For too long, Washington's fiscal hawks and conservative ideologues have monopolized the conversation about our nation's safety net programs. Their misleading messages and PR campaigns are designed to undermine public confidence in the Social Security program.
Today, August 14, is Social Security's 77th birthday. That presents us with a difficult challenge: What do you give a government program that has everything... except a secure future of its own? Let's take a look at the options for this year's celebration.
We're being told that there's a "crisis" and we can no longer afford the middle-class American dream. The truth is the opposite: Our worst long-term problems aren't caused by the middle class, but by politicians who sacrifice the middle class for wealthy interests.
News that Obama won't cut Social Security is at the very least a temporary victory for all concerned, one that gives the public more time to make its voice heard. That's good news. But the fight is far from over.
"No more benefit cuts" is actually a middle-ground position, since benefits were already cut back in the last Social Security overhaul in 1983. Under normal circumstances, Democrats should be seeking to reverse the 1983 cuts, not add to them.
The new proposal would pit middle-class seniors against the elderly poor, forcing them to compete for a stripped-down pool of dollars. The end result would be to cut the most stable and successful program in the Federal government's history.
Don't Fear the Boomers. Despite the scaremongers' attempts to incite generational war, people born between 1946 and 1964 are not going to destroy Social Security. But don't just take my word for it. Ask an actuary.
Some deficit cutters will promise that lower-income people will not see benefit cuts. But any cuts will break the covenant under which workers have paid payroll taxes for a lifetime. And the question remains: Where will you cut?
There's a new undercurrent in Washington debate, an unstated drive to undo the bipartisan consensus that's governed American policy for a century. The old belief that greater fortune brings greater responsibility is under attack.
There's only one problem with the argument that Social Security spending "drives out" education and other budget items: Those aging people have paid into a self-sustaining program for their entire working lives.