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  I think we are making a mistake, both economically and politically, by confining our defense of Social Security to an argument about simply preserving current benefits. We should be pushing for an INCREASE in Social Security benefits as both a social and economic necessity.

  Let me start with the hardest challenge facing people who watch the State of the Union address because I've already seen this for many months: you must not believe that we are in a financial debt or deficit "crisis". It is a complete sham--and it is allowing the people who want to attack our basic social fabric to sow great fear in the country (I detailed all this in, "It's Not Raining, We're Being Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis")

  The country is rich--and growing richer.

  The problem is that our leaders do not have the spine to go after the rich and the powerful who are either pocketing the lion's share of the wealth in the country and/or eviscerating the basic livelihood of the rest of us (either by suppressing or cutting wages and/or forcing us to live with a corrupt health care system--to mention just a few things).

  Here's how this goes:

  The people in the reality-based community--that would exclude virtually every talking head in the traditional media, probably 90 percent of the elected officials and most people residing in so-called "think tanks--know that Social Security is sound and is not in crisis.
 
  If we do absolutely nothing--zero--Social Security will pay all benefits for the next 27 years and be able to pay 80 percent of benefits for many years after even if we did nothing.

  So, with that said, we should expand our vision and our idea of what to do: with the plan on solid financial footing, let's expand it and increase benefits.

  Let's be clear: the people need it. Outside of Social Security, older people have very little savings. For example, people 55-59 (egads, that's almost me) will have on average less than $600 a month in retirement income outside of Social Security.

  At the very least, we should INCREASE Social Security benefits by 15 percent for the next 20 years to make up for the trillions of dollars that people lost in their IRA's because of the financial crisis engineered by too many people on Wall Street. I might add that part of the loss of retirement is the end game of a foolish 30-year old experiment with IRAs--an experiment that sold the people on the idea that a real pension (a defined benefit pension) was not a good bet and people would do a lot better by investing in IRAs. As my friend Dean Baker points out, we know that it was greed that really powered the growth in IRAs and the current attempt to undermine Social Security:

It would take more than $10 trillion in private accounts to generate the same amount of money as Social Security pays out each year in benefits. If the financial industry collected just 1.0 percent of this sum in fees each year, it would mean another $100 billion a year into the coffers of the Merrill Lynch set

.

In fact, I have argued for a Financial Transactions Tax on Wall Street to bring some money back to doing the right things for society. We could use part of the money to fund an increase in Social Security benefits but it may be that we demand from the financial industry a separate dedicated stream of money that goes directly to the Social Security fund--after all, it is the financial industry that created a huge part of the non- Social Security retirement crisis and, so, they should be forced to help increase Social Security benefits.

  If you don't believe in the morality of the idea because you are still enamored of the bankrupt philosophy of the so-called "free market", then, just ponder this thought: what are the impoverished older people going to be able to buy if they have nothing left?

  I like this thought from Pearl S. Buck: "Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members".
 

Originally posted to Tasini on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 11:46 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Lower the retirement age by 2 years (16+ / 0-)

    if you retire in the next two years.

    Open up a couple of million jobs.

    Pay for it with a transaction fee on Wall Street based on the length of time a stock is held:

    1% of amount if less than 30 seconds
    0.5% of amount if less than one day
    0.25% of amount if less than one week
    0.1% of amount otherwise

    Tax paid by seller.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 11:49:34 AM PST

    •  nice idea (6+ / 0-)

      I'd be on board with that.

      Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini

      Visit Working Life.

      by Tasini on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 11:51:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm against lowering age for only a few years. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tasini, geonerd, Lucy2009, laker

      It would just further the generational war already gathering steam.  Employers still wouldn't hire older people. They would choose from the available younger ones.  I see no upside to that suggestion.  

      We need to hold firm on no cuts, no raising the age for anyone.  The fixes are easy and they've been discussed many times.  I'm all for increasing benefits and lowering the retirement age permanently.

      •  completely in favor (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        laker, Blizzard

        of lowering retirement age.

        As others have noted--isn't it interesting that everyone advocating for raising the retirement age has never worked outside a think tank or worked for 40 years inside a factory or coal mine or some other physically exhausting job?

        Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini

        Visit Working Life.

        by Tasini on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:37:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes it's very interesting to see who favors (0+ / 0-)

          reducing benefits or raising the age.  I have seen some commenters on this website who are currently receiving social security and started at age 65, who advocate for raising the age on the rest of us.  Talk about weird!  We already have to wait until 66 up to 67.  Even without any specific cuts, we will all be receiving less from lack of COLAs, possible change in the way inflation is calculated, and devaluation of the dollar.

          Hold onto your hats (and your wallets) folks!

    •  Suppose you bought 100 shares of IBM (0+ / 0-)

      more than a year ago. You then buy another 100 shares today. Three days later, you sell 100 shares if IBM. So you pay 0.1% of the sale price or 0.25% of the sale price? And who keeps track of such things?

      If you sell 100 shares of INTEL short (ie you do not own any shares of INTEL) what is the transaction fee? Same situation except you already own 100 shares of INTEL, what transaction fee do you pay?

