Last week I wrote a brief post explaining why guaranteed government old age pensions, like Social Security in the United States, the State Pension in the United Kingdom, or Old Age Security in Canada, are the only mechanism that has ever been invented for ensuring security and dignity in retirement, and need to be centered in any attempt to reduce elder poverty.
This is not an ideological, partisan, or political claim, it’s simply a fact: every other attempt to provide retirement security has either failed, like IRA’s and 401(k) plans in the United States, or relied on a supplemental government guarantee, like our Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. You can conceptually push back the government guarantee as far as you like, but if senior citizens are going to be able to count on income in retirement, that income is ultimately going to have to come from the public coffers, either directly or through some feat of financial engineering.
At the end of that post, I mentioned in passing that “my preference would be fewer wars, higher taxes, and less debt, while if you’re a Republican your preference might be for more wars, lower taxes, and more debt.” Reader Ben asked a thoughtful question:
“One thing that bothers me though is how you tend to attack Republicans and conservatives when you don’t have to.
You could have just said you prefer fewer wars, higher taxes, and less debt. Which would be a valid, generalized, statement. Why did you feel the need to have to take a jab at Republicans/conservatives?”
Since Ben seems to have asked the question in good faith, I think I owe him a good faith answer.
Why must we give the problem we’re facing a name?
We are 6 days away from a general election in which a third of the seats in the United States Senate and the entire House of Representatives will be filled, and if you did not know anything else about the world, you might carefully examine the résumés of the candidates in your district and select the most intelligent, honorable, and industrious public servants to fill those seats.
But you would be wrong to do so. That’s because the crisis facing America is not a lack of intelligence, a lack of honor, or a lack of industry in our public servants. The crisis facing America is the Republican Party.
The Republican Party is a coalition of plutocrats committed to activating the racial and cultural grievances of their elderly voting base in order to secure power long enough to dismantle the regulatory state, tax base, and welfare system of the United States. And there are no exceptions.
The “good,” “honorable” members of the Republican Party are just as committed to dismantling our society as the vile reprobates. Ben Sasse wants to cut Social Security benefits just as much as Ted Cruz. Jeff Flake wants to poison our water, air, and soil just as much as Mitch McConnell. Susan Collins wants to cut taxes just as much as Rand Paul.
Mitt Romney, the Republican Senate candidate in Utah, is by all accounts an honorable man, who will nonetheless immediately and passionately set about voting to strip health insurance from millions of Americans the second he takes office. The problem is not that Mitt Romney is a bad person; the problem is that Mitt Romney is a Republican.
The Republic may be doomed but we still have to live here
The shredding of our system of government in the hands of conservative ideologues is not something that gives me any pleasure. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the god-emperors on the Supreme Court have caused a serious breakdown in the transmission mechanism between the needs of the population and the desire of elected officials to address them, and the entrenching of a conservative amateur judiciary means those losses will be extraordinarily difficult to recover from, if we are indeed ever able to.
But we still have to live here. There will never be a moment when we get to say “ah, well, the bad guys won.” Every single day we will still have to make the choices in our lives that will make the world a better place for ourselves, our children, and every future generation. And on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, that means sending Democrats to Congress.