Will Trump & The GOP Betray Their Supporters By Cutting Social Security?

Conservatives are of the misguided belief that the capitalist system can solve virtually all of our problems. However, one of capitalism’s biggest flaws is that it is incapable of providing retirement and health care security for our senior citizens. Before Social Security, poverty among the elderly was endemic. After they retired, many senior citizens were sent to poor houses and poor farms — where life was nasty, brutish and short.

Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Congress recognized this problem and passed Social Security in 1935. Thanks to Social Security (and Medicare), the problem of poverty among the elderly has largely been solved. Due to these successful and popular programs, poverty among the elderly has been reduced from 50% to 9%.

The radical right has always hated Social Security because its success has proven that government can help people. In 1936, Alf Landon ran against Social Security and predicted it would soon go broke. (Landon was routed in 1936 by FDR — losing 46 out of 48 states.) A group of wealthy Americans even financed a court challenge to the constitutionality of Social Security and the program was found to be constitutional in 1937.

The reactionary elements of the GOP since the 1936 Landon campaign have used the false talking point that Social Security (and Medicare) are going broke, and we can’t afford these programs. In 1936, Landon prognosticated that: “If the present compulsory insurance plan remains in force, our old people are only too apt to find the cupboard bare.” George W. Bush predicted in 1978 that Social Security would “go broke in 1988 unless Congress privatized the system. “

George W. Bush made a big push to privatize Social Security and turn it over to Wall Street the last time the GOP controlled the White House and the Congress. After his 2004 re-election, Bush made Social Security privatization his top agenda item even though he barely mentioned it in his campaign. In 2005, Bush barnstormed around the country trying to whip up support for gutting this successful program. He even came to Omaha in an effort to win Ben Nelson’s support but it failed. The Democrats stood firm and Bush was thwarted. This big setback marked the beginning of Bush’s political decline and fall.

Now that the GOP once again controls the executive and legislative branches, they are already talking about cutting Social Security. They just can’t help themselves. Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX) has recently introduced a plan to cut Social Security that would slowly but surely destroy this vital program that has provided a dignified retirement for millions of Americans. Johnson’s extreme plan would give high income beneficiaries a tax cut, cut the COLA for middle and high income earners beginning in 2018, increase benefits for the very poor, and hit the millennial generation with a 25% benefit cut when they retire.

Johnson’s plan would turn Social Security into a welfare program and undermine support for the program among younger Americans. Turning Social Security into a welfare program would significantly diminish support for it and lead to further cuts in the future. Moreover, breaking our promises to the millennials will turn them against Social Security. It would only be a matter of time until Social Security was consigned to the dustbin of history.

Social Security isn’t going broke and isn’t in need of radical changes. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, Social Security is solvent until 2038. If we do absolutely nothing to reform it, Social Security will still be in a position to pay 79% of the promised benefits to future generations.

We can preserve Social Security and keep our promises to senior citizens with a few tweaks in the tax structure and/or the benefit package. Moreover, these tweaks would be relatively painless if we avoid another huge deficit financed tax cut for the wealthy and/or a new ground war in the Middle East. We just have to avoid doing stupid stuff.

We must closely monitor our Nebraska Congressional Republicans. Fischer, Sasse, Smith and Bacon have all come out for cutting Social Security by raising the retirement age. That constitutes a real cut, doesn’t save any money and would undermine support for the program among middle aged and young people. Fortenberry hasn’t taken a position on the future of Social Security. However, the CD1 based Congressman has a long history of voting with his party bosses and the radical right.

Social Security is a fight that we must and can win. It would only take three Republican Senators to stop any scheme to break our promises to our senior citizens. Back in 2005, when Bush was popular and had 55 GOP Senators, he made an effort to privatize Social Security and turn it over to Wall Street. The proposal turned out to be so toxic that most Republicans wouldn’t come out in support of it. The defeat of Bush’s Social Security scheme also marked the beginning of his political decline. We can turn today’s Social Security fight into a similar defeat for Trump and the GOP! Now let’s get it done! The American people are on our side!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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