Ann Telnaes, Washington Post editorial animator, posted on September 22 the following take on the right's drive to privatize Social Security.
Privatization is, of course, not the only harmful treatment of Social Security being pushed by the right these days. There's an awful lot of rhetoric about needing to cut Social Security benefits. These arguments are mostly framed in terms of "entitlements" that are causing our budget deficit. In fact, hwever, Social Security benefits are EARNED benefits, and the Social Security system is NOT a current cause of the budget deficits. Further, the Social Security system (and the related Medicare and Medicaid programs) have been instrumental in keeping elderly Americans out of poverty.
Jeff Madrick reminds us not to take the fact that Social Security has been enormously successful at accomplishing its purpose as a reason to decimate Social Security and no longer accomplish that important purpose, in "Beware the Wrong Lessons from Poverty and Income Data," at TripleCrisis (hat tip Mark Thoma, the Economist's View)--summed up in the introductory statement that "The young are sinking into poverty faster than the elderly because the social safety net is working and the economy isn’t." A few excerpts follow, but read the full post at the link above.
The poverty data released by the Census Bureau last week may well be the straw that broke the camel’s back — the camel being those deliberately blind people who can’t seem to acknowledge that most Americans are doing poorly. Average Americans should not be the ones who have to shoulder the burden of balancing the budget, even if it needed balancing soon.
Even more deplorable, the young in America have been hit hardest. Economists at Northeastern University have been showing for years how low wages are for those in their twenties, if they can find a job at all. Now they calculate that 37 percent of young families with children live in poverty — more than one in three. It was one in five when Bush came to office.
But the reason I am writing this is not merely that it gives the “New Obama” some fuel — that is, the Obama who now insists on raising taxes and has resisted some of the worst ideas for cutting Social Security and Medicare, like raising the eligibility age. What concerns me is that some in the media are highlighting the fact that the elderly have taken a far smaller hit than the rest. Is this going to be the new argument for reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits?
The truth is much the opposite: These findings are an argument for a stronger safety net. The reason the elderly are not doing as poorly is precisely because of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The reason the other groups are losing ground is that the economy has failed to create jobs for more than 10 years and didn’t do that well in the preceding 20 years.