profound, no? Is he quoting someone? Socrates? Or de Tocqueville?
he just as well have said: A country that invest generously
in its youth and inadequately in its elderly, more in
schools than in facilities for it seniors will lose its
soul and thus decline?
would be easy enough to pass this off as the demographic
demagoguery we’re accustomed to hearing these days. Play
up a false dichotomy. But there is something else at work
is it that the richest and most powerful nation on earth
cannot provide adequately for both its students and its
retirees? That’s the question pundits like Friedman don’t
want to address because it would also raise the question
of the enormous and growing economic inequality in the
country. It’s easier to say somebody has to take a hit
right now and it might as well be the old folks.
it’s getting to be very irritating to hear learned people
rail about the need for increased education spending at
a time when across the country schools are being closed,
teachers laid off, class sizes increasing, and curriculums
reduced amid mostly silence from on high, as if it’s the
logical thing to do.
a subtext here.
Friedman wants is “the kind of serious, sensible, Simpson-Bowles-like
budget cuts and tax increases we need.” Oh.
President Obama’s fault. He created the body that bears
these deficit hawks’ names, the one that never voted out
a report, while the views of its chairs are considered
those of “his own deficit commission.” Richard (RJ) Eskow
of The Campaign for America's Future says the Commission
“report” should be called "some opinions that two
guys have about the deficit."
Republicans, Friedman correctly observes, are “calling
for cuts in the things we need to invest more in — like
education and infrastructure — while leaving largely untouched
things we need to reduce, like entitlements and defense
spending” That leads him into the nonsense about the need
to spend more on schools and less on nursing homes.
what Friedman is doing here is advancing the now common
argument that it is necessary to reduce Social Security
and “reform” Medicare to demonstrate that we are serious
about reducing government spending. Doing so by the White
House would produce a chip with which to bargain with
Senate Republicans in the budget deliberations. Notice
he’s not saying that Social security is the cause of the
federal budget deficit; he knows better than that. Not
that that argument is not being advanced everyday and
every way. The rich and the powerful can champion two
erroneous arguments at the same time. Writers for media
outlets like the Washington Post do it almost every day.
of which, a blogger named Blue Girl did a good job of
refuting the Post’s latest venture in the Social Security
Post On Social Security: Long On Hyperbole, Short On Facts)
Montgomery has turned in, and an editor has seen fit to
publish, 700 or so words of ignorant, unresearched blather
and nonsense under the headline Social Security splinters
Democrats in debate over reining in budget deficits. And
the article lives down to the headline,” writes Blue Girl.
“It is a journalistic chimera of unsourced allegations
and speculation, innuendo, conflated information and mindlessly
regurgitated talking points asserted as fact.”
No. the business page reporter had written “Wth momentum
building to rein in record budget deficits, Democrats
are sharply divided over whether to tackle popular but
increasingly expensive safety-net programs for the elderly,
particularly Social Security.” Blue Girl answered with
the oft repeated words that should be stenciled on the
foreheads of the editors of most of the country’s major
media: “Social Security does not contribute one penny
to the deficit. It is a self-funded program and it is
solvent until 2039 if we do nothing, indefinitely if we
make a minor tweak and raise the earnings cap.”
is flat-out lying to imply that Social Security is responsible
for the deficit when it is self-funded and solvent for
decades and can be made so for generations to come simply
by raising the cap on the income that the Social Security
tax is collected on,” write Blue Girl. “Right now, every
dollar you and I make, we pay Social Security taxes on.
But people who make over $106,800 don't pay anything on
the money they make beyond that amount. It doesn't matter
if it's a surgeon who works long hours and is underpaid
at $300,000 or a Wall Street parasite stealing millions
from people. Like that surgeon, they don't pay Social
Security taxes on the money they earn over $106,800. If
that was changed, we would have indefinite solvency. Problem
solved. Decades in advance.”
Blue Girl draws attention to the last would-be weapon
in the arsenal of the Social Security slashers: the “Third
Way.” That’s the “centrist” Democratic party think tank
that last week called upon the party leadership to take
the lead in advancing, “bold action to restrain government
spending -- including overhauling Social Security, Medicare
of the board members of the Third Way think tank is William
Daly, son of, and brother of, two past Chicago mayors,
and chief of staff for President Obama.
a conventional view right now that [entitlement spending]
is an issue that shouldn’t be touched within the Democratic
Party, that we should wait for Republicans to act and
trap them,” Third Way Policy Director Jim Kessler is quoted
as saying, “... Our view is, that might work in a normal
time. But this isn’t a normal time,” he said. “We think
it’s more dangerous politically not to be in this debate
than to be in it.”
that’s not accurate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
and some others joined a group of organizations this week
in launching a wide-ranging "Protect Social Security”
campaign. “Senator Reid doesn’t believe that the budget
should be balanced on the backs of America’s seniors,
plain and simple,” an aide to the senator said.
you see surveillance videos of some creep mugging an elderly
person in an elevator or apartment lobby, the universal
reaction is outrage,” New York Times columnist Bob Herbert
wrote last January. “But when the fat cats and the ideologues
want to hack away at the lifeline of Social Security,
they are treated somehow as respectable, even enlightened
members of the society.
need a reality check. Attacking Social Security is both
cruel and unnecessary. It needs to stop.
demagogues would have the public believe that Social Security
is unsustainable, that it is some kind of giant contributor
to the federal budget deficits. Nothing could be further
from the truth. As the Economic Policy Institute has explained,
Social Security “is emphatically not the cause of the
federal government’s long-term deficits, since it is prohibited
from borrowing and must pay all benefits out of dedicated
tax revenues and savings in its trust funds.”
folks who want to raise the retirement age and hack away
at benefits for ordinary working Americans are inevitably
those who have not the least worry about their own retirement.
The haves so often get a perverse kick out of bullying
Saturday, Herbert wrote his last column for the Times.
In it, he observed, “So here we are pouring shiploads
of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while
simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries,
laying off teachers and police officers, and generally
letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here
to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An
army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across
the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and
long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is
in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often
pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors
to a middle-class standard of living.
Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to
say that the essence of America was its promises. That
was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate
power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led
us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young
people today are staring at a future in which they will
be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune
that should send a shudder through everyone.
U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most
powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so
easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible
to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate
its young, it has lost its way entirely.”
view makes a lot more sense to me than trying to pit one
generation against another, pretending we have to close
assisted living facilities in order to open schools.
Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San
Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence
for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked
for a healthcare union. Click here to
contact Mr. Bloice.