Hi-Yo, Silvers! Away with Chained CPI

Social Security Chained CPIWe Presbyterians don’t do “amens.” We’re the “frozen chosen.”

But I’ll “amen” AFL-CIO policy director Damon Silvers’ recent warning on the Salon website:

“The labor movement is going to fight to the death to stop cuts to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Not ‘unreasonable cuts.’ Not ‘cuts without tax increases.’ Cuts period. We’re against all of them, we will fight them ferociously, and we will give no cover to any Democrat who supports them.”

Silvers predicted that President Obama would be courting “fratricide in the Democratic Party” if he renewed a push for “chained CPI,” a proposed refiguring of cost-of-living adjustments that would shrink future Social Security benefits.

“It hits the absolute most vulnerable people,” Silvers told Salon’s Josh Eidelson. “It’s a proposal that has no merit at all other than that billionaires like it.”

Sure they do. They see chained CPI as more fetters to hobble Social Security, of which Medicare and Medicaid are part.

“President Obama has repeatedly touted ‘chained CPI’ – to the chagrin of some progressive activists and elected Democrats – as an example of both his commitment to Social Security’s future and his commitment to good faith negotiations with Republicans,” Eidelson added.

Millions of us who pack union cards share that chagrin. We helped elect and reelect the president, helped maintain the Democrats’ Senate majority and helped whittle down the GOP edge in the House. We didn’t vote, give money, wear out shoe leather going door-to-door or staff phone banks for our union-endorsed candidates – most of them Democrats — so they could go to Washington and help tea party-tilting Republicans eviscerate Social Security, one of the greatest legacies of one of our greatest presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was proud to be a liberal Democrat.

Silvers singled out for scorn “the kind of conversations that the billionaires have been promoting over the past couple days through people like Tom Friedman.” Friedman is the New York Times columnist who has ballyhooed a deficit-reducing “grand bargain.” Silvers said the well-heeled Big Apple scribe’s approach is “really destructive” and a path to “gridlock,” Eidelson wrote.

In addition, Silvers called to task billionaire Pete Peterson, who bankrolls several groups who want to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

“They’ve got the vampire agenda: No matter what happens, no matter how many bullets you fire at it, these guys keep coming back with all their money and demanding that we cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid …” Silvers told Eidelson. “We’re gonna fight that stuff with everything we’ve got, and we’re gonna win, because the public’s with us.”

Indeed the public is with us. Okay, with me it’s personal. I’m glad to be getting Social Security.

History, the subject I taught for two dozen years, instructs that right-wing Republicans, cheered on by their media allies, have been trying to kill or maim Social Security one way or another since “that man,” – FDR – and a New Deal, Democratic-majority Congress created the program – with support from GOP moderates and liberals — in 1935.

[sam_ad id="1" codes="true"]From the start, no group has more tirelessly championed Social Security than organized labor.

Meanwhile, right-wing Republican and the reactionary media echo chamber are working overtime to convince John and Jane Q Citizen that Social Security is bound for bankruptcy. They say benefits must be cut to save the program. Baloney – they want to cut Social Security benefits to the point that the program will wither and die.

Oh, right-wing Republicans would love to repeal Social Security all at once. But they know that’s mission impossible, so they’re waging a war of attrition.

They figure slicing benefits is a twofer: they sap Social Security and diminish public confidence in it at the same time, thereby dooming the program sooner or later.

I haven’t forgotten that tea party-tilting Texas Gov. Rick Perry famously called Social Security “a monstrous lie” and “a Ponzi scheme.” His words might have been a tad intemperate for country club Republicans like senate minority leader Mitch McConnell or house speaker John Boehner, but they want to axe Social Security just as fervently as he does.

I’ll trust Republicans right-wingers on Social Security when Rush Limbaugh re-registers to vote as a Democrat and joins The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Nah, I won’t trust them even then.

I trust Moveon.org – a big bane to the tea party Republicans – to set the record straight about Social Security. The group has posted the “Top 5 Social Security Myths” on its website:

Myth: Social Security is going broke.

Reality: There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.3 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a ‘T’). It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever… After 2037, it’ll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits–and again, that’s without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers retirement decades ago… Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.

Myth: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.

Reality: This is a red-herring to trick you into agreeing to benefit cuts. Retirees are living about the same amount of time as they were in the 1930s. The reason average life expectancy is higher is mostly because many fewer people die as children than did 70 years ago… What’s more, what gains there have been are distributed very unevenly–since 1972, life expectancy increased by 6.5 years for workers in the top half of the income brackets, but by less than 2 years for those in the bottom half… But those intent on cutting Social Security love this argument because raising the retirement age is the same as an across-the-board benefit cut.

Myth: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.

Reality: Social Security doesn’t need to be fixed. But if we want to strengthen it, here’s a better way: Make the rich pay their fair share. If the very rich paid taxes on all of their income, Social Security would be sustainable for decades to come… Right now, high earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,000 of their income… But conservatives insist benefit cuts are the only way because they want to protect the super-rich from paying their fair share.

Myth: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs

Reality: Not even close to true. The Social Security Trust Fund isn’t full of IOUs, it’s full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States… The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. President Bush wanted to put Social Security funds in the stock market–which would have been disastrous–but luckily, he failed. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.

Berry CraigMyth: Social Security adds to the deficit

Reality: It’s not just wrong — it’s impossible! By law, Social Security funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can’t add one penny to the deficit.

Berry Craig

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

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