Dear Congress: Don’t Make Us Work ’til We Die

The Strengthen Social Security web site has released a pretty compelling video addressing the apparent clear desire on the part of the Republican party to destroy Social Security (and Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps and on and on, but who’s counting anymore, right??).

The video is available on YouTube.

Robert (RJ) Eskow, writing on the blog for the organization Campaign for America’s Future, has put together an outline of the content of the video’s salient points, in a piece entitled Work ‘Til You Die: The Alternate American Reality – and the Reality.

This video takes a “Twilight Zone”/”alternate reality” tack, which suits me just fine. We’ve used that approach plenty of times ourselves over the years. (Here’s the latest.) With that in mind, we’ll adopt our best Rod Serling voice:

Submitted for your consideration … The Ryan budget proposal is called “serious” by the likes of Ezra Klein and others, yet Ryan voted to preserve a tax break for hedge fund billionaires that allows them to be taxed at 15% of income while the rest of us pay much higher rates. That will never people from writing sentences like this one from Ezra: “I like Ryan personally, and appreciate his policy-oriented approach to politics.”

Submitted for your consideration …The top 25 hedge fund billionaires made $22 billion last year. If they had been taxed under the same rules that are used for cops, firefighters, nurses, teachers … for anyone who actually helps society, for that matter … the government would have received $4 billion in revenue last year.

Submitted for your consideration …That revenue would have been enough to write a check for $1,400 to everyone that turned 65 last year – all 2,858,000 of them.

Submitted for your consideration …Or the revenue from these hedge fund billionaires could have paid the entire Social Security retirement benefit for more than three hundred thousand people – more than four hundred thousand, if they were women.

Submitted for your consideration …And that’s just by establishing tax fairness for 25 people. Imagine what a return to Reagan-era tax levels would do. Back then, the top marginal rate was 50%. It’s 35% now (except for those hedge fund managers, who pay 15%), and both the Simpson/Bowles recommendations and Ryan’s “policy-oriented approach” would lower it even more. While, of course, cutting Social Security and Medicare …

Of course, nobody’s proposing to pay anybody’s retirement benefits out of general taxation – just lift the payroll tax cap so that the wealthy contribute more. Is that unfair? Not if you consider this: The changes made to Social Security under Reagan would have kept it solvent forever, if not for the fact that the extremely wealthy have captured more of our national income than even Alan Greenspan expected. Lifting the cap just redresses that wrong.

Submitted for your consideration …These unpopular cuts to Medicare and Social Security wouldn’t even be possible politically unless Democrats like Dick Durbin were accquiesing, and unless Democrats like Barack Obama weren’t refusing – at least so far – to offer unequivocal opposition. When Obama makes a Harry Reid statement about Social Security, we’ll be fine. Until then I’ll worry.

If I have any complaint about the video, it’s that it’s too lighthearted. The reality behind raising the retirement age is a brutal one. (They’ll undoubtedly try to mask the cruelty by creating a “hardship exemption” that will fail to protect workers. We’ve explained why that won’t work.) And the same people pushing this “solution” want to cap Medicare benefits. If that happens, people will die. That’s not funny at all.

Submitted for your consideration …The new consensus that’s being so warmly embraced by Dick Durbin and others will increase the death rate among elderly Americans, and force millions to continue working under conditions that are all but Dickensian for someone of their age.


Author: Ron