Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
It’s highly ironic that the current social and political battle over our nation’s debt and deficit is occurring this week with the 46th anniversary of the signing of Social Security Act of 1965 on Saturday, July 30.
After a long political battle dating from Harry Truman’s presidency to Lyndon Johnson’s, Johnson signed this legislation creating universal, single payer healthcare insurance for the nation’s elderly (Medicare) and indigent (Medicaid).
From The Nation…
With reporters and photographers surrounding them, Johnson took a place beside former President Harry Truman, who the sitting president thanked for “planting the seeds of compassion and duty which have today flowered into care for the sick and serenity for the fearful.” [Emphasis added.]
These healthcare reforms were part of Johnson’s Great Society, which had two primary goals: to eliminate poverty and to eliminate racial injustice. After his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964, Johnson and his progressive Democratic Congress enacted forward-thinking reforms that were reminiscent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and began the full-on War on Poverty, which reduced the poverty rate significantly over the subsequent 10 years. Many important Great Society programs– aimed at improving labor, healthcare, and education for poor and working class Americans– are still in existence: Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, student loans for college, work study, and Head Start. These programs were strengthened under Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
It is so sad how far we have fallen from this level of compassion. The programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society– programs that have provided a social safety net for millions of Americans and wiped out many inequities of the past– are now facing a full-frontal attack by conservatives, bankrolled by big business.
Republican Congressmen would have you believe that the nation’s financial problems can be fixed by just cutting spending– specifically dramatically changing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (long-term spending) and dramatically cutting other discretionary (non-military) spending (ie, food stamps, children’s healthcare, food safety, pollution abatement, etc) which actually makes up less than 20 percent of the budget. Oh, yeah, and they want to protect oil subsidies, corporate tax loopholes (which allow multinational corporations like Bank of America to pay no taxes; tax loopholes for the rich; continue the Bush era tax cuts that they fought so hard for in December 2010; dismantle Social Security (so retirement funds for those under 50 can be gambled on the stock market); and offer more tax cuts (more trickle down economics).
At a time of high unemployment, high gasoline costs, high food prices, escalating college education tuition, skyrocketing healthcare expenses, a disintigrating social safety net, and soaring corporate profits— Republicans want workers, the elderly, and the indigent to “tighten their belts” to protect the profits and tax breaks of corporate jet owners, big oil, big pharma, big insurance, and Wall Street gamblers and corporate execs everywhere.
From the Associated Press (via the Arizona Daily Star)…
Two years after economists say the Great Recession ended, the recovery has been the weakest and most lopsided of any since the 1930s.
After previous recessions, people in all income groups tended to benefit. This time, ordinary Americans are struggling with job insecurity, too much debt and pay raises that haven’t kept up with prices at the grocery store and gas station. The economy’s meager gains are going mostly to the wealthiest.
Workers’ wages and benefits make up 57.5 percent of the economy, an all-time low. Until the mid-2000s, that figure had been remarkably stable – about 64 percent through boom and bust alike.
Executive pay is included in this figure, but rank-and-file workers are far more dependent on regular wages and benefits. A big chunk of the economy’s gains has gone to investors in the form of higher corporate profits.
“The spoils have really gone to capital, to the shareholders,” says David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates in Toronto.
Corporate profits are up by almost half since the recession ended in June 2009. In the first two years after the recessions of 1991 and 2001, profits rose 11 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
And an Associated Press analysis found that the typical CEO of a major company earned $9 million last year, up a fourth from 2009.
Driven by higher profits, the Dow Jones industrial average has staged a breathtaking 90 percent rally since bottoming at 6,547 on March 9, 2009. Those stock market gains go disproportionately to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, who own more than 80 percent of outstanding stock, according to an analysis by Edward Wolff, an economist at Bard College.
But if the Great Recession is long gone from Wall Street and corporate boardrooms, it lingers on Main Street:
• Unemployment has never been so high – 9.1 percent – this long after any recession since World War II. At the same point after the previous three recessions, unemployment averaged just 6.8 percent.
• The average worker’s hourly wages, after accounting for inflation, were 1.6 percent lower in May than a year earlier. Rising gasoline and food prices have devoured any pay raises for most Americans.
• The jobs that are being created pay less than the ones that vanished in the recession. Higher-paying jobs in the private sector, the ones that pay roughly $19 to $31 an hour, made up 40 percent of the jobs lost from January 2008 to February 2010 but only 27 percent of the jobs created since then.
Hard times have made Americans more dependent than ever on social programs, which accounted for a record 18 percent of personal income in the last three months of 2010 before coming down a bit this year. Almost 45 million Americans are on food stamps, another record…
Federal Reserve numbers crunched by Haver Analytics suggest that Americans have a long way to go before their finances will be strong enough to support robust spending: Despite cutting what they owe the past three years, the average household’s debts equal 119 percent of annual after-tax income. At the same point after the 1981-82 recession, debts were at 66 percent; after the 1990-91 recession, 85 percent; and after the 2001 recession, 114 percent. [Emphasis added.]
At a time when Americans can least afford it and the income gap between the richest 1 percent and the rest of us is larger than the Grand Canyon, Republicans are asking for even further financial sacrifices from Main Street Americans AND they are willing to throw the world into financial crisis as they cling to their trickle down ideology of protecting the rich while casting the rest of us aside. If they want to “fix” Social Security, they should put Americans back to work at good-paying jobs. According to 2009 figures from the US Census, 14.3 percent of Americans (and 20.7 percent of American children) are living in poverty; 43 million Americans– the largest number ever.
What can you do about it?
Call your Congressional Representatives today and tell them to vote to:
Here are the numbers:
CD8 Gabrielle Giffords: 520-881-3588 (local) or 202-225-2542 (DC)
CD7 Raul Grijalva: 520-622-6788 (local) or 202-225-2435 (DC)
CD6 Jeff Flake from Mesa (We need to lean on this guy who wants to be our next Senator.):
480-833-0092 (in Mesa) or 202-225-2635 (DC)
Senator Jon Kyl 520-575-8633 (local) or 202-224-4521 (DC)
Senator John McCain 520-670-6334 (local) or 202-224-2245 (DC)
What else can you do?
Progressive Democrats of America’s Tucson Chapter is holding a demonstration to show support for protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on Saturday, July 30 from 10 a.m. – noon at the corner of Speedway and Campbell.