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Eric Kingson
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Eric Kingson, professor of social work at Syracuse University's School of Social Work, is also a Senior Research Associate in the Maxwell School’s Center for Policy Research.

Kingson served as policy advisor to two presidential commissions -- the 1982-3 National Commission on Social Security Reform and the 1994 Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. Previously on the social work faculties of Boston College and the University of Maryland, he directed the Emerging Issues in Aging Program of the Gerontological Society of America (1984-5). He received his doctorate in 1979 from Brandeis University’s Florence Heller School for Social Policy and Management; his M.P.A. in 1976 from Northeastern University.

A founding board member of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), he is a past-chair of the Social Research, Policy and Practice section of the Gerontological Society of America, a member of the board of directors of the Foundation of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and chairs a NASI advisory committee to its program, "Innovative Projects to Strengthen Social Security for Vulnerable Populations." His scholarship examines the politics and economics of population aging, Social Security, and the public and private exchanges across generations. He is primary author of Ties That Bind: The Interdependence of Generations (Seven Locks Press, 1986) and Social Security and Medicare: A Policy Primer; author of The Diversity of the Baby Boom (Washington, DC: AARP, 1992) and co-editor of Social Security in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 1997). He also authored Lessons From Joan: Living and Loving with Cancer, A Husband’s Story (Syracuse University Press, November 2005), and In Their Own Voices (Center for Spiritual Care, SUNY Upstate Medical University, May 2009), a small book that presents the experiences and advice of 14 children and youth who face life-threatening illness.

Entries by Eric Kingson

Fight for Big Ideas: Expand Social Security

(72) Comments | Posted November 11, 2014 | 9:26 AM

Why did Democrats lose on election night? Because not enough of them were fighting for big ideas. As Sen. Bernie Sanders says in the video at the top of the post, the American people are united in support of expanding Social Security, but too few candidates were talking about that big idea.

Social Security Works is shortly releasing new, in-depth exit polling that shows that the American people are united across party lines when it comes to Social Security. Here is a quick preview: Nationally, over 80 percent of people who voted last week said Social Security was important to them as a voting issue. And, more than three out of four people who voted said that if an elected official supported expanding Social Security they would be more likely to vote for them. No surprise, since a large segment of the American people are concerned about their ability to retire someday.

Democrats have historically been the party of Social Security and the champion of the middle class -- so what happened? For that simple answer we can turn to President Harry S. Truman in 1952:

"When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the Fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time."

Too much of the national Democratic brand has been, in President Truman's words, "a Republican in Democratic clothing" on the vital issue of the future of Social Security. Cheered on by the Third Way, Fix The Debt, and other Wall Street-funded lobbying organizations, as well as the Washington Post and other elite media, many Democrats followed the leadership of the administration, casting their lot with false-centrist Republican-lite policies and rhetoric regarding Social Security.

Following their party's lead, most Democratic candidates gave only vague promises of "protecting" Social Security, and opposing its privatization. But opposing privatization doesn't make you a Social Security champion. It just means you're not a fringe radical who wants to dismantle the most popular program in the country. That's a very low bar, and the American people can see it for the posturing it is. Moreover, Republican candidates muddied the water by running ads saying they were committed to "saving" Social Security for current seniors -- no matter that their policy proposals would do the opposite.

Making matters worse, many Democrats were convinced by the "Very Serious People" in Washington that they would be rewarded for supporting the "bipartisan" and "fiscally conservative" Bowles-Simpson plan, which cuts Social Security. In chasing this and other false dreams of so-called bipartisan budget compromise, many Democratic candidates went on record as favoring the Bowles-Simpson proposal, Social Security cuts and all -- statements that their Republican opponents were only too happy to use against them.

Karl Rove's big-money operation, Crossroads GPS, ran ads around the country attacking Democratic candidates for supporting a "controversial plan" that raises the retirement age, cuts the already meager cost of living adjustment, eviscerates benefits for younger workers, and, in short, radically transforms the program. Never mind that Rove and other Republicans once criticized President Obama for insufficient enthusiasm over Bowles-Simpson. They were more than happy to obfuscate their own party's support for cutting and privatizing Social Security by pointing out that some Democrats were willing to compromise their constituents' earned benefits.

