Sunday, August 16, 2015

As Social Security Turns 80 Dennis Chavez Can't RIP

Dennis Chavez is spinning in his grave.

Dennis Chavez
The New Deal New Mexico Democrat (there's a nice biography at the web site of the US House, where he also served) who as the nation's first Democratic Hispanic US senator voted for the legislation that created Social Security would be abhorred by today's Democratic Party as it executes a stealth attack on the program that has transformed what it means to retire in the US -- the poverty rate for seniors exceeded 40 percent when the program began and is essentially the same as for the general population now.

Because it's so popular and a so-called "third rail" in politics Social Security survives largely intact although it pays out less in inflation adjusted benefits than it should, but Democrats have their sights set on it. Their current leader, President Obama, when he took office formed a blue ribbon commission to give him debt reduction recommendations and packed it with Democrats and Republicans who want to privatize Social Security. (Democrats like Erskine Bowles, John Spratt and Dick Durbin, Republicans like Allan Simpson and Paul Ryan) and although that attempt was turned back he still makes ominous references to our "long term debt" -- code for Social Security -- despite Social Security not being part of the federal budget.

Democrats refuse to refute assertions that Social Security if part of the federal budget or the constant claims that the program is going broke despite the fact that it's been shown over and over that it's not and that a slight adjustment to the "cap" would beef it up substantially; only the first $118,500 of  a taxpayer's income is subject to Social Security contribution deductions, so millionaires and billionaires basically get off scot free and yet still draw their benefits.

New Democrats like those we have in New Mexico now usually profess support for the program when pressed but if you read statements they make about it it's always a qualified support, or they simply avoid the topic altogether. None has come out with a robust endorsement of the program as is. On their web site you'll see statements about the listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened species but not about Social Security as a threatened program that millions of retirees depend on.

Republicans have never liked Social Security (although as they do with all other government benefits they complain about they take it) and make periodic attempts to privatize or undermine it. Democrats declining support for it must be seen in the context of their rightward transformation in the past 40 years and adoption of Reaganomics economic policies -- see the post below.

1 comment:

  1. It still baffles me to see the enormity of the shift rightward in the dem party. I'm not sure that republicans even today appreciate how thoroughly they changed the game during the reagan years, and how long lasting the effects have been. The party of Morse, Humphrey, et al is gone, as are the group of what used to be called 'liberal republicans'.
    We have no party we can compare with the green, or the PES.
    Here we sit, essentially a one-party system, which is rapidly turning into a corporatocracy.

    You've seen perhaps downhill ski races on tv, when at the end the skier lifts his/hers ski up so the manufacturing logo can be seen, their sponsor. Imagine the presidential candidate with their clothes adorned with ads for Google, Microsoft and GE.

    Man I'm grumpy today.