Jan 24, 2005
To carry out its sweeping attack on Social Security, the Bush administration may have a Republican controlled Congress to work with. But it still cannot get this so-called "reform" passed without the support of at least some Democrats in Congress. If there are Senators who block together, they can prevent a vote on any measure they consider critical unless 60 Senators vote to override them. And the Republicans have only 55 seats. The Democrats could literally kill any attack on Social Security by not letting it come to a vote – if they wanted.
Will the Democrats do that? Don't bet on it. The Democrats are playing their usual game. On the one hand, some Democrats are playing to working people by denouncing Bush's plan for Social Security. On the other hand, other Democrats have quietly made it clear that they are "willing to work with Bush." One of the Democrats' main leaders, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Gore's running mate in 2000, has already announced that he is leading the negotiations with Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine to reach "a consensus" on "reform." Joining Lieberman are other prominent Democratic senators, including Evan Bayh of Indiana and Thomas R. Carper of Delaware.
This sounds awfully similar to the tricks pulled by the Democrats all through Bush's first term. Then, too, the Democrats had the votes to stop Bush's entire program, but consistently provided enough votes to guarantee Bush and the Republicans the margin of victory – after denouncing them! Despite all their bluster, the Democrats helped Bush to impose his entire program. And this includes in the first two years of Bush's term, when the Democrats had a majority in the Senate.
There is no reason to believe that on the question of Social Security, which is an attack of historic proportions, the Democrats will act any differently. For many years, plenty of Democrats have called for precisely these same kinds of attacks, thus helping to lay the groundwork for Bush's present proposal. When he was in power, Clinton himself tried to follow up on his enormous, historic 1996 attack on welfare, ending welfare as an entitlement, by beginning the push to also end Social Security as an entitlement. Even though Clinton didn't finish the job, he kept up the drum beat for future attacks on Social Security. And in 1999, he named a commission headed by several prominent Democratic senators – including Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, John B. Breaux of Louisiana and Charles Robb of Virginia – that proposed to privatize Social Security. This commission was supported by the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who headed a similar commission for Bush two years later.
Working people have no reason to expect the Democrats will stop Bush this time either. That doesn't mean that Social Security "reform" can't be stopped. But working people cannot count on any politicians to do it.
If the attack on Social Security is to be stopped, it will have to be thrown back in the same way Social Security was established – by a mobilization of the working people of this country that forced the capitalist class and their politicians to accede to something they didn't want to give up.