Elizabeth Warren delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate that suggested the push to expand Social Security could become a key issue in the argument over the Democratic Party of the future.
November 18, 2013

Elizabeth Warren is taking the bull by the horns, becoming a true leader of the progressive movement in the Democratic Party. It's refreshing to hear a sitting senator discuss the problems of working-class Americans as if she truly wants to help them. Today, she delivered a powerful speech on the floor of the Senate in which she believes that the push to expand Social Security instead of cutting it will be a defining moment in the Democratic Party as we move forward.

The Plum Line:

In remarks Warren just began delivering, she strongly endorsed the push to boost Social Security benefits — in keeping with Senator Tom Harkin’s proposal to do the same — and condemned the “Chained CPI” that liberals fear Dems will embrace in strong terms. From the prepared remarks:

“The most recent discussion about cutting benefits has focused on something called the Chained-CPI. Supporters of the chained CPI say that it’s a more accurate way of measuring cost of living increases for seniors. That statement is simply not true. Chained CPI falls short of the actual increases in costs that seniors face, pure and simple. Chained CPI? It’s just a fancy way of saying cut benefits.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed a measure of the impact of inflation on seniors. It’s called the CPI-E, and, if we adopted it today, it would generally increase benefits for our retirees — not cut them.

“Social Security isn’t the answer to all of our retirement problems. We need to find ways to tackle the financial squeeze that is crushing our families. We need to help families start saving again. We need to make sure that more workers have access to better pensions. But in the meantime – so long as these problems continue to exist and so long as we are in the midst of a real and growing retirement crisis – a crisis that is shaking the foundations of what was once a vibrant and secure middle class – the absolute last thing we should be doing is talking about cutting back on Social Security.

“The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors — is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

“Over the past generation, working families have been hacked at, chipped, and hammered. If we want a real middle class — a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country — then we must take the retirement crisis seriously. Seniors have worked their entire lives and have paid into the system, but right now, more people than ever are on the edge of financial disaster once they retire — and the numbers continue to get worse.

“That is why we should be talking about expanding Social Security benefits — not cutting them. Senator Harkin from Iowa, Senator Begich from Alaska, Senator Sanders from Vermont, and others have been pushing hard in that direction. Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day.”

As Noam Scheiber detailed in his big cover story on why Warren is a threat to Hillary Clinton in 2016, many of the issues that Warren has been championing for years now — Wall Street accountability and oversight of the big banks; stagnating middle class wages; the need for financial reforms designed to address the ways the economy is rigged in favor of the financial sector and against working Americans — are emerging as central to a larger argument over what the Democratic Party should stand for and who it really represents.

Elizabeth Warren is the one person who can help protect the Democratic party from turning into Pete Peterson's wet dream of entitlement cutting deficit hawks. Without her the party will be influenced by hacks and high paid shills like Ed Rendell, which would truly decimate the middle class of American society. And as others have already said, she can put the left back into those who may drift rightward as they seek higher office.

Duncan Black gets major props for helping promote this very smart and important idea. Instead of cutting Social Security benefits, we should work hard to expand them. I love the fact that she bashes the Washington Post for their lying words on our retirement problems.

Here's the full transcript of of her entire speech called The Retirement Crisis.

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