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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

There they go again. As Erin Doherty explains in “Why some in the GOP are floating upping retirement age for some Americans” at Axios: “Some Republicans say changes to entitlement programs, like upping the retirement age to prolong the initiatives, should be “on the table.” In other words, ‘Let’s keep seniors in the labor force longer, thereby reducing the employment opportunities for young people who are looking for decent entry-level jobs.” Dherty continues, “The big picture: Entitlement reform is a politically potent topic — and it’s one that could be a key part of presidential candidates’ messaging ahead of 2024….Medicare is one of the largest line items in the U.S. budget, and as the population ages, it’s expected to only get more expensive, Axios’ Caitlin Owens reports….Biden has zeroed in on Republicans’ views on health care and entitlements, saying his GOP foes want to cut Social Security and Medicare….Top Republicans, however, have insisted they are not going to propose cuts to Medicare or Social Security during debt ceiling talks….The retirement age has been raised before. In 1983, Congress voted to phase in raising full retirement age from 65 to 67, citing an increase in life expectancy and workers staying at jobs for longer periods of time….Driving the news: Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R), who is running for president in 2024, said she supports changing the retirement age for Americans who are in their 20s….”It is unrealistic to say you’re not going to touch entitlements,” Haley said on Fox News….”The thing is you don’t have to touch it for seniors and anybody near retirement. You’re talking about the new generation, like my kids coming up,” she added….Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (R) also said Sunday that lawmakers should discuss raising the retirement age for Americans in their 20s….”Does it really make sense to allow someone who’s in their 20s today to retire at 62?” he added….Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) also said that raising the retirement age when it comes to receiving social security benefits “has to be on the table.”….”We do not want to take away those that are in retirement, or those that are heading into retirement, but if we’re talking about younger generations … then that should be on the table.”…./Go deeper… Biden sets new trap with GOP budget taunt.” If this sounds to you like a garden-variety GOP scam to screw young workers, while kissing up to senior voters, you re not alone.

For a deeper dive into GOP scams to shred Social Security, check out “Why The Right Hates Social Security (And How They Plan to Destroy It)” at Current Affairs, where Nathan Robinson interviews Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works.  Some highlights: “ROBINSON.  People do not talk enough about Social Security. Republicans want to kill Social Security but don’t like to talk about Social Security, partly because they know the conversation is a losing one for them. But that does not change the fact that every minute of every day, slowly, behind the scenes, they are working to destroy the program.” LAWSON. “Pitting the old against the young by telling the old they’re definitely not going to cut benefits and not to worry, and instead, they’re only going to cut the young people’s benefits; and telling the young Social Security is going to run out of money, they’re never going to get anything, and so they need to cut old people’s benefits—really stoking that intergenerational warfare with a divide and conquer strategy. But the main purpose of that Leninist strategy document is to say: lie to the people about what it is that we’re trying to do, because we have to destroy and gut Social Security, and the only way to do it is to lie. That has been their mantra and MO up to now.”ROBINSON. “It’s understandable why they feel hell-bent on destroying Social Security. As you point out, it’s not just to make exploitation easier—that’s part of it. But also, the success of Social Security disproves so many conservative talking points. It’s the government providing welfare or universal benefits to people, and it works. It makes people’s lives better and reduces poverty. One of the core conservative talking points is nothing government does can be done right. Everything it does to try and fix a social problem will inevitably backfire and cause disaster, misery, and bureaucracy. Social Security really undermines their case. LAWSON. “It’s a universal program of huge magnitude— there’s nothing really else like it, and it does all of that for less than 1 percent in administrative costs. Less than one penny of every dollar that you pay into the system is used to pay for the whole thing. And look at Wall Street—that’s why they hate it. They like people scrambling and not being able to have enough time and comfort to think about, “Why do these guys have all the money?” That’s true, but they’re also just straight up greedy. They look at it and think, “We should be the only ones who offer products like that, and tack on a 35 percent fee….They hate that they can’t get their greedy little hands on it. It really does disprove, backwards and forwards, the entire small “c” conservative, reactionary mindset. Yes, just like what the private health insurance industry operates on, “How can we get sick people to give us a portion of their wealth?”—which they successfully do. And that’s why they hate Medicare For All so much…”

