Democrats Should “Turn Up The Volume” On Social Security Expansion

My favorite U.S. Senator is Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Not only does he look like Columbo, but he is as sharp as Columbo. And Greg Sargent quotes him today as being on the offensive on Social Security—a place where all Democrats should be.

Brown, who sits on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, knows that his Republican colleagues in the Senate are set to attack Social Security Disability Insurance. Fox “News” has already fired the first media shots by airing misleading segments on the alleged “Fraudulent Disability Claims Threatening Social Security Program.” The conservative media complex is following suit. The truth is that the only thing that threatens Social Security, whether it be the disability insurance portion or the retirement security portion, is the Republican Party. Brown says:

They want to separate “good” Social Security (retirement security) from ‘bad’ Social Security (disability insurance), to win support for structural reform. The attacks on disability insurance will accelerate. This is how they will try to back-door the dismantling of social insurance. But the public is with us on social insurance.

Sargent points out that Brown is “holding a Senate Finance sub-c0mmittee hearing tomorrow on the overall program” and that he thinks making Social Security an issue in the midterm election could benefit Democrats:

The electorate is older, so the field is fertile for Democrats to talk about this. We should turn up the volume.

Yes! A Democrat who gets it. But what does it mean to turn up the volume? Sargent explains:

Brown says Dems should seize this occasion to get behind a proposal that would lift or change the payroll tax cap, meaning higher earners would pay more, while adopting a new measure for inflation that would increase benefits for all seniors. Instead of getting drawn into debates about “Chained CPI” and other entitlement cuts, Brown says, Dems should make the case that stagnating wages and declining pensions and savings demand an expansion of social insurance.

Playing offense is the only way Democrats can save themselves this year. But, more important, playing offense on social insurance programs is the only way to ultimately save those programs, particularly when they are under assault by right-wing austerity zealots.

As Greg Sargent notes, Sherrod Brown isn’t alone among Democrats who want to play hardball with Republicans on Social Security:

Two Democrats in tough Senate races — Mark Begich and Jeff Merkley – have already staked out aggressive postures on expanding Social Security. It’s also supported by Elizabeth Warren and Tom Harkin, and 70 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Who would have thought that at this point in the process, when many pundits and some polls predict a tough race ahead for Democrats, that our side, at least some on our side, are fighting for expansion—I said expansion!—of Social Security. Brown says:

Democrats win the argument by saying Republicans again are cutting taxes on the rich to deny Social Security beneficiaries the expanded Social Security they should get and have earned. Most of us should be willing to make that argument.

Most should. But will they?

Related to Brown’s be-aggressive campaign argument, I want to point out something amazing about the press, particularly about what conservatives call the liberal or “lamestream” media. Here is the headline from a recent Washington Post article on its latest poll:

Post-ABC News poll shows Democrats at risk in November as Obama’s approval rating falls

That sounds rather gloomy, no? Here’s the lede:

Democrats face serious obstacles as they look to the November elections, with President Obama’s approval rating at a new low and a majority of voters saying they prefer a Congress in Republican hands to check the president’s agenda, according to a newWashington Post-ABC News poll.

Man. That sounds terrible. Except that if you bother to read down to the fifth paragraph, you find this:

Democrats are not without assets as the midterm election campaigns intensify. Americans trust Democrats over Republicans by 40 to 34 percent to handle the country’s main problems. By significant margins, Americans see Democrats as better for the middle class and on women’s issues. Americans favor the Democrats’ positions on raising the minimum wage, same-sex marriage and on the broad issue of dealing with global climate change.

That sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? Why couldn’t the headline have read, “Americans overwhelmingly trust Democrats to handle America’s biggest problems”? Or, “Americans overwhelmingly distrust Republicans to handle country’s biggest problems”? Either of those would have been at least as true as the headline that was chosen. So why wouldn’t the liberal lamestream media use one of those alternative headlines? Because there ain’t no such thing as the liberal lamestream media, that’s why. Republicans and right-wing pundits just pretend there is in order to put pressure on outlets to falsely “balance” the reporting.

Finally, since the Post article left out some of the numbers that demonstrate just how overwhelmingly people trust Democrats over Republicans on several issues, here are three sets of them for your encouragement:

abc poll

As you can see, Republicans trail Democrats by a bunch on some of the most important issues facing us. And these numbers show why Democrats should take Sherrod Brown’s advice and go hard after tax-cutting, Tea Party-drunk candidates and talk about expanding programs and opportunities for all Americans. If we stay on offense, we just might hold our own this November.

And even if we don’t hold our own, at least we will have gone down fighting for the right things.


1 Comment

  1. Raising the payroll tax cap is a good idea. It’s one of the very few options left to ameliorate the ever-growing wealth disparity gap.

    I like Brown too, and your description of him is spot on. I even like Brown’s wife, Connie Shultz, who I think is one of the brightest and funniest writers going. Her stuff often appears in Parade Magazine.


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