Elizabeth Warren Makes Sense

When I consider the likes of Toronto’s crack smoking mayor and that cocaine sniffing congressman from Southwest Florida, I despair for democracy. I am tempted to believe that only the scum of the earth get into politics. And then Elizabeth Warren springs to mind.

I don’t know her personally of course, but from what I see and hear on TV and the internet, the Massachusetts senator is my idea of a decent – and very bright – human being.

In a Senate speech Monday, she made a compelling case for the expansion of Social Security.

That’s right, expansion!

While so many other politicians – Democrats as well as Republicans – are trying to figure out how deeply to slash the program, Ms. Warren insists there’s another choice that makes more sense.

I’m sure you’ve been told Social Security is going bankrupt. I’m sure you’ve heard the program is a major reason for the nation’s annual deficits and so on…  But, thankfully, we have Elizabeth Warren to set the record straight.

“Today, Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus,”  she said. “If we do nothing, Social Security will be safe for the next 20 years and even after that will continue to pay most benefits. With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years — and could even increase benefits.”

As one of the millions of codgers who anxiously await those monthly Social Security checks, Ms. Warren’s speech was music to my ears.

We codgers haven’t been hearing much good news recently. The people we’ve sent to Washington seem to be turning on us, chiseling away at Medicare Advantage, for example. Even our president has been offering the Republican radicals a “grand bargain” that would entail cuts to Social Security – squeezing our meager cost-of-living increases for one thing.

One way of increasing the funding for Social Security would be raising (or abolishing) the income limit for contributions to the program. As it is now, the richest Americans are assessed only on the first $113,700 of their annual income.  But Republicans would never consider this type of fix; their goal is to get rid of Social Security, not enhance it. And too many Democrats have fallen into the trap of trying to reach a compromise agreement with them. But not Ms. Warren.  She declared:

The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors — is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

Over the past generation, working families have been hacked at, chipped, and hammered. If we want a real middle class — a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country — then we must take the retirement crisis seriously. Seniors have worked their entire lives and have paid into the system, but right now, more people than ever are on the edge of financial disaster once they retire — and the numbers continue to get worse.

That is why we should be talking about expanding Social Security benefits — not cutting them.

Self-professed “fiscal conservatives” in Washington might think they have the public’s support. They might think the specter of the national debt has Americans cowering in fear and the time is right to attack the social safety net created over past generations. They are wrong.

Social Security does not contribute a penny to America’s annual deficit, and most economists will tell you that by increasing the flow of economic activity, the government could stimulate tax revenue, making it possible to lower the national debt over time.

Perhaps, most Americans instinctively realize this.

A recent survey by Public Policy Polling and MoveOn.org found that voters in key districts “overwhelmingly” support raising Social Security benefits. More than 70 percent of those polled oppose cuts to Social Security benefits, and 65 percent support an increase.

The noisy Republican base ferociously supports policies that punish the old and the sick, single mothers and down-on-their -luck families, and many politicians are listening to these strident voices. But America’s silent majority is compassionate and reasonable. Common decency prevails in the population at large – if not in the radical right or Washington DC.

It is this silent majority that politicians like Ms. Warren represent. And that gives me hope for the country’s future.

Click for more on Ms. Warren’s speech.

Click for the growing movement to expand Social Security.