Obama’s Historic Assault on Social Security


A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

After four years of maneuvering, President Obama finally has his White Whale, Social Security, within harpooning distance. “Obama has largely neutered Social Security’s traditional congressional defenders, who know perfectly well what their president is up to, but will not directly oppose him.”


Obama’s Historic Assault on Social Security

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

He can accomplish what Republicans only dream about.”

President Obama and his Republican partners in austerity have choreographed a kind of bi-partisan ballet, in which the dancers reach out to each other in slow motion, their fingers almost touching, teasing the audience. These cheap and transparent theatrics are designed to transmit a soap opera-like sense of drama: “Can the two parties come to a compromise for the sake of the country?” But, the fact is, Obama and the Republicans reached most of their grand bargain more than a year ago, when they slashed $1.7 trillion out of domestic spending over a decade. As liberal Obamite Robert Kuttner, of Demos, points out, there’s very little left to cut except Medicare and Social Security.

Social Security has always been Obama’s Great White Whale; he’s conspired with Republicans and right-wing Democrats to harpoon the mother of all New Deal programs since the very start of his presidency. But Social Security is not an easy mark. George Bush found that out in his second term, when he suffered his worst domestic defeat in attempting to privatize the program.

It would take a Black Democrat, fresh from a near-landslide election, to put Social Security on the chopping block, as Obama did in January of 2009. But before he could move in for the kill, Obama and his allies had to convince the public that Social Security is a major contributor to the federal budget deficit – which is a lie. Social Security runs on its own stream of revenues that go into the Social Security Trust Fund, totally separate from general taxation and debt. However, by endless repetition of the Big Lie – that Social Security adds to the federal deficit – Obama and other corporate Democrats and Republicans succeeded in maneuvering the program into the austerity debate, where it does not belong.

Social Security runs on its own stream of revenues.”

At this point it must be said that Obama’s insistence on making Social Security a budget deficit issue shows that he has always intended to make drastic cuts to the program. One of the reasons Social Security has long been thought of as “untouchable” is because President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal Democrats purposely insulated it from the conventional budget process. However, President Obama has largely neutered Social Security’s traditional congressional defenders, who know perfectly well what their president is up to, but will not directly oppose him. That’s why we at Black Agenda Report call Obama “the more effective evil”; he can accomplish what Republicans only dream about.

Obama’s scheme to cripple Social Security is to change the way inflation is measured, resulting in a drastic scale-back in cost-of-living increases in recipients. According to Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the cuts would amount to 3 percent over 10 years, 6 percent over 20 years, and 9 percent over 30 years. In dollar terms, Black Minneapolis Congressman Keith Ellison says retirees would lose $6,000 in the first 15 years of cuts and $16,000 over 25 years.

And that’s just the beginning. Once the untouchability of Social Security has been breached, it becomes just another social program to be carved up on austerity chopping blocks. President Obama’s true legacy will be to have begun the destruction of the crown jewel of what’s left of the nation’s social safety net.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].



Perfectly said. Knowing it doesn't make it hurt less.

After hurt, comes anger; Mahatma Gandhi told his grandson, Arun, take the anger and turn it into positive action for change. (1)

Jack Rasmus was writing along the same lines (dance, historically forewarnings by Obama, theater), but not as concilely and simply, on Znet - "Fiscal Cliff - the Well Orchestrated Dance", Dec.18,2012. www.Zcommunications.org/znet

    I'm on social security.  Watching.  Nobody has mentioned, that I've heard or read, that at the same time the cost of living formula is redefined so we're cut 3%, as G. Ford notes Dean Baker saying, my/our medicare monthly  deduction from the social security check is going up again and again.  The insurance I have had that covers the 20% not covered by medicare just went up to $2400. a year. Rent in NYC, even with rent regs barely left in place, goes up.  Food.  Like everybody else who is not in the top 2%.  My family includes a senior citizen whose school debt repayments are not considered as deductions-worthy if applying for programs to freeze rent in NYC (SCRIE) or apply for low income housing for seniors.  Some seniors can't retire on social security with that school debt going on and on. (Work until fall over, I suppose.)  The debt's principal (amount borrowed) just about doubled.  That is because during financial hard times, when I first got sick (still ill) and they didn't tell that deferred payments would be bookkeeping fun for them = doubling of debt (or close to).  Know that Sallie Mae makes 50% profit per year on student loans. (Source: David Cay Johnston in interview on DemNow re Bailout of Fall 2008).  School loan debt CAN  NOT be erased by personal bankruptcy (nor illness, nor disability).  That was a gift to the banks in the "new" bankruptcy "reform" bill circa 1999, perhaps the only personal debt that can't be erased. It's not just the young being screwed on school debt.  And, social security income above $750. month will be attached/taken by Sallie Mae if you stop paying the monthly debt payments. 

And this comment doesn't cover the new (or old) homeless postHurricane Sandy...nor have I mentioned the disabled living only on their social security, seniors in same boat or children who are getting social security survivor benefits (which I grew up on as a child of a deceased WWII vet).  There must be some  stories about Sallie Mae fighting it out with nursing homes for the meager monthly social security checks of the captives.... (Could be me; if  lucky I'll die in situ...at home, like my nearest neighbors, boricua and African-American.  Like so many, four of them died before collecting Social Security, one younger man died two months after finally getting social security disability after fighting for it for months even though his disability to qualify was a stroke that forced him to stop working; he was disabled from birth but worked until his stroke.  People dying before they live long enough to collect Social Security is another topic, as well as all the women, in particular, who don't qualify because they don't have enough work quarters to collect social security retirement, and SSI is linked to welfare and hard to get,too or the people who worked off the books, like artists or part timers or home workers who didn't know to pay their own social security deductions as individual workers. Heck, when I started teaching in NYC, teachers were not covered by social security in 1960.)

Footnote:(1)I just got a mailing from ADAPT www.adapt.org - something from the perfectly named Bob Kafka, a piece from MyMedicaidMatters "Don't Mourn, Organize" - (a quote from Joe Hill).

Do they tell you what the new balance is?

I don't read that bill.   The family member I know who gets his bill told me it only lists the monthly payment, no breakdown of how much is owed in total, nor how much is interest.  That means you don't know if you are just paying off interest and what you owe. They do give the amount of interest paid at the end of the year, for taxes. And I empathize with you.

He had shown his interest

He had shown his interest looking for the solution and doing his best to solve the problem. I think we should trust in him because I know he can do more things for a change. - sports photos