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These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are we "the help," only here for the benefit of the wealthy few.

In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security's benefits because people really need it. In the plutocracy worldview the wealthy deserve tax cuts and the parasites shouldn't be getting Social Security checks at all.

The post is below the fold:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture.  I am a Fellow with CAF.

Former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson is co-chair of President Obama's Fiscal Commission.  This is what he said the other day about the relationship between the American people and our government:

"We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!"

This country that was once run by We, the People with government "of the people, by the people and for the people" has become instead a country where the ruling elites can talk about the public as babies, the unemployed as parasites who are jobless because they are "lazy."  The prevailing attitude about the public, from the new Versailles that has grown up around Washington, DC -- what bloggers call "the village" seems to be if you feed them they will breed.  

Look at the weird situation we are in today.  The wealthy are wealthier than ever.  The gap between the rich and the rest of us is bigger than ever.  Big corporate profits are soaring and the too-big-to-fail multinational corporations have more power than ever.   At the same time wages that were stagnant for decades are now dropping, people with jobs are working longer and harder, more of our people are unemployed and unemployed for longer, more without health insurance, more are depending on food stamps for basic nutrition, more are losing their homes than ever with bankruptcies soaring, and small businesses are barely hanging on or are going under at an alarming rate.  

But what are our political leaders up to?  On the one hand, the deficit commission is focused on cutting Social Security (which does not contribute to the deficit or debt) at a time when more people need it and need it more than ever.  On the other hand many in the Congress are looking for ways to extend the deficit-causing Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%.

And few are talking about our government hiring or helping the unemployed, stimulating the economy, or holding the bad actors who caused this mess accountable.  In fact, far from talking about helping our fellow citizens, our ruling DC elites have a different view of things entirely.  We, the People are just in the way.  It is our own tit-sucking fault, they say, and we need to step up and sacrifice because we are not doing enough to help the people who really deserve it: the producers, the "job creators."

Did you catch the rhetorical trick I used above?  I said "our" people, and "our" government.  How quaint.  You don't hear that kind of talk much anymore.  Instead you hear about "personal responsibility," which makes everything that is done to someone by the wealthy and powerful their own fault.

This Is About Democracy vs. Corporatist Plutocracy

These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people?  Or are we "the help," only here for the benefit of the wealthy few.  

In the democracy worldview we are a community that takes care of and watches out for each other.  We are each citizens with equal rights and equal value, to be respected equally.  Our government and economy are supposed to be for us.  In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security's benefits because people really need it.  

In the plutocratic worldview held by conservatives and corporatist moderates we are "the help," 310 million loafers ("parasites" is the Randian word) sucking their " unearned sustenance" (more Rand) from the tits of the milk cow when we all ought to be working harder because the portfolios of the "achievers" (and more) are down a bit.  Your value to society is only what you "produce."  Your role otherwise is to "consume."  In that worldview the wealthy deserve tax cuts and the parasites shouldn't be getting Social Security checks at all.

So what is it going to be?  Will we see and understand ourselves as citizens, who share this country on an equal basis with the rich and the poor, with rights and entitlements, deserving dignity, respect, protection and empowerment from a government that is of, be and for We, the People?  Will we demand those things and fight for them?  Or will we quietly yield those hard-won rights to our "betters" and allow ourselves to be told what to do, fleeced by giant corporations, hoping to get a flat-screen TV out of the deal if we behave?

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Originally posted to davej on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:33 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    --
    Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

    by davej on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:33:45 AM PDT

  •  Hi Dave... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wamsutta, palantir, QuestionAuthority

    ...Thanks for the diary and for the links to your column.  You do a good job summarizing the current situation.  

  •  Simpson's comments have some accuracy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    QuestionAuthority

    I agree with Simpson to a certain level because we have a culture which thinks we can have it all without personal investment and taxes.  Let's face it, many people on SS have been suckered into thinking it would take care of them and it doesn't.  I see that among a score of family members.  Meanwhile, no one wants SS cut but few want their taxes raised so it can be sustained. At the end of the day, if we want the benefits we need to be willing to pay for it.  If you want more benefits, then there needs to be consensus for more taxes.  The first thing they could do is take off the income cap on paying SS taxes. I've never understood that.

    But my point is that Simpson's comments are endemic of bigger cultural problem in the US: give me it all but don't expect me to give anything back.

    •  Thanks for making my point (2+ / 0-)

      --
      Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

      by davej on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:47:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The give me it all..is prevelant in the rich.. (2+ / 0-)

        I sure hope that is where you are going with this.

