05 June 2016

Thanks Duncan.

Ever since the Reagan administration, the "Very Serious People" VSPs in Washington, DC have tried to find a way to cut/privatize Social Security.

For the first time in recent political memory, expansion of Social Security has become a top of serious discussion, and the impetus for this came from one person, Duncan "Atrios" Black:
In May 2012, ABC broke into its daytime coverage to show President Obama endorsing same-sex marriage, the culmination of years of activist work to take the idea from the radical fringe into the mainstream. We saw an economic version of that this week, and while none of the networks fired up their “Breaking News” graphics for it, the impact on society could be just as large, and the people who helped make it happen should be just as lauded.

“It’s time we finally made Social Security more generous,” said the president in Elkhart, Indiana, to applause, “and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned.” This was totally unexpected: We knew the Elkhart speech was about the economy, but we didn’t know Obama would concur with a rallying cry on the left for several years now: Expand Social Security.

This movement crystallized from research into the looming retirement crisis. Too many Americans are headed into their golden years without nearly the kind of savings needed to maintain their standard of living. And their defined-benefit pensions have gradually transitioned into defined-contribution plans like 401(k)s, which have rewarded Wall Street with hidden and excessive fees while eating away at individual gains. The change also shifted market risks from employers onto employees, who must hope to avoid a drop in stocks as they hit retirement age.


Despite all this, the initial impulse from the Obama administration was to use Social Security cuts as a bargaining chip in a larger deal with Republicans. Grand bargain talks from 2011 to 2013 repeatedly invoked a different way to calculate the consumer price index (known as “chained CPI”), which would have resulted in $1,000 less a year for the average 85-year-old. Obama put chained CPI in his fiscal year 2014 budget.

Contrary to some after-the-fact snickering, this was a very credible threat, and it allowed Republicans to point to a Democratic president favoring entitlement cuts. Only the Tea Party’s unwillingness to consider anything resembling a compromise saved retirees from cuts.

At first, liberal groups played defense on chained CPI, accustomed to mobilizing in opposition rather than staking out a bolder claim. But the expansion movement can really be traced back to one blogger: Duncan Black, popularly known as “Atrios,” who waged an initially lonely crusade in a series of 2012 columns in USA Today, explaining why the retirement crisis was coming and how expanding Social Security represented the cleanest solution.


Lawmakers followed the rank and file consensus. Elizabeth Warren jumped aboard the Harkin bill in late 2013. A House bill quickly got dozens of co-sponsors. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who holds down the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, endorsed an expansion amendment. Bernie Sanders made it a campaign plank, one that Hillary Clinton eventually had to endorse, albeit in a more targeted fashion.

Now President Obama, who started this all by embracing the opposite position years ago, has explicitly endorsed the expansion of Social Security. This victory is a great credit to Duncan Black and everyone who moved a minority opinion in the corridors of power in the Democratic Party into the mainstream.
(emphasis mine)

Obama was dragged kicking and screaming into this.  So is Hillary Clinton.

He has seen cutting Social Security as a major legacy goal since he entered office in 2009: He thought could show himself reaching across the aisle if he could ground the proverbial "3rd rail" of American politics.

Thankfully, he was foiled by the Teabaggers in Congress, just as Bill Clinton effort to privatize Social Security was foiled by Gingrich's impeachment efforts in the late 1990s.

Duncan Black has done this country a service by short-circuiting the efforts of the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party to divert money from retirees unto the the pockets of the banksters.


Anonymous said...

One of the concerns voiced against privatization of social security, was the certainty some folks would blow it through bad investments..I am still seeing a lot of people out there working in mcdonalds or lowes hardware stores...that should be home enjoying retirement. Doesn't the government farm out the administrative work to the private sector? I consider having s.s. untouchable until a certain age, and maintained outside the government bean counters, the best choice for retirees. Perhaps allowing those that want to take care of their fund, to do so. And those that want it to stay "as is"..to do so.

Matthew Saroff said...

Social Security is managed by the government, and the cost of managing Social Security is lower than ALL the privately managed pension funds.

Private management is far less cost effective than government management.

It has something to do with the fact that those managers make 8 figures a year, and the CEO's get something north of half a billion dollars.

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