulated, mostly for-profit long-term care hospitals are popping up across the country, run on a shoe-string to maximize profits, often without much regard for patients’ welfare.

The new health care law incorporates a bill that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy introduced last year, Continue reading The CLASS Act

Why the Deficit Commission Won’t Cut Social Security: A History Lesson

Nostalgists for some imagined, bygone era of bipartisanship don’t hold out a lot of hope for the deficit commission. They’re right, but for the wrong reasons.

With a few exceptions, blue-ribbon presidential commissions are dismissed as window dressing, a polite way to kick the can down the road on a particular issue. Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is just such a one.

Disappointed that the commission won’t have the power to force an up-or-down vote in Congress, the deficit hawks call this an ominous failure of government, a further sign that Washington has forgotten how to govern. That’s a dubious proposition: Is a Congress that’s voted consistently and overwhelmingly to keep funding a wasteful, destructive, and ill-conceived “war against terrorism” in the Mideast, despite broad public opposition, for nine years now, really incapable of governing? It may be deeply misguided, but it’s certainly capable of making the proverbial “tough decisions.”

The deficit hawks are right, however, that the deficit commission doesn’t stand much chance of success. Especially of cutting Social Security, which in the wake of the new health care reform law, has become its primary target. To understand why requires a short history lesson.

The long war against Social Security, which began in the early 1980s, is now in its third phase.

Phase 1 began in 1983, Continue reading Why the Deficit Commission Won’t Cut Social Security: A History Lesson