Opportunists like Karl Rove make these hypocritical attacks because they know that there is nothing "centrist" about cutting Social Security. There is no large segment of the US population for which cutting Social Security is popular, left, center or right. As a recent write up of a Pew survey on increasing polarization in America put it, "Americans are divided on everything, except their love of Social Security."

Presented with two candidates who've supported cutting Social Security and who both mouth platitudes about "strengthening Social Security," is it any wonder many voters didn't know who to believe, or that 2014 saw the lowest voter turnout since World War II?

This post and our work in general are not about getting people elected to office, but the reality is that policy proposals to dismantle Social Security and sell it off brick by brick occur in a political landscape. It is our job to raise the voices of the American people so loud that no one in DC can ignore us. That is why we need to ensure that all policymakers in both parties take home the correct message from the 2014 midterms, and that message is, listen to the American people and fight for big ideas. Fight to expand Social Security.

Democrats missed a golden opportunity this election cycle by not running as a Party on a platform of expanding Social Security. Beginning today, the Democratic Party should loudly call for the expansion of Social Security and every Democratic candidate should run hard on it in 2016. It is the road to a brighter future, not only for Democratic candidates but, more importantly, for the American people.

The authors have a forthcoming book that explains why now is the time to expand Social Security, you can pre-order it now. "Social Security Works!: Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All," available from The New Press, January,...

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Congressman John Larson's Important Plan to Expand Social Security

(2) Comments | Posted August 20, 2014 | 7:27 PM

The idea of expanding Social Security is gaining momentum. Senators from the blue states of Massachusetts and Vermont (Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders), the swing states of Iowa and Ohio (Senators Tom Harkin and Sherrod Brown), and the red state of Alaska (Senator Mark Begich),...

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Happy Birthday Social Security: Time to Expand Your Protections

(12) Comments | Posted August 14, 2014 | 10:52 AM

Today marks 79 years since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Social Security into law on August 14th, 1935. Today, our Social Security system celebrates nearly eight decades of ensuring basic economic security for America's workers and their families when wages are lost as the result of death, disability, or old...

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United We Win: How Progressives Defeated the Chained CPI

(0) Comments | Posted February 27, 2014 | 5:02 PM

Last week, progressive groups won a huge victory when the White House announced the chained CPI Social Security cut will be not be in President Obama's budget for the upcoming year. We should reflect on two lessons from this victory. The first is the strength and power that comes when...

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Stealing From Federal Civil Servants: You May Be Next

(688) Comments | Posted December 8, 2013 | 4:59 PM

Imagine that an employer wishes he hadn't paid you so much in the past, so he goes into your bank account and takes what he wants. Sound outrageous? That's essentially what the federal government may be about to do to its workers!

And if that doesn't make you angry,...

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Chained-CPI Supporters Believe This Year's Tiny Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Is Too Generous

(53) Comments | Posted October 17, 2013 | 12:15 PM

To ensure that Social Security benefits do not erode over time, they are adjusted every January. Notwithstanding the annual adjustments, those benefits do not keep pace with inflation. Shockingly, rather than make those adjustments more accurate, some politicians support making them more miserly, through a change, known as the "chained...

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Dear Journalists: Please See and Report the Good News in the 2013 Social Security Trustees Report

(23) Comments | Posted May 29, 2013 | 4:41 PM

Beginning in 1940 when the first Social Security retirement check was mailed out to Ida Fuller, a retired legal secretary living in Brattleboro, Vermont, and continuing to this day, no public policy has done more to protect the financial security and dignity of Americans. No public policy has charged our...

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One Group of Lawmakers Is Thinking Seriously About America's Future, And Another Group Isn't

(2) Comments | Posted March 25, 2013 | 5:18 PM

This week is a week of tremendous excitement for those who are interested in the Congressional budget process -- which is likely to be a relatively small group of folks. Beneath all the eye-glazing numbers, though, are values. And real people whose lives will be shaped, for better or worse,...

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Cancel the Sequester! It's Really That Simple for Congress

(161) Comments | Posted February 28, 2013 | 10:34 AM

Co-authored by Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, Founding Co-Directors of Social Security Works and Co-Chairs of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition.

