Cantor Social Security Cannot Exist In The America We Want

Isaiah J. Poole

He said what?

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor appears to have called for the eventual elimination of Social Security because it stands in the way of what “we” want America to be.

Here’s the quote, from NPR’s “Morning Edition” today:

I mean, just from the very notion that it said that 50 percent of beneficiaries under the Social Security program use those monies as their sole source of income. So we’ve got to protect today’s seniors. But for the rest of us? For – you know, listen. We’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be.

“Now, wait a minute,” you say. “Cantor was speaking off the cuff and didn’t get his wording exactly right. Surely he didn’t really mean to say what he’s quoted as saying on NPR, right?”

Yeah, I thought of that too, so I scanned some recent quotes of Cantor speaking about Social Security. And everything that I could find with any level of specificity is along the lines of what Cantor is quoted as saying to the Stanton, Va., News Leader earlier this month.

On the federal level, House Republicans plan to introduce in the coming weeks a budget plan for the next fiscal year that would reduce spending in all areas — including entitlements. Medicaid, and particularly Medicare and Medicaid benefits promised to retirees, make up nearly half of federal expenditures, but have been politically difficult to cut.

Under the Republican plan, people 55 or older would get the Social Security and Medicare they expect. Those younger would not, Cantor said.

“For everyone else, 54 and younger, I think we are realizing that we’ve got to face facts,” Cantor said. “The money’s not there.”

The Republican Study Committee, of which Cantor is a leading member, is expected to push a “rogue” budget proposal that will take a hatchet to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to balance the budget in 10 years. Their budget will make it clear that the America that they have in mind is an America willing to allow the elderly and economically vulnerable to fall through the cracks.

A big-name insurance company suggests you create your own “personal safety net,” and this is what Cantor has in mind: People depending on the same lightly regulated Wall Street whose behavior wiped out trillions of dollars in private retirement savings in the last financial crash to keep them out of poverty in the future. The truth is that the “personal safety nets” of millions of middle-class households have already failed, and those of the poor could never have been knitted. But Social Security is not failing. It is working today to keep people out of poverty, and the keys to keeping it working for the next generation of retirees do not need to entail raising the retirement age, cutting benefits or forcing people into the hands of Wall Street gamblers.

And another thing: Who is this “we” that Cantor talks about, anyway? It does not include these people who depend on Social Security and were on Capitol Hill Monday fighting to protect it for future generations. In fact, it does not include a majority of Americans. This “we” could only be the “they” who scorn government and who resent the very idea of a social insurance program through which we as a society have pooled our resources to provide dignity to all those in the twilight of their lives.

** Campaign for America’s Future will be running ads targeting Cantor in his home district over his comments about Social Security. Click here to keep the ads going! **

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