      If you think of all the ways people use investment transactions, your time sensitive transaction fee schedule may be unworkable or unfair or both.

      With reference to your 2 year reduction in retirement age, I would ask 'which one?' Under current law, some are eligible to retire at 66, some at 67 and most at 68. I would propose going back to 65 as the 'normal age.' Those who were effected by the delayed retirement provisions should be made whole. Also repeal WEP!

      Don't squander your youth. You never can buy it back.

      by fredlonsdale on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:57:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Whoa, whoa! That's crazy talk! (10+ / 0-)

    I mean, a pension everyone can live on? What do you think the government is there for anyway...

    some sort of social contract?

    snark

    What matters is...how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.

    by wmtriallawyer on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 11:50:43 AM PST

  •  not in crisis OK (0+ / 0-)

    probably 90 percent of the elected officials and most people residing in so-called "think tanks--know that Social Security is sound and is not in crisis.
     
     If we do absolutely nothing--zero--Social Security will pay all benefits for the next 27 years and be able to pay 80 percent of benefits for many years after even if we did nothing.

    But what you say here shows that SS is not sound.

  •  We spend SO much energy trying to hold the line (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chuckvw, Tasini, Lucy2009, laker

    on the stampede to the right and it fails.  

    We should shift that considerable energy to demand more good stuff, not just slightly less bad stuff.

    I swear I was just evolving this thought this morning.  Thanks for writing it.  Great stuff!

    "Dega dega dega dega. Break up the concrete..." The Pretenders

    by Terra Mystica on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:31:18 PM PST

    •  your great mind... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Terra Mystica, Lucy2009

      sent me good vibes!

      Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini

      Visit Working Life.

      by Tasini on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:32:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Seriously, you're on to something here. I'm not (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lucy2009

        smart enough to know how to implement it, but it seems like the 80% of the energy is spent on treading water, where it should be spent swimming to shore.  The energy has to be directed to a positive outcome, somehow...

        TomP has a diary up on Feingold calling this a "Gilded Age on steroids."  I think your two diaries are related.  Maybe in the sense that you offer something concrete and beneficial here, to contrast the vacuousness and changeability of politics as we have come to know it.  I mean it's different enough that you put it in ALL CAPS!  ;)

        Sorry to ramble.  It's an incomplete thought.

        "Dega dega dega dega. Break up the concrete..." The Pretenders

        by Terra Mystica on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:51:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  and yes... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Terra Mystica, Lucy2009, laker

      we spend way too much time focusing on defense. I am always astounded that all sorts of political people and activists talk about "framing" and, they, proceed to actually construct the debate within such a narrow frame. Weird.

      Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini

      Visit Working Life.

      by Tasini on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:34:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Terra Mystica, Lucy2009, laker

    At the very least, we should INCREASE Social Security benefits by 15 percent for the next 20 years to make up for the trillions of dollars that people lost in their IRA's because of the financial crisis engineered by too many people on Wall Street.

    Wall street saw all that money flowing into pension plans and wanted a larger cut of management fees.  And they lied, and lied, and lied about how much better off we would be if we, as individual investors without financial leverage, just to ensure that they get paid for performance that is no better than chance alone.  So, defined benefit plans were killed in favor of individual naive investing ripe for fees that ultimately reduce yields.  And . . . better yet, all done in an atmosphere of deaf, dumb and blind regulation that cared not a whit about the security of people's retirement savings.

    Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty. - Norman Douglas

    by Fossil on Tue Jan 25, 2011 at 12:35:24 PM PST

  •  Absolutely. Push for more than (0+ / 0-)

    what you think you can get, and at least we're not playing defense on it.

  •  Democrats Often Seem To Let The Republicans (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gailwax, wayoutinthestix

    set the agenda.

    Then they simply enable the Republican Agenda.

    Democrats brag about the Health Reform Bill that was recently passed by Democrats as being the exact same one proposed by Republicans a few years ago.  This is a major achievement?

    Democrats brag that the President will propose "not" cutting Social Security benefits as if that is a major achievements as a Democrat.

    The majority of Americans are willing to buy into anything nowdays.  

    Get them to fixate on a shiny object and they suddenly have no brain.

  •  Social Security Has Not Had A Cost Of Living (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wayoutinthestix

    increase (COLA) in at least the last two years.

    The reason?

    COLA's are based on an inflation index that does not include food and energy costs.  These costs are two of the main items that have increased in cost in the last two years and are most likely to be what would affect a Social Security recipients costs, yet they are not considered as part of the inflation index used to determine if a COLA is be given.

    The reason?

    The Reagan Administration removed food and energy as part of the index.

    Items included in the inflation index are things like the cost of Wiis and iPhones.  You know those "important" things that Social Security recipients require as they struggle to pay their food bill lol.

  •  I'm sorry for my dumbass comments, Mr. Tasini. (0+ / 0-)

    I really like your issue selection and advocacy style.  It's so important for you and people like you to get heard if this country is to turn around.  I try to support that, but it doesn't come out right a lot of the time.

    Thanks for what you do and for engaging here.  Please keep up the good work.

    "Dega dega dega dega. Break up the concrete..." The Pretenders

    by Terra Mystica on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 06:54:48 AM PST

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