Obama caves yet again: offering Social Security cuts to appease the right…

by Linda Beale
Obama caves yet again: offering Social Security cuts to appease the right…

Obama’s budget isn’t even released yet and he’s already caving to the “let’s make the rich richer and forget the rest” crowd.  That crowd that claims that we need a capital gains preference so the rich can gather all that extra money to purportedly create jobs.  The crowd, that is, that fails to acknowledge that the rich tend to take all that extra money to Singapore, the Bahamas, or the Cayman Islands or hide it away in some Swiss bank, none of which does any good for our economy compared to what the government investing that money in infrastructure projects would do. See, e.g., David Leigh, Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore, The Guardian (Apr. 3, 2013);  The corporatist crowd that refuses to admit the empirical evidence that says government investment is as important as private investment in creating jobs.  It is the government that makes the market go round.  And government money–our money–spent for schools, bridges, safer communities provides jobs and improves lives.  Without that government investment, there is no market, just barter.

President Obama seems to have forgotten that he was elected. as a Democrat, over the Republican candidate.  Obama has no business proposing cuts to Social Security benefits as part of a purported deficit reduction package.  Social Security is not a deficit driver: it is a social insurance program earned by those who receive it by payments over lifetimes of hard work.  It is the only stable retirement income most have.  The average Social Security beneficiary receives just short of $14,000 a year from Social Security–that’s just 125% of the poverty line, which of course is defined so low as to guarantee that anyone living at or below that line is indeed in abject poverty and unable to move out of it.

The Republican Party has argued for cuts to Social Security benefits for decades, using whatever crisis of the momen they can engender to argue that we can’t afford the system in place.  They’ve invented the perjorative term “entitlement” to imply that those who rely on social insurance because of disabilities or old age are just ‘freeloaders’ who are mooching off others.   Not so, since Social Security is an earned benefit program like insurance: workers pay premiums throughout their working life, and then once they reach retirement age they may draw benefits.

There are a number of reasons for the amount of debt that the US government has–most of them related to the four-decade-long drive by the Republican Party to protect the wealthy and the corporations they own from much of a tax burden and to allow the accumulation of immense wealth by a few at the top of the income distribution.  Outsize military expenditures driven by Bush’s preemptive wars undertaken at the same time that the Bush Administration pushed through tax cuts that favored the rich are of course a big problem.  The Bush tax cuts threw us from surplus to deficit and we haven’t gotten beyond them yet.  The almost complete capture of the financial regulatory agencies by Wall Street, and the resulting financial crisis driven by casino capitalism spiked with the heady bubbles of derivative inflation is of course another part of the problem, and we haven’t gotten beyond that yet, as Big Banks still exercise far too much power over their own regulation, proven by the LIBOR scandal that demonstrated their ability to manipulate the purportedly objective market rate to suit their profit machines.

But Social Security is not one of those drivers of the debt.  And the debt is not so outsize that it merits sacrificing the most vulnerable amongst us to mollify the wealthy who merely want to avoid paying their fair share of the revenues needed to get rail service up to snuff, bridges safe, and public schools owned by the public again.

The average Social Security benefit is just under $14,000: the use of chained CPI will result in a loss to the average recipient of “$4,631 in Social Security benefits by age 75, $13,910 by age 85; and $28,004 by age 95″ (from release by Social Security Works, based on “Inflation Indexation in Major Federal Benefit Programs: Impact of the Chained CPI,” Alison Shelton, AARP Public Policy Institute, March 2013.).

Obama has no business facilitating the gluttony of the rich.  He should drop the proposal to use “chained CPI” that will  result in a cut benefits for Social Security recipients.

cross posted with ataxingmatter