Or at least two types of Democrats.
Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders and 15 other Democratic Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid in his FY15 budget. It won’t be much of a surprise to most of the readers here to find that neither Senator Carper or Coons signed on to this letter. Interestingly, Senator Coons voted to restore the cuts to military pensions and Carper voted against them. So take a look at what a group of Democrats genuinely interested in the well-being of middle class and working class people urged the President:
Today, retirement insecurity is as high as it has ever been. Only one in five workers in the private sector has a defined benefit pension plan; half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings; and two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for a majority of their income.
Given this reality, we respectfully urge you not to propose cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits in your Fiscal Year 2015 budget.
In good times and bad, Social Security has succeeded in keeping millions of senior citizens, widows, orphans, and persons with disabilities out of extreme poverty. Before Social Security was developed, about half of our seniors lived in poverty; today senior poverty is down to 9.1 percent. Without Social Security, one-third of senior citizens would have virtually no earnings at all.
Social Security has not contributed one penny to the deficit. Social Security has a surplus of more than $2.7 trillion and can pay every single benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 19 years.
There’s more (including Democrats acknowledging that the deficit has been cut in half!) in Senator Sanders’ letter and there is little to disagree with. Unless you have issues representing the people that Social Security and Medicare are committed to support.
Then there’s Senator Carper — who voted against the COLA restoration for military retirees. And there’s Senator Coons and Representative Carney who voted FOR the COLA repeal — Coons with a press release touting his vote with this:
“Congress must take action to reduce our nation’s dangerous deficits, but it should not do so on the backs of our military families,” Senator Coons said. “The Bipartisan Budget Act was an important step forward, but like any compromise, it was far from perfect. Cuts to military-retiree pensions unfairly target those who have sacrificed the most for our country. The bill we advanced tonight would repeal these cuts, and I’m glad my colleagues have joined me in supporting this fix for our veterans.”
What might Coons’ support of Social Security look like?
“congress must take action to reduce our nation’s dangerous deficits, but it should not do so on the backs of our elderly,” Senator Coons said. “The Bipartsan Budget Act was an important step forward, but like any compromise it was far from perfect. Cuts to Social Security unfairly target those who have worked all their lives and paid into this program that has successfully guaranteed that working Americans have some financial dignity in retirement, The bill we advanced tonight would ensure that one of the greatest achievements of President Roosevelt — the promise that the Social Security funds you’ve paid into would be available as a hedge against a poverty-ridden old age, and I’, glad my colleagues have joined me in supporting this fix for American workers.”
Right? Instead, the kind of thing we hear from our entire Congressional delegation looks alot like Carper’s rationale for voting against the COLA restoration:
“We‘re making some progress on deficit reduction in this country, but our deficit is still a half-trillion dollars this year, and that’s huge,” he said. “If we’re serious about making progress, all of us who are able to do something to help out need to do that. I think Americans are willing to do their part if asked, and I think they look to people like me to try to provide some leadership and set an example.”
Social Security — in particular — isn’t part of deficit reduction. The only way it even adds to the deficit is if Congress has to borrow money to pay back the IOUs representing the surpluses in the account that Congress has spent. Medicare and Medicaid have different problems — but the point I want to make here is that every single one of these guys is in the business of selling deficit reduction on the backs of the people who can least afford to finance it. There is no leadership in not recognizing the astonishing retirement freight train that is coming down the track; there is no leadership in asking the people who can least afford it to sacrifice; and there is no leadership in not asking ALL Americans — including wealthier Americans AND American businesses — to join the sacrifice. As long as GE pays no taxes and the government is a river of money to ExxonMobil, not one of these guys should be doing any public handwringing about deficit reduction via Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid. For the latter two, there are plenty of interesting ideas out there to reduce the long term cost of these programs while preserving the service. Anyone remember letting people buy into Medicare? That has some promise in reducing the cost of Medicare while expanding the money available for services.
There’s no leadership in chipping away at the financial security of everyday Americans — without asking the people who get an astonishing number of benefits from the government that they can easily afford on their own to pitch in as well.