Thursday, December 30, 2004

Gov. Rendell must lead on Social Security, not cede the fight

With John Kerry losing, and then basically doing the disappearing act, Democrats have no national leader, per se. Gov. Rendell, as the Democratic Governor with the biggest state behind him, as well as the former chair of the DNC, is a natural one. That is why shows like Hardball ask him for interviews. However, last night, when I found him, he was doing something awful: essentially ceding the battle to save social security.

Near the end of his interview, the Governor was asked about the Social Security "crisis," and what he thought about privatization. He said, in effect, he was open to the idea of privitization, at least in a test form, if Bush would give Democrats something they want, like an expansion of health insurance for children. It may sound innocuous, but if that is Rendell's true feelings, instead of one of his semi-annual slips of the tongue, we have lost the battle to save social security before it has even begun. I will try to explain...

First of all, if you respond to a question about social security without confidently stating that this "crisis" is a Bush-manufactured problem, and that social security is actually vibrant and healthy, you have lost. Social Security is not in crisis. In fact, Social Security is vibrant and healthy. (This "crisis" in social security must be located somewhere near the huge nuclear stockpiles of Saddam Hussein.) If you buy into White House spin about Social Security, and acknowledge a crisis, you box yourself into a corner from which you cannot leave. Because if there is a crisis, the status quo must be changed, being against change would be indefensible. However, if you simply state the truth, that social security is fine, and this is simply a further right-wing attempt to destroy the legacy of the New Deal, then you help reframe the debate in its true form.

For a good summary of why social security is fine, try this, or any of the columns by Paul Krugman. But, real quickly: Social Security takes in way more money then it gives out. Why? Because 20 years ago, they raised the payroll taxes to insure its future solvency. And, off of the backs of the working class, the regressive tax gave us huge surpluses. So, social security has been paying out far less than it takes in. This "crisis"? Well, at some point, Social Security may take in less then it pays out, for a period of time. But, of course, overall it will still have taken in way, way more than it ever paid out. The real problem? Bush gave away so much money to the rich in his three tax cuts that the general budget "borrows" all the surpluses to make up for the lack of incoming revenue.

Social Security is the most successful anti-poverty program in history. There is absolutely no need to change it. It is popular. It is needed. It is solvent. Let it be.

Now, back to the Governor... I don't understand how he thinks that any sort of compromise with President Bush would work. If Bush has shown anything over the past four years, it is that he greets your compromise with a punch in the face. If we "compromise" over a "crisis" that does not exist, Social Security is dead. As a nationally known Democrat, who represented a working class city and now represents a working class, heavily elderly state, Rendell needs to be a leader for us, and for the large majority of Americans who want to keeps social security as it is: effective, vibrant, and healthy.

Please, sometime over the next week, call the Governor. He listens to reasoned constituent outrage more than almost any other large-scale politician. Tell him we need a leader to fight for Social Security, not cede the fight to the radical right before it even begins.

His number is (717) 787-2500 . Pass it on.


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