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      Why I Love Social Security

      I have never been a life-long, card-carrying member of anything, with the exception of Social Security.

      Dear President Obama,

      Attached is my original Social Security card, though with the number and signature screened. I am proud to have carried it so long, for more years than anything I own. I hope you understand how much many of us cherish these little cards, symbols of a social contract that came about in the Great Depression and was cemented after World War 2. Please do not become the first president to break that deep connection.

      As a former legislator, I truly understand the painful necessity for compromise in order to pass budgets. I took the opportunity on many occasions in the legislature to vote “no” when my vote was not truly needed, but I also went along when the votes were needed and the floor fights were over. This is not one of those brutal occasions, however. As you well know, Social Security is not related to the present budget debate at all. Social Security will not become insolvent, if ever, for another several decades, and it can be repaired by rational adjustments.

      Our so-called budget crisis was consciously created by past administrations that spent trillions on unfunded wars, tax loopholes and the bail out of Wall Street in response to a deep recession. Ideologically, the corporate and Republican intent for 60 years has been to rid the capitalist market of all those government policies – social insurance, union rights, public education, public health systems, environmental protection, campaign finance reform, etc. – that “interfere” with the unfettered access of private capital to markets, natural resources and exploitable labor, not only here at home but across the world.

      Instead of yielding to their browbeating, the best course is to extend the core provisions of the New Deal – along with equal rights and environmental protection – to American global policy as a whole.

      When I was growing up, the corporations evaded the New Deal by creating runaway shops in the segregated tax and low-wage havens of our South. In more recent years, they escaped the New Deal by creating the world of runaway sweatshops. Our foreign policy should be to make the world safe for democracy, not for global sweatshops servicing our richest blue-chip corporations. Our trade agreements should be built on fair labor and environmental safeguards, as you once promised. Our health and environmental policies should not result in the export of runaway air, water, and soil pollution, cancer and birth defects, nor the fatal acceleration of the climate crisis. Our arms sales should not fuel civil wars and prop up authoritarians. Our tax policy should not result in the establishment of offshore havens. It is time to corral the runaways. It is hardly capital alone that should be globalized in our era, but democracy, human rights, education and planetary protections.

      The defense of Social Security should be a turning point in finally reversing of this Republican market fundamentalism. I appreciate politically your theme of “balance” between tax increases and budget cuts, which has put the Republicans on the defensive before voters. But you should understand that most progressives, especially seniors, would go much further than your formulation allows. Many of us believe that life is far more important than market or property values, and that people should be liberated as much as possible from arduous and exploitative work, so that we can maximize the hours of the day and the days of our lives spent on family time, vacations and travel, culture and education, love and leisure. A little loafing is a good thing compared to the treadmill, the rat race, and the workaholism most people are forced to endure. Social Security is far more than a protection against the costs of old age. It allows millions of people to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

      Even if you are only bluffing with the Republicans and Wall Street Democrats – as I hope you are – I am sure you realize that the bluffing comes with costs. First, it legitimizes cuts in Social Security for Democratic policy-makers in the future; and second, it makes millions of elderly and vulnerable people, and their families and caregivers, permanently anxious about whether they will have the rights to comfort in their final years.

      Thank you for your consideration.



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      Reader Comments (8)

      The Social Security is indispensable for the retired, the senior citizen, the disabled and other cases. It should be kept out of any compromise by the President of the United States.
      Your comments regarding this issue are excellent.

      April 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge P. Fernandez

      Tom, you couldn't make a better and stronger point. Starting at age 14 and through law school I always had a part-time job.and upon graduation I never worked less than full time. Each hour of work contributed to my social security account. Starting in July I no longer have to send that $2000/ each month to my miserable ex-wfie for child support. I was looking forward to using it exactly as you descrbe. I could never imagine that they would have the gall to try to take from me what is no difference than a bank account into which I have made regular and periodic deposits or a pension plan self funded. WTF is Obama thinking?
      By the way this message bounced back to me because I didn't know what an URL is (this proves my age) so wrote in that box "Forgive me, but I don't know waht an URL is". This time I will leave that box blank.

      April 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdennis roberts

      Thanks for this good letter to Obama. I would add to all you say one other dimension implicit in your moving opening paragraph calling on the president not to "break that deep connection." That dimension is that social security is especially significant because it manifests intergenerational love and solidarity--it is an expression of human connection and as such is the most significant legislative act to move beyond the spiritual separation that is the dark side and great limit of American individualism.

      April 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Gabel

      Tom - it would be great if I could post this piece on Face Book.

      April 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLori Nafshun

      Beautifully put. Social Security was put in place to avoid repeating the extreme hardships, sometimes leading to deaths, of the Great Depression. This is not the time to make cuts.

      April 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMiriam

      I fear that the President could care less about the historical and moral implications of downsizing Social Security. So far, he has caved on every issue that I have held dear.

      April 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarinemammal

      Social Security is great, until it catches up with demographics. The cold hard truth is that since its inception, SS taxes have risen over 1600% while the eligible age continues to increase. It is a beast that will continue to take an take from the young to give to the old. It harms the next generations ability to save for their own retirement making them further indebted to this ponzi scheme for their own retirement salvation. The truth is if a private citizen started an retirement investment vehicle that worked exactly as SS does now, they'd be arrested as a criminal.

      April 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Price

      I send this message with a painfully heavy heart...I'm disillusioned by the faux politics of a faux democratic process that we've inherited from previous generations of Americans. I'm angered by the political excesses and maneuverings and manure that's shovelled our way in the name of representative legislation. Neither the Congress, Obama, or the Supreme Court show the slightest interest over the concerns and interests of the general public. The Social Security issue is indicative of their lack of insight and an affirmation of their willingness to pander to an amoral monied minority. Having said that, I'm still a believer in fighting for that "lost cause". But, it's getting a lot tougher to do so here in Lockeford.....

      April 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohn armenta
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