Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sanders' Socialism Makes Its Imprint On Dems With Consensus to Expand Social Security

"The Ron Paul of the left": Why Bernie Sanders is the cranky socialist 2016 needs
Bernie discussing Social Security expansion one year ago.

Despite the existing and persisting hysterical calls of Trumpites to "send Sanders to a Socialist country", and conflating his democratic socialism with the National Socialism of Hitler- Bernie has left his mark. According to a New York Times piece (June 19, p. 14), 'Driven By Campaign Populism, Democrats Unite on Social Security Plan'):

"President Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are rallying around proposals to expand Social Security and increase benefits, a sea change after three decades dominated over the program's rising costs. The Democrats' new consensus was driven by the populist election year politics of Senator Bernie Sanders and by a realization that many workers have neither significant pensions or any significant retirement savings."

In other words, one of Bernie's socialist platform cornerstones - expansion of Social Security as opposed to cutting it to "make it better" - has now come front and center for at least one political party. This means they will also be prepared to defend the proposal as it wends its way into the Democratic Party 2016 platform.

Of course, what many of the anti-socialist yappers tend to forget or ignore is that Social Security is indeed a socialist program. For example, it increases benefits disproportionately for lower earning  workers, enabling them to secure more in retirement benefits than if their earnings were integrated into a linear scale. Thus, a $12,000/yr. earner who puts in at least his 40 quarters will eventually receive (by age 70) far more by proportion than a $100,000  a year earner who puts in the same time or even double that.

Now, with Social Security expansion, the benefits to lower wage workers and those who have suffered by virtue of not having pensions, or years of littler or no earnings will be even greater if monthly benefits are increased. This, as opposed to enduring a Repuke plan of Social Security cuts to fix it. (Or, as one wit once observed: "Cutting off a runner's leg to make him faster".)

Recall the last momentous change to the system was in 1983 when Allan Greenspan - at the behest of a bipartisan commission - pushed through a plan where spending was trimmed, taxes were raised and the eligibility age (for full benefits) was advanced, i.e. to 67 for all those born after 1959.

But now all that's changed and even a once Neoliberal-tilting President appears to be on board. As the Times noted, back in 2011 and 2012 Obama seriously considered proposals (at the behest of his "Debt Commission") to curtail Social Security's benefits by cutting cost of living increases using the chained CPI. See e.g.


But now Mr. Obama appears to have touched base (finally!) with his inner Socialist, asserting in a speech in Elkhart, Indiana on June 1:

"It's time we finally made Social Security more generous, and increased its benefits so that today's retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement they've earned,"

This is momentous stuff right out of Bernie's playbook and contradicts all the naysaying we heard last year, from the likes of Claire McCaskill.   As noted by Nancy J. Altman of Social Security Works:

"Senator Sanders...has transformed the debate so that expanding Social Security today is a central tenet and consensus of the Democratic Party."

Indeed. The Times (p. 17) observes that among the plans for expansion being considered we have:

- An increase in benefits for widows and those who take time out of the paid work force to care for sick family

- Increase benefits for everyone but with extra help for those considered most vulnerable (e.g. that $12,000 /year worker with three kids)

- Increase the COLA to reflect the fact that older Americans tend to use more health care.

Bear in mind that non-increases in the COLA for several of the last 6 years have effectively meant an increase in Medicare premiums - given the premiums are deducted from one's Social Security check. Hence, without increases in the COLAs the non-increases translate to cuts - since the Medicare premium never decreases.

The only fly in the ointment left is Mr. Obama's seeming Jekyll-Hyde Neoliberal persona which often appears to act contrary to what he says. We already observed it in the case of speaking like a global warming aware Prez - but then approving offshore oil drilling, first in the Arctic now in the Gulf and off the Atlantic.

In the case of Social Security, while he delivered a terrific June 1 speech the Times points out the Senate Dems are "digging in against a Republican nominated by Mr. Obama to serve a second term as a public trustee of Social Security".

Huh?  The guy, Charles P. Blahous III, is definitely no friend of S.S. expansion given he has "undermined public confidence in the program by exaggerating its financial problems".

Worse, this character was one of George W. Bush's architects for Social Security privatization.

We can safely say then that unless: a) Obama retracts the nomination, or b) the Senate Dems pull his plug, the agenda to expand Social Security won't be going anyplace fast.

Still, it's a sign of victory for Sanders' democratic socialism that the Dems have embraced his expansion proposal - even if thus far mostly by talk as opposed to doing the walk.

Btw, what does Donald Drumpf propose? Well, according to his 2000 book, 'The America We Deserve', Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" and needs to be privatized. Imagine, if you will, how that would have worked out if Bush Jr. had succeeded in doing that ca. 2006 with the financial crash ahead in 2008. The losses and mass poverty in the wake would have been staggering and the system might never have recovered.

Yeppers, we need Drumpf, aka Trump, like a hole in the head.

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