According to news reports today, the White House is letting it be known it may offer cuts in Social Security in exchange for getting Republicans to agree to raise taxes on the rich to resolve the federal debt crisis.
First, let us emphasize that this "crisis" is solely of the Republicans' making.
They are demanding huge cuts in social spending and preservation of tax-breaks for the super-rich and oil interests. If they don't get that, they say they will shut down the United States government, sending it into default on its debts. Such an action would trigger global shockwaves that could further hurt the U.S.
In other words, follow the Republicans' slash-the-public-good/help-the-fat-cats program or they'll wreck the place.
Minnesota is already experiencing the effects of this Republican slash-and-burn government shutdown approach, with some 23,000 Minnesotans getting locked out of their jobs and services for children, the disabled, sanitation, health and the like being curtailed or closed down.
As many have pointed out, the country is not broke. The money is there, but the Republicans, fronting for right-wing corporate interests, including the oil industry and the military-industrial complex, don't want to yield a cent of their ill-gotten riches.
And as many experts have emphasized, Social Security does not add a cent to the national debt. It was set up to have its own dedicated source of revenue, through a specific payroll tax that workers see on their paystubs as FICA.
In a speech this spring, President Obama noted, "While Social Security is not the cause of our deficit, it faces real long-term challenges in a country that's growing older." Those challenges are not an emergency, as numerous experts have shown. And increasing revenues, rather than cuts, is the solution for the long term. Some on the right are raising as a false issue the fact that the government has borrowed money from Social Security to pay for other things, and needs to pay that money back. So? Don't blame Social Security for that.
Social Security is a highly popular, highly successful and highly fiscally responsible program. Millions of Americans, young as well as old, rely on it. Attempts to weaken Social Security have been referred to as the "third rail" of American politics. Why would the White House now leak the idea that it may concede to the Republicans by cutting this program - specifically cutting cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients? Is it a gambit to spur a mass public outcry that will enable such cuts to be blocked? That's a dangerous game with the all-important 2012 elections on the horizon. Americans are looking to this president and congressional Democrats to protect and bolster their dwindling economic security. If instead these leaders become advocates for cutting Social Security, they risk discouraging and demobilizing some of the most vital components of their own base. And a Republican victory in 2012 would be an unmitigated disaster
What to do? Get involved. Organize. Join with your union, groups like Alliance for Retired Americans, and others in building that mass outcry. Flood the halls of Congress and the White House with phone calls, emails, letters: NO cuts in the Social Security lifeline - not this year, not next year, not for the next generation.
Image: DonkeyHotey CC 2.0