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Hands off Social Security

Published Jul 14, 2011 10:55 PM

A fraudulent and dangerous collusion of the two big capitalist parties in the U.S. has put Social Security at risk. The excuse for attacking Social Security is the phony crisis over the federal debt ceiling.

The debt ceiling could be solved in an instant by an agreement between Republicans and Democrats to simply raise this arbitrary limit. It wouldn’t solve the real crisis of capitalism that has brought prolonged high unemployment and suffering for so many millions, but it would end the phony crisis that allows the ruling class to attack all social programs.

No one can be surprised that the Republican leadership has targeted Social Security. Ronald Reagan talked against it, and George W. Bush tried to hold hearings to privatize it. But even the Republican rank and file wanted to keep benefits for their parents and themselves.

Now joining the Republican right-wing leadership, President Barack Obama has offered to put Social Security on the table for “compromises” with the Republicans, along with Medicare and Medicaid.

The very rich have targeted Social Security since workers’ struggle won it 76 years ago during the Great Depression and the New Deal. It is the most broad-based and popular program of social benefits in the United States, along with Medicare. Aside from some federal government and railroad workers, nearly everyone active in the U.S. economy winds up collecting Social Security benefits.

Currently 55 million people are collecting monthly payments. Most of these people depend on their Social Security check as part or all of their retirement or disability income. So do their children or other relatives, who might otherwise be faced with unpleasant choices. Its almost universal application has made Social Security popular and until now unassailable. Its enemies have been unable to divide workers by age, by race or by gender over defense of the program itself.

That’s not to say that Social Security is perfectly equal or egalitarian or couldn’t be improved. But nearly everyone wants to keep it, and many can’t survive without it.

The working class and its organizations must make it clear that any giveaway of benefits from Social Security — or from any of these programs essential to the working class — is unacceptable and will be fought tooth and nail. Anything that reduces benefits or eliminates people from coverage or differentiates between those currently receiving Social Security benefits and younger workers can only harm the program and can lead to weakening support for it.

The working class, which includes the unemployed, the poor and the oppressed sectors of the population both young and old, must make it crystal clear to both the Republicans and the Democrats: Hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid!