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Sun Jan 6, 2013, 09:21 AM

Obama’s Great Society - by Joan Walsh


Does the president's legacy require chipping away at LBJ's', or building on it?

BY JOAN WALSH


It was 48 years ago this weekend, Jan. 4 to be precise, that President Lyndon Johnson outlined his vision of “the Great Society” in his 1965 State of the Union address. Although lots of programs remain, his signature effort, and the one that remains strongest and by far the most popular, was the 1965 Social Security Act that created Medicare and Medicaid and expanded Social Security benefits. Outside of the fancy hotels and think-tank offices where cosseted Beltway deficit scolds and shiny “Fix the Debt” flacks convene, those programs are wildly popular, to this day.

There was genius behind the way both were created. First, in a country with a particular fear of slackers and moochers, the proverbial “free-riders,” they were tied to your work history, with “payroll taxes” that at least partly helped fund your eventual benefits. They’ve come to be called “entitlements,” a term the programs’ would-be “reformers” use to make recipients sound like greedy entitled geezers, because you’re entitled to them: You paid for them (or for part of them). Second, they went to a group we can all empathize with: senior citizens, whether because we have elderly parents or grandparents, or because we’ll eventually be old ourselves (we hope). Finally, they were universal programs that avoided “means testing,” because first Franklin Delano Roosevelt and then Johnson knew that programs that only went to the poor tended to be unpopular, poorly funded and politically vulnerable.

Thanks to those design innovations, Roosevelt once said, “no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program.” The same goes for Medicare, outside the Randian salons frequented by Paul Ryan and his friends. Ryan’s proposal to replace Medicare with “Vouchercare” is part of what went down to defeat in the last election, just as George W. Bush’s effort to use his 2004 reelection “capital” to privatize Social Security went no place, either.

“Scrapping” Social Security and Medicare aren’t on the agenda right now, but “stabilizing” them is, and most of the mainstream proposals for doing so involve cuts to the program, whether by changing the formula for cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security, or raising the Medicare eligibility age. President Obama is on record supporting the “chained CPI” for Social Security, and he was widely reported to be willing to hike the Medicare eligibility age in his 2011 round of talks to lift the debt ceiling. “Means-testing” Medicare is even more popular, even among Democrats.

-snip-

read more:
http://www.salon.com/2013/01/06/obamas_great_society/

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Arrow 7 replies Author Time Post
Reply Obama’s Great Society - by Joan Walsh (Original post)
DonViejo Jan 2013 OP
CTyankee Jan 2013 #1
Doctor_J Jan 2013 #2
Cosmocat Jan 2013 #6
lunatica Jan 2013 #3
forestpath Jan 2013 #4
CTyankee Jan 2013 #5
rippinsteo Jan 2013 #7

Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 10:23 AM

1. Walsh is brilliant and this is a brilliant piece.

She lays it all out, history and all, for us to consider...

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 10:33 AM

2. Should the president cut benefits, through any channel,

that will be his legacy. And while Big Media and the Beltway intelligentia may call it brave, a large number of regular folks will see it as a disgrace.

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Response to Doctor_J (Reply #2)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 08:03 PM

6. they will do what they ALWAYS do, and what they have done to him from day one

play it BOTH ways.

Slam him for the spending the racked up, then slam him for cutting the programs, depending on which way the wind was blowing.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 10:44 AM

3. It's terrible to always be afraid that they're going to mess with SS and Medicare.

Before Bush was President Americans didn't feel that constant unease that the government will ruin our lives as Seniors. Now it's a constant grind and any feeling of security over our future is gone.

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Response to lunatica (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 11:23 AM

4. +1

 

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Response to lunatica (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 05:55 PM

5. Oh, it won't be "us," it'll be the 50 and under generation.

If current senior SS and Medicare recipients all of a sudden got a chop in their benefits, the republicans would be FINISHED in 2014 and going forward.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sun Jan 6, 2013, 08:38 PM

7. Fully funded society

 

I want a fully funded society where nobody has to worry about anything. Tax all rich people and all corporations at 95 percent. Take back the money they stole from the working people.

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