Hey, Tom Brokaw! Does 'Universal' Mean Anything To You?

Tom Brokaw has no excuse for his stupidity on Meet the Press Sunday. None. He's old enough to know better, but evidently he's so full of right wing tropes that he's forgotten the purpose of Social Security and why it is structured the way it is,

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Tom Brokaw has no excuse for his stupidity on Meet the Press Sunday. None. He's old enough to know better, but evidently he's so full of right wing tropes that he's forgotten the purpose of Social Security and why it is structured the way it is, which of course plays right into the hands of those who would like to destroy it entirely.

This particular exchange is characteristic of people who have absolutely no basic understanding of the principles at play or what those principles mean to everyone, not just people who rely on Social Security:

GREGORY: Okay. But you-- Tom-- Tom when you-- I’m not afraid of it-- well, you know, I thought I’d let it go the first time. On second thought I had to say I don’t really know what you meant. Tom, you know, you interviewed-- you interviewed then candidate Obama in 2008. You said-- you asked him then, would you get Medicare and Social Security reform done in your first two years? He said, well Tom, I don’t know if I can do that but-- certainly in the first term. I asked him to make a commitment for the first year of his second term. He’s not prepared to do that. This is the driver, David you-- you recently linked to a Weekly Standard piece about you’re going to run out of discretionary money to do the things the president wants to do if he doesn’t take on entitlements.

MR. BROKAW: They’ve got to address it. And the president I think, could help himself a lot if he were tougher on the AARP for example, and said look, it’s not about the people at the bottom for whom Medicare really is the lifeline. It’s about all of the people, including those of us around the table who get the same benefits, members of our family who are very working class. My brother, you know, has a really great working class career working for the telephone company. But there’s a big disparity between what I’m worth and he’s worth but we get the same benefits at the end of the day. There’s something wrong with that. And, you know, the fact of the matter is that we’re all living longer as well. Social Security can go up if you give it some lead time to retire at 67 and probably 20 years from now to retire maybe at 70 because people are staying in the workplace longer. He ought to be able to raise those issues in a way that he can begin to sell them to the idea of-- sell to the American people the idea that we’ve got fundamental reforms that we have to do, as David says, downstream because we are going to be bankrupt not just our children but your grandchildren.

No. There's nothing wrong with that. Not one thing. Lean in, and listen carefully. Tom almost had it right when he said it's not about the people at the bottom, but about ALL the people, but then some weird kind of out-of-touch equivalence signal went off, and he had to go on about how wrong it is that he gets the same benefits that Joe Surveyor gets.

The problem is, people actually listen when he does this. I happened to get caught in a discussion on Twitter where he had sold his bill of goods to at least one person who seems to think poor folks won't get their Social Security benefits unless we take it away from people like Tom effing Brokaw.

For the benefit of that person, Tom Brokaw, and anyone else who is laboring under this travesty of a misconception, here are some facts to take to your discussion:

  • Social Security is intentionally universal. This is not a bug, it's a feature. It is intentionally universal and must remain so because otherwise it becomes just another discretionary program that Congress can raid, cut, and shame people over like they do with Medicaid, food stamps, heating subsidies and just about everything else. By making it universal no matter whether you're Donald effing Trump or Granny down the street, and by paying for it with employee and employer contributions, it is removed from the realm of the hungry right wing, provided it is protected by the left wing, which is something our President and Congress would do well to remember.

    As long as the payroll deductions and benefits are calculated on the same formula for people, it remains a universal program and everyone's benefit is funded. The very second you talk about cutting the "upper tier" out of the program it is no longer universal, no longer paid for, and no longer alive.

    Get it? Good.

  • Social Security is funded for 24 years. Talk to me about the "need" to reform it after the wars are amortized in advance, or taxes are raised in advance to pay for them. Do NOT, under any circumstances, sit your righteous self down in the room and misinform the American public that a PREPAID program for the next 24 years is your problem when it most clearly is not.
  • The nonsense about raising retirement age has to stop. This is a real flaw among the Village elite, who think they can look at a damned actuarial table and figure it all out. People are not statistics. Some people live longer because they're not out there digging ditches and laying pipe at age 65. Some people wouldn't live longer if they had to lay pipe or dig ditches until age 70. And damn it all, someone will be out there laying pipe and paving roads now and in the future, and they'll just be screwed by an age change the same way the baby boomers were.

    I really hope Tom Brokaw reads this. Because anyone who has bothered to pay attention during this recession knows the highest percentage of workforce dropouts are women between age 54-65. So we get double-screwed, because we're denied the last 15 years of our working lives to earn higher benefits, and have to scrape by until we get to the magic retirement age.

    NO. Raising the retirement age isn't a simple swipe of the pen. It's the difference between having money in the bank at retirement to supplement Social Security and not having money in the bank. It's the difference between survival and living on the dole for some people.

    Mostly, it's just unnecessary.

I am so tired of these out of touch pundits pretending they're playing the Great Policy Game of 2012, where they approach it like Monopoly on steroids. Just. Stop. Stop talking about inflicting pain like sadists and get out of your bubble. Talk to real people, not people who play all of this out like it's a big game where someone wins and someone gets "pain."

Tom should be telling his rich buddies to suck it up and get over it. They profited from the wars, now they can pay their fair share. If they have that much, they can give a little up to make sure others have even the small things they worked so hard for.

Enough of the pain talk. Start talking about real life, with real people, in real situations. Or shut up and sit down and let someone else talk about it.

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