African-Americans, Social Security Cuts & Priorities

Originally posted at Daily Kos by bruh1; reposted here with permission.

When I read about civility in the context of Social Security cuts or other race & class warfare issues, it leads me to conclude that the writer or speaker has the wrong priorities. My priority in the debate over Social Security cuts is not to be civil. Its to protect my society, family, friends and self  from cuts that will harm us.

If you are discussing civility, rather than how to prevent the cuts, you and I are quite simply going to fight. You can not serve both the dictates of civility and fight the class war being waged against us. This isn't Hollywood  where the good win simply by being good. The forces aligned against us aren't interested in civility. They are interested in winning. And, you know what? I don't fault them. They are playing according to the rules of politics. You can wail until your throat is sore against the nature of politics, but even that wailing demonstrates you lack the right priorities.

For me and my family this is a real struggle. For many African Americans, in fact, cuts to Social Security would be devastating.

As my colleagues have shown, the “chained” cost-of-living adjustment for  Social Security being discussed between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner is a cut to benefits. The AARP Public Policy Institute’s report, Social Security: A Key Retirement Income Source for Older Minorities, helps us to think about how this cut might affect different racial groups.

 

Nearly one-in-five (18.7 percent) of the Hispanic elderly lives in poverty. For  African Americans, the rate is one-in-six (17.1 percent) (Figure A). A cut to  Social Security benefits runs the risk of significantly increasing these rates."

More here:

But, more disturbingly, the reality is that all Social Security beneficiaries are not  aged. This is clear among African American Social Security recipients where nearly 40% are under 62. This is because one in four Social Security checks for African Americans goes to a worker with a disability. This key element of insurance that Social Security provides far outweighs issues of shorter life expectancy for African Americans. Further, by including the spouse, widows with disabilities and the children of workers with disabilities, nearly 30% percent of African Americans receiving a Social Security benefit are being helped because a worker or his widow has a disability."

Here:

"The chained CPI, a Social Security COLA cut on the table in deficit talks between the President and Republicans, could dramatically worsen poverty among unmarried senior African American women. As such, it violates the request of major progressive organizations in a letter to the White House and Congressional leaders to “make sure that deficit reduction is achieved in a way that does not increase poverty.”

 

According to the National Women’s Law Center’s analysis of Current
Population Survey data, in their report on how the chained CPI would affect women, the median annual Social Security benefit for a 65-year-old single African American woman is $10,680. (By contrast, the median benefit for all single senior women is $13,200.)

That puts the median benefit for African American woman seniors just above the 2010 poverty line for individual seniors, which is an obscenely low $10,458."

Nor is the reality lost on some African Americans like me:

President Obama and his Republican partners in austerity have  choreographed a kind of bi-partisan ballet, in which the dancers reach out to each other in slow motion, their fingers almost touching, teasing the audience. These cheap and transparent theatrics are designed to transmit a soap opera-like sense of drama: “Can the two parties come to a compromise for the sake of the country?” But, the fact is, Obama and the Republicans reached most of their grand bargain more than a year ago, when they slashed $1.7 trillion out of domestic spending over a decade. As liberal Obamite Robert Kuttner, of Demos, points out, there’s very little left to cut except Medicare and Social Security.

 

Social Security has always been Obama’s Great White Whale; he’s conspired with Republicans and right-wing Democrats to harpoon the mother of all New Deal programs since the very start of his presidency. But Social Security is not an easy mark. George Bush found that out in his second term, when he suffered his worst domestic defeat in attempting to privatize the program.

It would take a Black Democrat, fresh from a near-landslide election, to put Social Security on the chopping block, as Obama did in January of 2009. But before he could move in for the kill, Obama and his allies had to convince the public that Social Security is a major contributor to the federal budget deficit – which is a lie. Social Security runs on its own stream of revenues that go into the Social Security Trust Fund, totally separate from general taxation and debt. However, by endless repetition of the Big Lie – that Social Security adds to the federal deficit – Obama and other corporate Democrats and Republicans succeeded in maneuvering the program into the austerity debate, where it does not belong.

Whatever is motivating President Obama doesn't matter. I simply am concerned with his objectives and whether they favor that of African American interests or not. This is what politics is.

Politics is many things, but civility isn't one of them. Nor can it be if your goal is to seek progress. Civility, which is pushed so much by the establishment, is actually a tool of the status quo. You can control someone who has as their goal civility. You cannot easily control someone who has as their the accomplishment of their interest to prevent cuts to Social Security

At its core, Politics is the application of power to manage through government action various interests, which are often in conflict, to produce policies that advance one set of interests over those of another. There is no way around this conflict and this struggle because we do not all share in a diverse society the same interests.

If it was simply a matter of all of us just getting along human's would have no beed to craft rules by which to manage our society.  In this sense, the yearning for civility is a form of idealism rather than addressing the realities of the human condition.

Some values and goals are so incompatible that to attempt to merge them is to guarantee gridlock. this is the central irony of civility in politics: the thing it wants to prevent is the thing it guarantees because it inserts a goal that's at odds with the struggle being waged.

The only way in many cases to address a problem is for the application of power to result in one set of interest defeating another. To play King Solomon, if you split the baby in half, you aren't solving the problem. Its only when one interest wins out over another that a resolution can be found.

Some of you may shriek at the idea, but this is a fundamental truth of human history. You aren't going to change it by ignoring the reality of what politics is.

Politics is often a word that is associated with something dirty. 'He's playing politics." "She's very political." As a result, many people don't have the stomach for it.  So, they call for civility rather than sully themselves with the ugly truth. And it is ugly, but to save my society, family, friends and self, I am willing to get my hands dirty with something that doesn't make me feel good, but will produce good results like preventing cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.  For those seeking civility may find politics unsavory, politics is in fact how the bulk of humans gets things done whether in the public or private sector.

Without it, interests remain in conflict and people do not prioritize. Without it, Jim Crow remains in balance with equality. Without politics, what would have happened? These battles, while its quaint now to believe were won through civility, were in fact won through open confrontation with the opposing interests. That's what welcoming their scorn means. It means the realization that your ideas must win out or the society suffers. People suffer while you feel good about your self because you have been civil. A lack of civility isn't chosen for its own sake. Its chosen because the alternative are seniors dying. The alternative is human suffering.

So in terms of priorities, decreasing human suffering versus civility, civility. And yes, you must make that choice too because that's reality whether you like it or not. Denial of the reality isn't going to make it better. Its going to lead to more suffering here about what you will do about these cuts rather than about what you will do about civility.

 

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Great essay.

type1error's picture

An asshole manager I worked for back in the day once told me, "Shit rolls downhill and hits hardest at the bottom." These Social Security cuts are going to hit our most vulnerable citizens the hardest.

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welcome bruh1

nemesis's picture

We are pretty much all fans of your work. I hope you will continue to write here. That other place you would catch a lot of shit for this essay. But I believe if we fight the class war we all win.

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This is such an awesome essay

LaEscapee's picture

I fear that it only gets worse from here because now that the bluff has been called the weak kneed D's will hand over more to the pot then fold their hand.

Cantor's latest salvo... Accept permanent tax cuts up to one million and stop all cuts to military spending then we will discuss "entitelments"..

who's taking bets?

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