By James J. Devine
For nearly three decades Social Security produced big surpluses, collecting $2.7 trillion more in taxes from workers than it paid in benefits to retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children. That current $2.7 trillion surplus is a stubborn fact that makes Republican rhetoric a lie because you are not broke when you’re sitting on a pile of cash.
Republicans Willard Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan supported the greatest accumulation of federal debt as George W. Bush waged two wars, two rounds of tax cuts for the rich and a Medicare drug benefit that enriched pharmaceutical companies — all without paying for any of it with revenue increases or spending reductions.
If Congress acts wisely, Social Security could collect enough tax revenue each year to pay 100 percent of benefits into perpetuity, lower the retirement age and exempt from taxation the first $20,000 of wages so that working poor families can get a little relief that will help boost the economy. Republicans always talk about using tax cuts to stimulate the economy and fiscal responsibility, which means paying the bill, not running up debt or spending more than you bring in.
Make unearned income subject to Social Security taxes and eliminate the cap, and working people will be assured stable, permanent and common sense solutions the retirement income prospects of millions of Americans.
Nearly half of all workers do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan and those that do often fail to participate. Social Security is the only thing preparing middle- and low-income Americans a financially secure retirement.
The only segment of the population that gets any gain from the schemes advanced by Republicans is the wealthiest one percent, and it can easily be argued that making more Americans poor will degrade the quality of life for the richest people, too. Consider the personal security of non-working fat cats when unemployed fathers are desperate to feed hungry children and you see that equality and opportunity of access to the American Dream make life better for all of us.
The Republican-induced state of inequality in America has deprived half the country of liberty and justice, because slavery, serfdom and servitude are fundamentally are contrary to freedom. With the housing market still recovering from the subprime crisis, lawlessness, deregulation and too-big-to-fail bailouts, you cannot encourage economic growth and home ownership with more foreclosures, more bankruptcy, layoffs pushing working people into poverty.
Very simply, the problem facing America’s economy became much worse when Republican Ronald Reagan introduced supply-side, trickle-down economics and exploded federal deficits 32 years ago. The result is income inequality and financial instability that makes our nation weaker than ever before instead of promised benefits for all.
Republican economics has failed America but Republicans want to double down on deregulation, union-busting and tax cuts for millionaires, the same policies that gave us record unemployment, repeated stock market crashes, new levels of poverty and less access to middle-class lifestyles for working people.
Instead of wrecking Social Security, we should return to the kind of smart Democratic policies that gave birth to the nation’s retirement safety net. The New Deal of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt made America victorious through the Great Depression and World War II. That was based on Keynesian economics, or what modern Republicans like to call socialism.
Republican Richard Nixon’s foreign policies contributed to the OPEC oil crisis, which hampered Jimmy Carter’s presidency and opened the chance for Reagan to short-circuit the New Frontier-Great Society programs authored by Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. We need to bring back those ideas. As LBJ said:
For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society. The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning…
Our society will never be great until our cities are great…
We have always prided ourselves on being not only America the strong and America the free, but America the beautiful…
We must seek an educational system which grows in excellence as it grows in size.
The quest for a great society relies on improving our cities, protecting our environment and expanding the minds of our children. That is where we should be heading, forward. America should not be retreating on Social Security and Republicans who want us to do that are not in touch with reality.
All of this is yours if you merely open your hands and take it. The opportunity of a lifetime is the choice you make between a lifetime of opportunity for all or a path of fear, weakness and retreat into a trap of faith in un-American Republican greed and stupidity. That choice manifests itself in your vote to give Obama-Biden four more years to quiet America’s enemies abroad and restore justice and prosperity at home or to select Romney-Ryan and ruination.
There is no middle ground. Either you believe in America as a land of opportunity or you fear that a $2.7 trillion Social Security surplus is the same as being broke.
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