Social Security and Generation X

So the Democrats are winning on the Social Security issue, which is good news. It's a non-starter for Republicans, Bush's dogged persistence in campaigning about it notwithstanding. So perhaps these thoughts aren't very timely, maybe even moot at this point. But they're on my mind so here goes.

I've been thinking a lot lately about a conversation I had a few months ago with a good friend. She's a progressive, but I think she'd agree she's financially conservative. Which is to say that although she supports and understands the need for social programs, she admits there's an inner struggle everytime she notes the withholding on her paycheck.

This is, I think, understandable and could be the Democrats' possible undoing on the issue of Social Security. I admit I also have that moment of despair when I mentally calculate the percentage the withholding takes from my paycheck and think about that brake job the Subaru needs and the huge repair job we need done on the back of the house to address the carpenter ant damage. I lay awake at night wondering how we're going to get this thing taken care of or pay for that much-needed thing, nevermind the debt that we're trying desperately to get out from under before the whole economy comes crashing down 'round our heads.

It's not that either my friend or I begrudge people the help they get through social programs -- we don't. We both know from experience what it was like when our parents couldn't make ends meet. We believe in the importance of these programs. We both manage okay and want for little, but that doesn't mean it was always that way. We might grumble a few choice words about the freeloaders gaming the system who always seem to make the news, we're intelligent and logical and know that these bad apples are hardly representative of the vast majority of people who are helped by social programs.

So why the concern? Because Republicans are targetting young professionals like us when they talk about private personal whatever retirement accounts. The fact is, it is painful. Neither of us can afford the money that's taken out of our paychecks, and I'm not talking about "afford" as in "because I need that 42 in. plasma screen". Perhaps I feel the pinch moreso than she does, if only because my husband and I are renovating an old house, but neither of us are jetting off to Europe anytime soon. From this perspective it's hard to see Social Security as the social insurance it actually is instead of the social welfare the Republicans make it out to be.

Thanks to the wealth of information about Social Security that can be found online*, I'm happy to say that I get why the Republicans are wrong, wrong, wrong on this issue. I get why Social Security is one of the most revolutionary and remarkable programs ever created and why there is no crisis. But I didn't always get it. And my good friend, progressive and intelligent and logical as she is, is as susceptible to the arguments the Republicans are making as I was.

So, while we may be winning this argument in the here and now, I'm not convinced the Republicans haven't succeeded in planting that seed of doubt in my generation's collective mind. I'm hopeful that as they learn more about it, as they see how Social Security benefits their grandparents and parents, and as they see that the big doom and gloom that's forecast by Bush et. al. can only come about if we let Bush et. al. continue to do as they have been, that the only thing wrong with the system are the people currently in charge. But now's the time for the Democrats to counteract that seed of doubt because if they don't, we're going to be having this argument again and we may not win it next time.

* Kevin Drum, over at Political Animal, was the most helpful to me in this regard, thanks to his informative posts about Social Security that took various aspects of the anti-Social Security argument and showed what's wrong with that argument in easily digestible portions. I can't recommend his posts on the subject highly enough; the following are just some he posted during the early stage of this battle:

Social Security Doom Mongering
Social Security Privatization in Pictures
Social Security: A Conversation
Two Percent of GDP
Private Accounts...A Case History

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for addressing this issue and including lots of links. I haven't had a chance yet to read them, but I PROMISE I will.

Much love,
Good Friend:).