It's not usual for politicians to admit error.

The "sequester" poses an unnecessary and huge danger, potentially inflicting deep wounds to the economy and to...

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President Obama: We the People Thank You for Defending Social Security in Your Second Term

(10) Comments | Posted January 22, 2013 | 2:16 PM

In his stirring second inaugural address, President Barack Obama demonstrated that he understands what Social Security means to the American people. In saying, "[W]e reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build...

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Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire?

(37) Comments | Posted January 2, 2013 | 5:31 PM

Notwithstanding the White House claim that the fiscal-cliff deal is "A Victory for Middle Class Families and the Economy," we worry that it will play out as a defeat for both. Intended or not, the deal set the agenda for negotiations that will threaten the future of Social Security, Medicare,...

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Dear Congress: A Vote for the Chained CPI Is a Vote to Cut Social Security Benefits

(77) Comments | Posted December 28, 2012 | 4:25 PM

The following letter was co-authored by Eric Kingson and Nancy Altman, co-chairs of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, and sent to every Congressional office.

Our coalition of 320 organizations representing a broad cross-section of the American people respectfully urges you to reject the use of the less-generous and...

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Our 'How-to Manual' for Betraying Seniors and People with Disabilities

(23) Comments | Posted December 18, 2012 | 11:17 AM

Pity those poor politicians who want to cut Social Security benefits by changing the way cost of living adjustments (COLAs) are calculated.

They want to be counted as among the "serious people in the room." You know, the folks who are willing to "compromise" the well-being of everyday Americans...

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Lame Duck Whip Count

(4) Comments | Posted October 25, 2012 | 3:23 PM

Once again, politicians are quietly scheming about ways to implement Wall Street austerity plans, including cutting important systems like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

That's why we're asking every member of Congress to promise:

  • NO benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
  • NO tax cuts for the top...

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Attention All Journalists: 8 Things You Need to Know Before Reporting on the Social Security COLA

(4) Comments | Posted October 15, 2012 | 10:35 AM

On October 16, at 8:30 a.m., the Social Security Administration will post on its website the size of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2013. Experts estimate that the 2013 COLA will increase Social Security benefits in nominal dollars by between 1.5 and 1.7 percent. The adjustment...

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How the GOP-Backed Ryan Plan Threatens Middle-Class Retirement Security

(14) Comments | Posted August 6, 2012 | 2:00 PM

by Nancy Altman, Social Security Works, Eric Kingson, Syracuse University, and Benjamin W. Veghte, Scholars Strategy Network, Harvard University

This piece was originally published by the Scholars Strategy Network, and the full brief is available as a PDF here.

Generations of Americans have worked together to build...

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Alan Simpson: Pulling Apart Social Security, And Proud of It

(10) Comments | Posted June 11, 2012 | 6:42 PM

The Honorable Alan Simpson
United States Senator (retired)
1201 Sunshine Avenue
Cody, Wyoming 82414

Dear Senator Simpson,

Your plan would begin pulling apart our Social Security system brick by brick. Unfortunately, you seem to think that bigotry and bullying will silence those of us who are trying...

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An Open Letter About Alan Simpson's Recent Comments

(9) Comments | Posted May 29, 2012 | 7:59 PM

The Honorable Erskine Bowles
Co-Chair
National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

Dear Mr. Bowles:

While we have extremely serious objections to the Social Security provisions proposed in the Bowles-Simpson plan and, indeed, its inclusion at all in a deficit reduction package, this is not why we are...

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Washington Post Continues Attack on Social Security

(141) Comments | Posted November 11, 2011 | 5:41 PM

The Washington Post doesn't seem to want to take any prisoners in its on-going assault on Social Security. On October 31st, the paper ran a front page, above the fold, "news" article ("The debt fallout: How Social Security went 'cash negative' earlier than expected") falsely claiming that Social...

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Message to the 99%: Help Stop the 1% From Using the Super Committee to Rob the American People

(473) Comments | Posted October 29, 2011 | 2:11 PM

The 1% is using the super-secret Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. the Super Committee), to reach directly into the pockets of the 99% and steal hundreds of billions of dollars from them. This committee has unprecedented power. It has been meeting behind closed doors for weeks. Finally, though,...

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