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The tree is falling in the forest again. Does anybody hear it?

We are the richest nation in the history of the world -- richer now than we've ever been. But an increasing share of that wealth is held by a smaller and smaller share of the population, who have, in effect, bribed legislators to reduce their taxes and provide loopholes so they pay even less.

The budget deficit "crisis" has been manufactured by them to distract our attention from this overriding fact, and to pit the rest of us against each other for a smaller and smaller share of what remains. Democrats should not conspire.

Needy children should be getting far more help, better pre-school care, better nutrition. Seniors need better healthcare coverage and more Social Security. All Americans need better schools and improved infrastructure.

Paul Ryan, John Boehner, and President Obama all agree on one thing--there is no debt crisis facing this country.  Why then, are prominent Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin, proposing pre-emptive compromises such as means testing or "bipartisan" commissions whose only conceivable goal is to work out an "agreeable" framework for cutting Medicare and Social Security? What is driving this idiocy? Fear? Of what?

Who exactly is responsible for "deficit hysteria?"  More to the point, since when did the Republican Party ever care about the well-being of the American people, as opposed to a narrow sliver of the population who finance their campaigns? Why should their incessant focus on deficit reduction be viewed as anything more than a cynical sham?  What exactly has the Republican Party done to deserve this kind of deference?

Nothing.  

When have the Republicans ever been right on Economic policy?  Never.

Were they right in 1932? No.  Their laissez-faire policies caused the Depression.

Were they right in 1982? No. Wealth did not "trickle down," and both Reagan and Bush I were forced to raise taxes after ballooning the deficit with supply-side inspired foolishness.

Were they right in 2006? No. They presided over a near complete meltdown of the world economy caused in large part by the very financial deregulation they championed.

Any rational person would flee from any economic ideas advocated by the Republicans, given their miserable track record.  What is not rational is acting as if they have anything worthwhile to offer.   Republican ideas have already been "means-tested," and they have never worked.

Putting these two programs "on the table" is also tantamount to accepting the most insidious and dishonest of all Republican claims: That for too long most Americans have been living beyond their means; that we are rapidly approaching a day of reckoning when we can no longer afford these generous "entitlements;" and that prudence and responsibility dictate that we must now begin to live within our means and cut back these projected expenditures, particularly if we are to have any money left to invest in the young and the disadvantaged.

The truth is the opposite: That for three decades the means of most Americans have been stagnant even though the overall economy has more than doubled in size; that because almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top, most Americans haven't been able to save enough for retirement or the rising costs of healthcare; and that because of this, Social Security and Medicare are barely adequate as is.

Reich stresses, yet again, that it is not Medicare itself that increases the debt, it is the cost of health care, which could be reined in legislatively by establishing a public option and providing Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices and exercise more leverage over health care providers. Social Security can be made solvent for seventy-five years simply by raising the payroll cap.  And:
Because Medicare's administrative costs are a fraction of those of private health insurance, Medicare might be part of the solution. Medicare for all, or even a public option for Medicare, would give the program enough clout to demand health providers move from a fee-for-service system to one that paid instead for healthy outcomes.

With healthcare costs under better control, retirees wouldn't be paying a large and growing portion of their incomes for healthcare -- which would alleviate pressure on Social Security.

The knee-jerk response that these measures are likely impossible to accomplish given the legislative gridlock we have now does not provide a legitimate excuse for Democrats to acquiesce to a Republican ideology that has proved bankrupt time and time again.  If anything this is the time for Democrats to stand up to such sophistry, not accommodate it.  Some things ought to be painfully obvious, even for Democrats trapped in the Beltway bubble:
For over thirty years Republicans have pitted the middle class against the poor, preying on the frustrations and racial biases of average working people who can't get ahead no matter how hard they try. In the Republican narrative, government takes from the hard-working middle and gives to the undeserving and dependent needy.

In reality, average working people have been stymied because almost all the economic gains of the last three decades have gone to the very top. The middle has lost bargaining power as unions have shriveled. American politics has been flooded with campaign contributions from corporations and the wealthy, which have used their clout to reduce marginal tax rates, widen loopholes, loosen regulations, gain subsidies, and obtain government bailouts when their bets turn sour.

Here's what the Democrats really ought to fear: Millions of Democratic Voters staying home in 2014.

As Reich says:

If average Americans have trusted the Democratic Party to do one thing it has been to guard these programs from the depredations of the GOP.
And if they can't do that, what good are they?

Originally posted to Dartagnan on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 07:04 AM PDT.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders.

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