        F the right wing whiners. I don't care about them any more they can all F themselves for all I care.

        by UndercoverRxer on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:51:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think it tends to be across all classes (0+ / 0-)

          The consumerist mentality of the west, but particularly in the US, is corrosive.  It emphasizes rights over obligations instead of recognizing that there must be an equal balance between rights and obligations. A hyper-focus on rights breaks down the idea of community; it pushes off responsibility for our neighbor to some other faceless ambiguity and promotes a "not my problem" attitude.

          I agree with you that the mentality is prevelant among the rich, and hence the massive loopholes and exceptions that are part of so many laws -- to the extent laws do not often apply equally to people.  But I do think that there is a pervasive selfishness in U.S. culture that infects all classes.

          •  And that pervasive selfishness.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Support Civil Liberty

            is a result of 60 yrs of constant hammering of buy buy buy buy crap you don't need, foisted on the population by the wealthy in order to make a few more bucks. Add in the ridiculous obsession by many on the left about childrens self-esteem with no balancing discussion of responsibility, and you have the disaster we see at this point in time.

            F the right wing whiners. I don't care about them any more they can all F themselves for all I care.

            by UndercoverRxer on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:12:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I've PAID for SS over the past 40 years. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      palantir

      WTF are YOU talking about??

      SS & Medicare are already paid for! Plutocrats, wealthy people, our bank-owned electeds are now seeking a way to plunder it by transferring it to Wall Street through "privatization" schemes.

      ...'06, '08, and ...'10? 'It was a trifecta of the peoples' outrage against Republicanism!'

      by ezdidit on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:03:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "paid for"? No, it's not (0+ / 0-)

        SS is just a current transfer from person X to person Y.  People paying into SS are not paying into a personal account, it's just a transfer to your neighbor.  

        •  This is just wrong (6+ / 0-)

          In 1983 they changed the way Social Security is funded.  We paid extra into it for almost 30 years now.  It ran a huge surplus and it has built up a huge trust fund.

          Social Security is COMPLETELY funded from this trust fund until 2037, when it might -- MIGHT -- run a bit short for a while..

          That is the entire problem.  Compare that to the huge $1.3 trillion military spending, which is not funded at all, and forces us to borrow massive amounts every year just to keep it going another year.

          --
          Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

          by davej on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:11:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In fact (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DarkestHour, ezdidit

            In my opinion this talk about Social Security is about deflecting people from looking at this huge military spending problem we have.

            THAT is the spending that needs to be addressed.

            That, and the huge tax cuts for the rich that Reagan and Bush gave out.  That just handed cash to the wealthy right out of the US Treasury -- a transfer directly from all those people who were paying extra into Social Security to be set aside for their retirement.

            --
            Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: @dcjohnson

            by davej on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:14:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  What are you talking about? (0+ / 0-)

            Do you really think there is money somewhere (even if it is just a number on a balance sheet) that is assigned to your name and owing to you?  This is not a guaranteed benefit like you might have with an annuity.  It can't be -- nothing can be that way with a federal program unless the cash you pay in is actually set aside and marked for you.  SS is about as flim flam as it gets. It could go away tomorrow if they wanted it to and the government wouldn't owe you anything.  

            •  You are wrong - dead wrong... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DarkestHour

              from no less an authority than Dean Baker:

              It should also bother workers that plans to cut Social Security would take away benefits for which they have already paid. The Social Security trust fund has accumulated a surplus of more than $2.5 trillion. According to the report issued just last week by the Social Security trustees, the program can pay all future benefits through the year 2037 with no changes whatsoever. The workers who will be retiring in the next 15-20 years have paid for their benefits. They have every right to be furious if President Obama or anyone else suggests taking these benefits away from them.

              I didn't say anything about having a specific account in my name (curiously, this kind of "guarantee" is a bogus enhancement proposed by privatizers.)

              Nor could or would Congress abandon Social Security like the right wing fear mongers while we are in the midst of an economic disaster for 30 million people.

              Why are you stumping with Republican talking points and stoking fears that do not exist on this website?

              ...'06, '08, and ...'10? 'It was a trifecta of the peoples' outrage against Republicanism!'

              by ezdidit on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:50:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Flim flam (0+ / 0-)

                I'll stick to my point that SS is flim flam.  It is absurd to suggest that the SS laws are written to guarantee future benefits.  SS is a creature of statute -- something that can be changed by statute.  The trust fund is accounting smoke and mirrors.

