Big Money has been gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for decades – since the beginning of Social Security in 1935. The motives are partly financial: As one scholar once put it to me, the payroll tax is the "Mississippi [River] of cash flows." Anything that diverts part of it into private funds and insurance premiums is a meal ticket for the elite of the predator state.What has changed remarkably in the last four years is that we now have a Democratic President not only willing but seemingly to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in line with this One Percenter destructive article of faith. This even after George W. Bush's completely failure with his push for Social Security privatization in 2005, when the Democratic Party could still maintain a solid front against it.
And the campaign is also partly political. The fact is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the main way ordinary Americans connect to their federal government, except in wars and disasters. They have made a vast change in family life, unburdening the young of their parents and ensuring that every working person contributes whether they have parents, dependents, survivors or disabled of their own to look after. These programs do this work seamlessly, for next to nothing; their managers earn civil service salaries and the checks arrive on time. For the private competition, this is intolerable; the model is a threat to free markets and must be destroyed. [my emphasis]
The fight over the Grand Bargain to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid could well become a more important political inflection point than last week's Presidential election, or even that of 2008.
Galbraith's brief article is worth reading in full. He not only explains some of the scams funds of those programs use to argue for cutting benefits. He also explains the larger ideological perspective from which today's Republican Party, as much devoted to the Gospel of Ayn Rand as it is to the Christian faith, perceives this fight:
But Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid impose no such future burdens. They are transfers in current time. They meet today’s commitments to seniors, survivors, dependents, the disabled and the ill – commitments they have earned through work – providing them with income and services at the expense of others also currently alive. This any community can always do, to the full extent of its will and resources. The future has nothing to do with it. Except that, from a moral point of view, it’s useful for the young to learn that we are a community, in which working people take care of those who can’t.A double-amen to that last part: "Congress should leave Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone"!!!
And that is what the Objectivists in Congress cannot stand. Our sense of community is an obstacle to their power. And what they are determined to destroy, we must defend. There is much more to be said, about disaster relief, food assistance, housing and other threatened programs. But to begin, Congress should leave Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone. [my emphasis]
Tags: austerity economics, fiscal cliff, grand bargain, james galbraith, medicaid, medicare, social security