Jan 17, 2012

The Leninist Strategy For Social Security Hasn't Work

     Every scheme has to start somewhere. Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times points out that the right wing scheme to guarantee Social Security benefits to those who are already retired or who are about to retire while cutting or eliminating benefits for those who are further away from retirement started in 1983. Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis wrote Achieving a Leninist Strategy for the Cato Institute's Journal recommending this tack. Why is this a Leninist strategy? Because Lenin "recognized that fundamental change is contingent both upon a movement's ability to create a focused political coalition and upon its success in isolating and weakening its opponents." I am not sure that the scheme to gradually kill Social Security is what Lenin was talking about. A more accurate title for that 1983 article would have been "Achieving a Divide and Conquer Strategy" but that isn't nearly as catchy a title.
     The prediction in that Cato article that Social Security would eventually collapse under its own weight has proven no truer than Marx's predictions about capitalism. The "Lenisist" strategy for hastening Social Security's demise advocated almost three decades ago in the Cato piece has been far less successful than the strategies that Lenin developed. Maybe it's time for the right to give up on this one. As Dean Baker writes in Huffington Post, time is not on the side of those who want to phase out Social Security.


No Saj said...

I never understood the right's animus of SS. Do the rich really pinch pennies so much that they can't stand paying payroll taxes on the first $100,000?

Oh, you know what, they don't pay payroll taxes like the rest of us do. We only pay payroll taxes on our own income, but the rich are paying the payroll taxes of everyone in their employ. Instead of going towards some working stiff's pension, all those matching funds could be going towards a second yatch, or a fed-backed derivative of a derivative of a mortgage of a derivate.

Ah, the odd satisfaction of answering my own question.

Anonymous said...

Reading the article, the Cato Inst idea seems to be to use communist/socialist/leftist [you pick the word] tactics.
Maybe not the most moral idea, but I can see why the 'left' would start to complain "unfair" when the other side adopts their (fabian, step-by-step) tactics.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the article with 20/20 hindsight, the suggestion that IRAs (for most people today, that would be 401K plans) would replace the need for Social Security benefits was naive at best. Anybody who had a defined benefit pension plan that was replaced by a defined contribution plan think they got a good deal?
There seems to be some genetic aversion in the libertarian philosophy to certainty. Even if I want to purchase insurance that would pay me a fixed amount per month for the rest of my life, the libertarian seems to believe that the very concept of a defined benefit is immoral. I should be forced to take the risk that if the stock market crashes, I will be left penniless, even if I would prefer not to take the risk. Perhaps the libertarians see forced risk as a a virtue of capitalism.