Social Security has been a bedrock of the Democratic Party since its inception, and I find this post by Dan Froomkin devastating.
President Barack Obama's apparent willingness to consider cuts in Social Security benefits may be winning him points with Washington elites, but it's killing him with voters, who see the program as inviolate and may start to wonder what the Democratic Party stands for, if not for Social Security. That's the conclusion of three top progressive pollsters who spoke to reporters Wednesday at a briefing sponsored by the Economic Policy Institute, the Century Foundation and Demos.
"For the public, cutting benefits is the problem, not the solution," said Guy Molyneux, a partner at Hart Research Associates. As a result, the pollsters said that any Democrat seeking elected office in 2012 should be begging Obama not to say anything about Social Security cuts in his State of the Union address later this month.
A post-election poll by Celinda Lake's Lake Research Partners found that, by a margin of 3 percentage points, Americans now trust Republicans in Congress more than Democrats when it comes to Social Security -- surely the first time since the program became a signature issue for the Democratic Party in the 1930s.
The poll found confidence in Democrats on the issue dropping 14 points just since January 2007, accompanied by a 13-point increase for Republicans.
The public favors congressional Republicans over Obama on Social Security by an even larger 6-point margin. Obama's 26-percent rating is not only less than half Bill Clinton's (53 percent), it's even lower than that of George W. Bush (37 percent), whose proposal to privatize the program went down in flames.
It's hard to overstate how shocking this new dynamic is. In the two previous low points for Democrats -- June 1995 and April 2002 -- Democrats still had a 10-point advantage on Social Security. That the public would trust Republicans more on this issue was, until recently, inconceivable.
The pollsters had no doubt that the turnaround stems from statements by Obama and other Democratic leaders expressing their openness to cuts in Social Security. "It's the rhetoric that says things like, 'Everything is on the table,'" said Lake. "That's not how the public feels. This isn't a policy debate in the public's mind, this is a core value."...read on
These results are depressing. To think that American believe Republicans, who clearly have been trying to destroy everything associated with FDR's New Deal, are more trustworthy in dealing with Social Security is absurd. I think a lot of the blame can be laid at the feet of the ridiculous creation of the Cat Food Commission. Kowtowing to the Beltway media and the GOP on the issue of our national debt not only strengthened their position with Americans, but also weakened the outlook Americans have on the entire Democratic Party. Can you imagine what would have happened to America if Bush's plan to privatize Social Security had not failed and millions of Americans had put their retirement into the hands of Wall Street at a time when they created a global financial collapse?
Even if President Obama has no plans to cut benefits or even accept any of the recommendations that the commission proposed, (which he told us at the White House Bloggers meeting) it's obviously had a chilling effect on our nation and how the President is being perceived on this issue. The bipartisan fetish coupled with the neoliberal outlook on our economy can't be minimized.
Mr. President, I hope you address the issue of Social Security in your SOTU and assure the American public that you have no plans to cut benefits one iota. Ever. Politically it's a winner since many seniors are voters -- and morally, it's just. The base wants to stand tall and fight with you all the way on this issue.
James Gailbrath has an incredible piece that you've probably read already which bucks the Beltway conventional wisdom on Social Security and simply states that a case could be made to temporarily lower the age to 62, which would then help the economy recover.
The answer is obvious. Older people who would like to retire and would do so if they could afford it should get some help. The right step is to reduce, not increase, the full-benefits retirement age. As a rough cut, why not enact a three-year window during which the age for receiving full Social Security benefits would drop to 62 -- providing a voluntary, one-time, grab-it-now bonus for leaving work? Let them go home! With a secure pension and medical care, they will be happier. Young people who need work will be happier. And there will also be more jobs. With pension security, older people will consume services until the end of their lives. They will become, each and every one, an employer.
A proposal like this could transform a miserable jobs picture into a tolerable one, at a single stroke.
As always, Thom Hartmann makes a lot of sense:
One of the most powerful forms of stimulus we could apply to our economy right now would be to lower the current Social Security retirement age from the current 65-67 to 55, and increase the benefits back to where they were in inflation-adjusted 1960s dollars by raising them between 10 to 20 percent (so people could actually live, albeit modestly, on Social Security).
The right-wing reaction to this, of course, will be to say that with fewer people working and more people drawing benefits, it would bankrupt Social Security and destroy the economy. But history shows the exact reverse.
Instead, it would eliminate the problem of unemployment in the United States. All those Boomers retiring would make room in the labor market for all the recent high-school and college graduates who are now finding it so hard to find a job.
Hartmann goes on in the article to discuss in detail about how lowering the retirement age would open up thousands of jobs nationwide, and how wages for working class Americans have been devastated since the days of Ronald Reagan and our old pal Alan Greenspan started gutting unions and trying to lower our standard of living.
Now this is having an adult conversation on Social Security, but to the elitist gasbags it's a nonstarter.