Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Social Success.

Friday was Social Security's 80th birthday, an anniversary worth celebrating.  Due to Social Security, poverty among senior citizens is greatly reduced, especially so following the Social Security Amendments of 1965.  (Courtesy of Lyndon Johnson before Vietnam destroyed him.)  Social Security survivors' benefits were a mainstay for my family after my father died.  That monthly stipend covered living expenses for my first three years of college (I turned 22 in the fall of my senior year and lost my eligibility).  I expect to receive an above average Social Security pension based on my 40 plus-year career.  In all, I am very supportive of a system that has worked well. 

Social Security an important component of our national and inter-generational social contract.

“Social Security creates a strong link between the aged and the working-age population. The idea behind the program is that today’s workers create the capital, the technology, and the wealth that will support tomorrow’s generation. Embedded in its formulas is the notion that those of us who came before, whether they were teachers, accountants, homemakers, mail carriers, barbers, cashiers, or lawyers, have built up the productive capacity of our nation.
When the children of these workers come of age (along with new immigrants), they will earn their living from this infrastructure while also making their own contributions. As they do so, we will peel off some portion of their earnings to provide pensions for their forebears, just as those forebears did for their own predecessors. If this were a Disney movie, music about the “Circle of Life” would swell up here, but suffice it to say, Social Security is an elegant collaborative solution to a universal challenge.”

This, to me, is one of those fundamental values that demands the nation's attention and resources.  For those resources I would look to the wealthiest to surrender some portion of their wealth to ensure that the system remains sustainable and available to future generations.  It's that important and the wealthy have plenty to spare.

Social Security was the topic of Bernie Sander's speech to a Socialist gathering in Seattle last Saturday to celebrate the 80th anniversary, the speech he never gave.  (The Stranger has some excellent coverage of that event.  I also got a first-hand report from Maggie who attended the event while I was in Seattle videotaping a friend's wedding.)  One of the reasons Sanders has always appealed to me is his unwavering support for raising taxes, possibly even mine, to keep Social Security solvent.  

In the 70's I and my fellow Boomers wondered if we would actually receive Social Security benefits.  Reforms in the 80's increased the retirement age for people born after 1937, increasing the age for full benefits to 67 for people born 1960 and later.  That made the system solvent but it produced a surplus that was all too convenient for politicians trying to minimize annual deficits so those surpluses are now US Treasury bonds that the current crop of politicians don't want to pay.  After all, it might cause some of their wealthy supporters some financial discomfort. 

That's why I'm happy to see Bernie Sanders running for president.  He may not stand a chance but he may just keep his opponent from selling out to the fat cats who fund her campaign. 

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