The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Editorial:
Watch Out for the Social Security Attack!

Jan 21, 2013

It appears that the House Republicans have backed away from their second “fiscal cliff” threat, agreeing to raise the debt ceiling for another three months. This pushes the potential confrontation about the government budget back from March to June.

Many people who had worried that the politicians would attack Social Security and Medicare are greeting this news with sighs of relief.

Don’t believe it! The Republicans may be the more vocal about cutting programs, but in fact the Democrats, including President Obama, are in basic agreement with them about the “need” to balance the budget and to cut social programs. All this means is that the threat has been pushed down the road another three months. That’s three months the Republicans and Democrats will spend to figure out just how they will screw us over – and three months they can spend to try to convince us that further cuts are necessary.

We know that both parties have their sights set on Social Security, and they have for a long time. And for a long time, they’ve been feeding us lies about Social Security, trying to soften us up to accept the idea that cuts are inevitable.

They tell us that the deficit is too big – and Social Security is part of the reason. This is three lies in one: One, the deficit is not our problem; money going to the wealthy creates the deficit, so let them pay for it. Two, Social Security is not even part of the budget that creates the deficit – it is completely separate; it receives funds from payroll taxes, and pays them out. And three, Social Security is not even in deficit! It’s running a surplus! So why the heck would it need to be cut?!

Well, the politicians say, the fund will start running out of money in 2030, or 2040, so we need to start preparing now. Never mind that projections that far in the future are notoriously uncertain; the fact is that Social Security is currently running a surplus, and will be for the foreseeable future. So why would it make sense to cut it now, because they’re worried they’d need to cut it in the future?

If they’re really worried that Social Security might run out of money, all they have to do is raise the cap on income subjected to the payroll tax, currently at $113,700. No income above that amount gets taxed for Social Security, meaning ordinary workers pay a much higher percentage of their income to Social Security than wealthy people do. Double that cap, or wipe it out completely, and their potential problem disappears. But of course they wouldn’t want to do THAT – that means taxing the wealthy!

No, instead, what they HAVE done has been to raise the payroll tax by 2%. Everyone who works for a living will see two percent less in their paychecks, beginning immediately.

At the same time that they’re taxing us more, they’re putting in place a financial trick that will cut benefits immediately and compound those cuts for decades in the future: they plan to change the index they use for cost of living adjustments to Social Security payments. The current consumer price index (CPI) is already artificially low; the new one they want to use will under-report the rate of inflation even more. Retirees’ cost of living adjustments won’t even come close to the real cost of living!

And this is even before they get to the direct cuts they’re talking of making.

In fact, the politicians’ real problem is that though the Social Security fund is supposed to be completely separate from the rest of the budget, the government has been borrowing from it for years. The REST of the government is in debt because of the trillions they’ve been handing to the banks, to military contractors, and to other members of the capitalist class to bolster THEIR economy. They have a problem because the Social Security fund is full of IOUs, and to pay back those IOUs, they’d have to get that money back from the banks. But why should we accept that those IOUs won’t be paid?

Don’t let these two lying parties put their hands on Social Security OR Medicare. Those are programs that working people once fought to win.

The working class movement in the 1930s – out in the streets, organized, determined – imposed its will and made the capitalist class agree to Social Security, unemployment benefits and welfare benefits for people unable to work.

The Black movement of the 1950s and ‘60s – equally organized and determined – got rid of Jim Crow and forced that same capitalist class to provide Medicare and Medicaid, as well as food stamps. For all working people.

Now the capitalists and their government are preparing to take these social programs away from us. They would reduce the elderly to poverty, so the wealthy can live in still more luxury.

How do we defend ourselves? How do we keep what our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents once won?

Not by hoping the politicians back away from the latest “fiscal cliff,” that’s for sure.

Isn’t it obvious? We have to do what was done to get those benefits in the first place. Fight!