Conservative congressmen and corporate media continue to promote the notion that Social Security is near death:
“WASHINGTON — The financial health of Social Security and Medicare, the government's two biggest benefit programs, have worsened because of the severe recession … Trustees of the programs say that Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2016, one year sooner than projected last year, and the giant trust fund will be depleted by 2037, four years sooner. … Critics have charged that the Obama administration has failed to tackle the most serious problems in the budget — soaring entitlement spending.”
Medicare indeed has serious problems (and conservative congressmen and corporate media aren't helping solve them), but Social Security's troubles are relatively minor. The Republican Party and its allies, who opposed Social Security from its beginning in the 1930s, try to spook people into believing otherwise. To them, the huge success of this grand government-run social welfare program is a continuing rebuke.
To begin with, the dismal projections for Social Security are based on assumptions about economic growth that some economists believe are too conservative. If more optimistic — some say “realistic” — figures are used, the Social Security “crisis” is put off for another 75 years or so. Even if the system needs work now, it's only minor tinkering. Raise the ceiling slightly on the amount of yearly wages subject to the Social Security tax (the ceiling is now a little over $100,000), and the system will be fit.
As we said, Medicare does need help, and one of the best ways to help it is to restrain the runaway cost of health care. One way to do that is to establish the government-run health-care program that President Obama proposes, so that the government can use its purchasing power to drive prices down. The Arkansas congressional delegation ought to pitch in and help, of course. This is not a time for Blue Doggery.
We've said before — perhaps more than once — that Mike Huckabee is not so bad when he can be kept away from Republicans. He was insulated from their influence to a great extent while governing Arkansas, but it appears he's fallen deeply into their clutches as a would-be presidential candidate. The almost-moderate, nearly-tolerable Huckabee may never be seen again. Lately he's been touring the country urging Republicans to stay on the Far Right, warning against what he calls the “mushy middle.” Extremism in pursuit of political ambition is no vice, he's decided. Had the younger Huckabee followed the advice he's now giving, he'd never have been elected governor.