US Politics

President Obama, Do The Right Thing and Protect Social Security

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If we learned nothing from Harrison Ford in the past few decades, it’s that one can never negotiate with terrorists. Someone needs to send President Obama a copy of Air Force One or Patriot Games immediately—before he negotiates away a bedrock component of economic security for millions of Americans.

President Obama is apparently not only willing to negotiate with terrorists who are willing to destroy the world economy for the sake of a few billionaires and millionaires, but has taken the unbelievable step of offering the terrorists even more than they demanded.

I commend President Obama for his willingness to talk to Republicans, but I cannot support his surrender on Social Security. If recent discussions about Social Security reform are trial balloons to gauge public support, shame on President Obama and his political team. If they represent the policy direction President Obama intends to embrace, shame on all of us who were foolish enough to vote for and support him.

Social Security is a fundamental promise between the American government and its people, that our elderly will not suffer crippling, humiliating poverty, that our children who lose parents will have opportunities, that the disabled will be protected, and that the richest nation on the world can maintain a system that protects those basic rights.

And the system works. Social Security is not contributing to the deficit, nor is it in immediate danger. It can pay full benefits until 2037 without modification of the program; it can be sustained long after that with minor changes.

There is no need to cut Social Security benefits. None.

If President Obama and the Republicans cut Social Security, no doubt under a Machiavellian plan that will preserve benefits for those over 50 who are more likely to vote, it will represent a fundamental betrayal of what is right and what is sensible policy.

It will represent yet another Democratic capitulation in the ongoing real class warfare that has gripped this and yet another transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich.

And for what? What major policy victory will President Obama achieve with this move? Does he believe that Republicans will seriously discuss eliminating the devastating Bush tax cuts for the elite? That they will ask oil companies and other American corporations to begin paying their fair share?

Of course they won’t. Their corporate masters and reality-challenged base won’t let them. Obama will get no major policy concessions for this move, but will only weaken himself further.

Politically, the calculus is even worse. Democrats, already left hanging in the wind after defending a deeply flawed healthcare reform bill, will be forced to reject their President or vote for cuts in the most popular government program in the country. Even though Republicans will have been the architects of this effort to dismantle the safety net for the elderly, those cynical hacks will run ads blaming Democrats for cutting Social Security and supporting higher taxes.

Even if President Obama manages to win in 2012, he’ll have even more terrorists to deal with in the Congress.

I’ve been writing a lot lately about how I believe we need to be careful to avoid ideological purity tests in the Democratic Party, but perhaps for each person, it’s a question of finding an issue with which they cannot accept compromise. I cannot support a President who would betray workers and any sense of economic justice in the quixotic pursuit of compromise with extremists.

President Obama, don’t do this to the country and its workers. Don’t do it to your party. Hell, don’t do it to yourself.

Just don’t do it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it’s a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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