Campaigned As Social Securitys Protectors Legislating As Privatizers

Dave Johnson

Republicans are caught between what their ideology calls for — getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and much of the rest of government — and what the public will accept. The American people hate what they propose so they use tricks and schemes to get what they want. They say one thing in public while they say and do the opposite behind closed doors. But they are not very good at hiding it.

Republicans have always hated Social Security but were more open with the public about it in the past than today. Republican Alf Landon ran for president in 1936 on a vow to repeal the new Social Security program. In that campaign Republicans charged that Social Security would cut wages and force workers to wear identification tags around their necks. Others said it would bring “the lash of the dictator” and “end the progress of a great country” and even said,

“Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers.”

Their Problem

But when President Bush tried in 2004 to have Social Security “privatized” the backlash was so severe that conservatives changed tactics. They even banned the use of the word “privatize” — changing the name the public hears, but keeping the same agenda.

Run For Office As Protectors

In the 2010 midterm campaign Republicans ran ads against Democrats for not increasing the Social Security COLA, and claiming they will protect Social Security. Here are just two examples:

That was the campaign and what they presented to the voting public and in their public statements today, Republicans continue to play the champions of these programs. But now in office and speaking only to each other and DC insiders, Republican “roadmaps” and budget plans again call for privatizing Social Security.

Legislate As Privatizers

Republican Representative Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, has issued a “Ryan Roadmap” that privatizes Social Security for people currently under the age of 55. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Republicans must “embrace’ the plan. This is what is coming down the legislative pike.

In addition, after running ads (see above) claiming that Democrats are spending the trust fund, they claim the trust fund is “only IOU’s.” The influential Republican Chamber of Commerce, reflecting the standard conservative position, calls for Congress to privatize Social Security into “voluntary personal retirement accounts,” says on its website that “the Social Security trust fund contains nothing more than IOUs that have no value”

Hiding Agenda?

One message to be said in front of the voting public, another to each other after the election. Joan Walsh, writing in Why does the GOP hide its agenda? at Salon, asks why Rep. Ryan didn’t detail his roadmap in his State of the Union response.

Rep. Paul Ryan railed against the deficit without proposing even one specific cut. He didn’t talk about his own infamous “Roadmap,” maybe because most analysts have called it a budget buster, even though it essentially replaces Social Security and Medicare with vouchers.

Fortunately there is still a Democratic Senate and President. President Obama said in the State of the Union that he pledged to improve Social Security “without putting at risk current retirees” and “without slashing benefits for future generations.” So we are probably safe for now, until the Republicans campaign in 2012, saying what the public wants to hear, while planning what the public doesn’t want to happen.

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