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'This is no way for elected officials, who are supposed to be servants of the people, to treat American citizens. Hostage-taking to force changes that the American people do not want to a vital program like Social Security is no way to run the United States of America.' (Image: shutterstock)

The New Republican Attack on Social Security Starts Now!

Nancy J. AltmanEric Kingson

Republican opponents of Social Security have not wasted even a single day in their plan to dismantle Social Security brick by brick. What should be a dry, mundane exercise -- the adoption of new rules by the newly convening House of Representatives -- has turned into a stealth attack on America's working families.

A technical amendment, known as "reallocation" -- something that has been done many times over the history of Social Security, something that few persons other than actuaries and other Social Security experts ever know about -- must be enacted in the current Congress to ensure that all Social Security benefits continue to be paid in full and on time. The change is analogous to what investors do when they rebalance their accounts, but in the case of Social Security, a failure to rebalance will result in an unnecessary and completely avoidable cut in benefits paid to workers who have serious and permanent disabilities and to their families.

Like other stealth attacks against the American people's Social Security, the groundwork is being laid in advance. It will suddenly explode sometime in the next two years. The rule change would prohibit a simple reallocation! It will require more significant and complex changes to Social Security. In other words, the Republican rule will allow Social Security to be held hostage -- something we anticipated and warned about in our new book, Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It will Help Us All (The New Press, 2015).

This is no way for elected officials, who are supposed to be servants of the people, to treat American citizens. Hostage-taking to force changes that the American people do not want to a vital program like Social Security is no way to run the United States of America.

One of the strengths of Social Security is its universality. It is based on the principle that we are stronger together. It is an old tactic of the program's opponents to seek to divide and conquer. They seek to turn young against old by falsely claiming that too much is being spent on the old. They seek to turn African Americans against whites with the preposterous claim that Social Security is unfair to blacks. (We document and refute these and many other claims in our new book). This time they seek to drive a wedge between retired workers and disabled workers by claiming that reallocation helps the disabled at the expense of the old -- another preposterous claim. All of these divide-and-conquer strategies are intended to turn Americans against each other so that all of their benefits can be cut.

But if senior, disability, workers, women's, veterans, civil rights, faith-based and other groups stand together -- as they have in opposition to privatization and recent benefit cut proposals -- this stealth effort to pull apart our Social Security will be defeated. And if citizens from around the country let their representatives know that it's time to expand Social Security to address the nation's retirement income crisis, not cut it, all of us will be better off.


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Nancy J. Altman

Nancy J. Altman

Nancy J. Altman is president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition. She has a 40-year background in the areas of Social Security and private pensions. Her latest book is "The Truth About Social Security: The Founders' Words Refute Revisionist History, Zombie Lies, and Common Misunderstandings" (2018). She is also the author of "The Battle for Social Security" (2005) and co-author of "Social Security Works!" (2015).

Eric Kingson

Eric Kingson, professor of social work at Syracuse University's School of Social Work, is also a Senior Research Associate in the Maxwell School’s Center for Policy Research. He is founding co-director of Social Security Works and co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition and campaign. Kingson is also co-author (with Nancy Altman) of the new book, Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It will Help Us All (The New Press, 2015).

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