THE BLOG

Fixing Social Security: Fixing It Real Good.

08/10/2010 09:34 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Republican Party has, again, been rumbling about getting rid of Social Security. Or rather, "fixing" it, in their parlance. Much the same way Las Vegas developers "fix" old casinos, dynamiting them to dusty non-existence.

In late July, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his Republican "Roadmap" of budget proposals, which included moving Social Security to private accounts -- something the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office later estimated would cost more than the current system. (He also suggested privatizing Medicare, albeit with voucher payments whose rates grow slower than skyrocketing health-care costs.)

With little question, these proposals would, indeed, wipe out the budget. Unfortunately, they would also wipe out Social Security, Medicare, and most elderly Americans.

Republican Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) however called the proposals, "a pretty good list of options."

No doubt, since a month earlier Mr. Boehner had been speaking with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review about Republican priorities for economic cuts. "I think Social Security would be the most logical place to start. It's just a matter of numbers."

Most likely, the real human beings whose lives would be affected by the cuts might quibble about being considered just "numbers," but that's semantics. Minority Leader Boehner added that he wants to not only reduce payment, but move eligibility to age 70. Further, he'd like to stop paying some people who are otherwise eligible for Social Security. "If you have substantial non-Social Security income while you are retired," he asked, "why are we paying you at a time when we're broke?"

Why, indeed?! Of course, one reason we're paying these people is because, during the course of their lives, they actually paid money into the Social Security system and are legally owed it back. But that's nit-picking. By the same Boehner logic, though, one might ask, "Why are we cutting taxes for the wealthy at a time when we're broke?"

It should be noted that many of John Boehner's comments about cutting Social Security came in the context of how we should pay for the Afghanistan War.

This is a continuing mantra among Republicans. Sharron Angle, running in Nevada for the U.S. Senate, wants to get rid of Social Security, although she calls it an adjustment. Out of existence. "Tea Party" darling Rand Paul, Republican nominee for senator from Kentucky, disdains Social Security as nothing more than a Ponzi Scheme and, like John Boehner, wants to raise the age to 70.

Privatizing Social Security was something George Bush brought up when he was president. It died a fast death. Yet John McCain brought it up again when he was the Republican standard bearer. Mr. Bush's plan would have cut benefits by 1 percent each year for many people -- that meant a 20 percent reduction after 20 years of retirement.

How critical is Social Security? The nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) has estimated that if seniors had no Social Security to rely on, but only their "other" income, nearly half "would be poor."

And yet the Republicans continue to push cutting Social Security. Because that's who they are. Here's the thing -- and let's be blunt:

Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires.... Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

And here's another thing:

That quote above isn't mine. It was said by President Dwight Eisenhower. On November 8, 1954. And if his point is not clear, it is about his own Republican Party. Because Democrats have never tried to cut Social Security -- they created it.

But Republicans have been harping about getting rid of Social Security since it was introduced by Franklin Roosevelt. Republicans hated the program in 1935, and been fighting to gut it for the past 75 years. They called Roosevelt a "socialist." They called him a "dictator." They compared him to Adolf Hitler.

Sound familiar? The Republican Party is an old, broken record against Social Security. And it's a record that a near-totality of Americans remain adamant against. While the far right dreams of ending Social Security, a recent NASI poll shows 88 percent of Americans say Social Security is "more important today than ever." Yet Republican politicians, for 75 years -- and today, more than ever -- keep trying to gut it.

Because that's who they are.

If Dwight Eisenhower was around today, he'd be vilified by his own Republican Party for saying what he did over half a century ago. Yet it holds just as true today -- if any political party attempted to abolish Social Security and unemployment insurance, you would not hear of that party again. They are a tiny splinter group, and their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Yet once again -- and again and again -- the GOP tries to do just that. And here today they are once more trying to abolish Social Security. And filibustering in the Senate to withhold unemployment insurance. And still calling any president who opposes this a socialist and comparing him to Hitler. Again and again. And again. It's who they are. And they keep telling us. This isn't about Barack Obama. Or Franklin Roosevelt. It's about the Republican Party.

For 75 years this month, the Republican Party has hated Social Security. And they keep trying to fool you that all they want to do is just "fix" it. "Adjust it."

But in the words of George Bush, "There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."