                How is it GOP talking points to point out the reality of this law?  I am not advocating cutting benefits.  I'm just trying to point out that people are being deceived by what SS is -- often deceived by organizations and people who have a vested interest in keeping senior citizens fearful of cuts, to the detriment of not even being able to talk about future changes when current retirees are long off the system.

                What makes people think that a system designed in the 1930s shouldn't be rethought for people who may retire in 2040?  We line in quite a different world, and anyone who is still working with 10+ years until retirement would be foolish to put all their eggs in the SS basket.

                •  ...another Republican talking point... (0+ / 0-)

                  "The trust fund is accounting smoke and mirrors."

                  No it's not. It's the law. And they tell us exactly how much we are owed every year.

                  And a politician who disparages it as a 'cow with 310 million teats' is no fair arbiter.

                  Nor do I think those who say they want to "protect Social Security" have anything more in mind than privatizing it to Wall Street or the TBTF banks.

                  It's motivated by greed - a huge transfer of over $2.5 trillion in wealth into the hands of the very people who practiced no due diligence in the face of no prudent reserves over the past thirty years.

                  The Republican wrecking crew bequeathed an economic disaster whose toll has not even begun to be measured. It started in 1982 with Garn-St.Germain which gave us the S & L crisis. It continues unabated since 1999's Gramm-Leach-Bliley, and CFMA in 2000 and the fraud of unfunded CDS...valued at $600 trillion by now.

                  Perhaps you have 'skin in the game,' an agenda as a bank executive, a stock exchange trader or something. But I doubt that you are really conservative, or that conservatives want to conserve anything at all.

                  Indeed, "conservative" is a misnomer. Sorry, I have to respectfully disagree based upon the evidence as I see it.

                  ...'06, '08, and ...'10? 'It was a trifecta of the peoples' outrage against Republicanism!'

                  by ezdidit on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:36:31 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Likewise, respectfully disagree (0+ / 0-)

                    I think we just have a different view of what is "in" the trust fund.  I don't think the trust fund is real -- the money isn't there and it's not a guaranteed benefit. It only remains a benefit while the law says it is a benefit. The SS laws can be changed at any point -- and poof the $2.7T is gone.

                    And for the record, I have no "skin in the game."  My retirement accounts are nearly dry so if I don't do some alternative planning all I will have is SS. That's not something I look forward to.

                    •  What changes to SS would you suggest? (0+ / 0-)

                      I mean, what exactly bothers you about the current structure of it? Is it a problem that the government is in charge of it? Or, is it that the government is not suifficiently in charge of it?

                      (I know it provides insufficient benefit, but it was never meant to replace pensions.)

                      ...'06, '08, and ...'10? 'It was a trifecta of the peoples' outrage against Republicanism!'

                      by ezdidit on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:28:59 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  .or, would you just prefer that Obama resign now? (0+ / 0-)

                        On August 6th, you said this...

                        He should be bold and announce no 2nd term

                        There are a variety of things Obama could do that would mark him as a historic president: it won't happen, but I think he should rennounce [sic] running for a second term and then take hard decisions.  Lay it on the line for the American people: the US needs to withdraw from Afghanistan; deep and unpopular (to special interest groups) budget cuts need to be made; perhaps some taxes need to be raised or established (I think a VAT is more sell-able than income tax hikes which could be detrimental).  This WH will not make the hard, unpopular decisions right now because it is too concerned about 2012.  

                        I, for one, would have more appreciation for this WH if it started to make the hard decisions that matter for peace and justice rather than posturing for 2012.

                        You're a Republican, aren't you?

                        ...'06, '08, and ...'10? 'It was a trifecta of the peoples' outrage against Republicanism!'

                        by ezdidit on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 08:39:30 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

    •  The cap is there because SS isn't a tax (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Support Civil Liberty

      it is an insurance premium.

  •  PLUTONOMY is the word coined by CITIGROUP (0+ / 0-)

    five years ago. Read the online memo: Plutonomy (No .pdf download. It's archived at the link!)

    ...'06, '08, and ...'10? 'It was a trifecta of the peoples' outrage against Republicanism!'

    by ezdidit on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 08:59:44 AM PDT

  •  Great diary, thank you. (0+ / 0-)

    EXACTLY the right lens from which to look at this issue, and precisely the right questions.

    Fox "News" = Republican PRAVDA.

    by chumley on Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 10:25:22 AM PDT

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