Lawson’s comments continue, “They’re terrified of the people finding out about anything that guarantees healthcare, does a better job, works more efficiently than private insurance. They really don’t want people to find out that the VA [Veterans Affairs], which is fully socialized healthcare—different from Medicare For All, which is just one single payer—is consistently ranked higher than private insurance in terms of outcomes, quality, and what people feel about it….The New Dealers saw that there could be systemic responses, that not only mitigated the immediate effects of the Great Depression, but put in place systems that actually ameliorated all of those negative effects going forward….That’s what Social Security is. It not only took care of this desperate need in the Great Depression era, but it eliminated the poor houses going forward. The philosophical bent of Social Security is an ever-expanding system that delivers greater and greater economic security for more and more people. When FDR signed it into law, he said, “With this law, I laid the cornerstone that future generations can build upon.” And that’s what we have to recognize. For example, Medicare For All or a guaranteed national health system, is the most obvious one—you cannot pretend that you can have retirement or economic security if you can go bankrupt by getting sick or having an illness, especially now in the midst of the pandemic. And what we’ve seen, it’s more obvious than ever….You also, though, can’t have a secure retirement if you’ve been working your whole life for poverty wages. Poverty wages will follow you into poverty in retirement. So we need to increase wages. Instead of the Republican’s North Star of destroying things that work and hurting people, if you use as your North Star Frances Perkins’ vision for an America where if you played by the rules, did the things that most people want to do, and worked hard, the system would be there for you—including if it’s something that no one wants to think about, but happens to far more people than they think, like becoming disabled, ill or injured and can no longer work. Francis Perkins didn’t have that in the bill that was signed by FDR. We added disability later because we saw you can’t have economic or retirement security if you lose your wages because you become disabled….Hear the full conversation on the Current Affairs podcast.”

Sasha Abramsky reports that “The Progressive Takeover of Nevada’s Democratic Party Is Falling Apart” at The Nation, and notes that “Last weekend, the party took its vote and booted [Democratic Party Chair Judith] Whitmer from office, replacing her with Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno. The result wasn’t close: Whitmer lost by a more than three-to-one margin. Every one of the candidates for state party office backed by Monroe-Moreno’s “Unity” campaign won; every one of Whitmer’s candidates lost….The sort of posture politics practiced by Whitmer doesn’t cut it—probably not anywhere, certainly not in a complex swing state such as Nevada, with its core group of Democratic voters in Las Vegas and in Reno, and with deeply conservative hinterlands surrounding the big cities….Posturing aside, there’s a lot of good politics going on in Nevada—witness the recently introduced bill to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage for low-income mothers for the first year after they give birth; the cutting-edge water-recycling programs that are in place; the ambitious CO2 reduction strategythat has been adopted. But that good politics gets put at risk, and the likelihood of GOP election victories grow, when leaders such as Whitmer fail to live up to the expectations of those who put them in power in the first place….Last year, Oregon Democrats nearly fell apart at the seams as their gubernatorial candidate, Tina Kotek, struggled to consolidate support, following the reputational collapse of outgoing Governor Kate Brown. It wasn’t that voters didn’t like Brown’s basic political philosophy; it was more that they saw her as having failed to deliver on basic quality-of-life issues—failing to tackle the housing crisis, to respond to rising crime, and so on. In other words, she talked a good talk but ended up walking a lousy walk. Throughout 2022, she was the most unpopular governor in the country. Kotek did eventually win, but only after a massive effort to distance herself from Brown and her legacy. In California, San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin was recalled, not because he was far to the left of San Franciscans but because he was widely perceived to be incompetent at his job and unable to deliver outcomes that matched his soaring rhetoric….There are lessons in these elections: There is plenty of room for radical politics out West, and plenty of room for candidates looking to shake up the status quo. In many ways, it remains a petri dish in which new, and experimental, political ideas and alliances are cultivated. But at the end of the day, voters also want tangible results. Whitmer’s mediocre tenure, and her election defeat last week, is a wake-up call: If Democrats want to continue to hold power in places like Nevada, they need a party political machinery led by leaders who aren’t just idealistic but are also competent.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Alex Lawson is mistaken on several counts: “It not only took care of this desperate need in the Great Depression era, but it eliminated the poor houses going forward. The philosophical bent of Social Security is an ever-expanding system that delivers greater and greater economic security for more and more people. ” No, Social Security did not meet a “desperate need” in the Great Depression era, since it did not pay any benefits until 1940. In 1950, Social Security had a dependency ratio of 7.25 taxpayers per beneficiary; by 2050, that will be 2.5 taxpayers per beneficiary. It will take 25%-30% of a worker’s paycheck to fund that. As inflation proceeds, the Social Security beneficiaries get a cost-of-living increase while the workers whose wages fund the system generally do not. This is not sustainable, it is not “ever-expanding” and will not “deliver greater economic security for more and more people.”


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