03/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Most Republican Need Social Security, Too?

In recent days, two of our foremost progressive economic experts have weighed in on the stealth war that conservatives are waging on Social Security.

First, William Greider, describes this hair-raising scenario at the Nation in Looting Social Security:

Governing elites in Washington and Wall Street have devised a fiendishly clever "grand bargain" they want President Obama to embrace in the name of "fiscal responsibility." The government, they argue, having spent billions on bailing out the banks, can recover its costs by looting the Social Security system.....An impressive armada is lined up to push the idea -- Washington's leading think tanks, the prestige media, tax-exempt foundations, skillful propagandists posing as economic experts and a self-righteous billionaire.

These players are [working] behind closed doors so the public cannot see what's happening or figure out which politicians to blame.

Defending Social Security sounds like yesterday's issue -- the fight people won when they defeated George W. Bush's attempt to privatize the system in 2005. But the financial establishment has pushed it back on the table, claiming that the current crisis requires "responsible" leaders to take action. [Conservative advocates] could set the trap for a "bipartisan compromise" that may become difficult for Obama to resist, given the burgeoning deficit.

Republicans may march to the drummer of the super-rich among them. But aren't most of them, aside from those in the working-class -- notorious, of course, for voting against their best interests -- found in the upper middle-cass? Even before the recent financial downturn, were their portfolios really substantial enough to allow them to ride off into their sunset years without the safety net of Social Security? For the sake of argument, let's concede that their portfolios guarantee them and their spouses comfortable retirements. But what about, if still alive, their aged parents? If they weren't able to afford long-term care insurance, are their children willing to spring for nursing home costs? Remember, Medicare is in Republicans' cross-hairs too.

Pulling back to the larger societal question, what do Republicans propose we do with legions of elderly poor that abolishing Social Security will spring upon the country? In effect, many will be reduced to homelessness.

Not even Republican wish to see legions of elderly roaming -- or creeping along -- the streets. Obviously, they'll have to be warehoused somewhere. Since that would entail not only building housing for them but feeding them, isn't that whole process likely to be at least as expensive to federal and state governments as Social Security is now?

Now let's factor in the current economic crisis. In The Economists Who Missed the Housing Bubble Are Coming After Your Social Security at Talking Points Memo Café, Dean Baker writes:

[All] this talk of reform is occurring with the baby boomers just as the cusp of retirement. Due to the reckless policies of the Rubin-Greenspan-Bush clique....[Tens] of millions of baby boomers who might have felt reasonably secure three years ago are now approaching retirement with little or no equity in their homes.

The median household among older baby boomers [has] a net worth of $143,000 [with] most of their home paid off, but nothing else....In short, the vast majority of baby boomers will be approaching retirement with little other than their Social Security and Medicare to support them.

Perhaps the idea of small government is of such central importance to their world views that Republicans, no matter their economic circumstances, are willing to adhere to it through thick and thin. In that case, you have to give them credit for being true to their principles.

But, by now, we've learned it's folly to give Republicans credit for anything whatsoever. The lack of rhyme and response in their response to the stimulus suggests that at this point they stand for nothing more than sheer nihilism.