There is a simple way that Democrats can win enough support to win an overwhelming electoral majority. They can pledge to raise the basic Social Security benefit in the United States to $2,000 a month.
The average Social Security recipient currently receives a benefit of around $1,350 a month. Disturbingly that is all around 22 million people have to live on according to statistics from the American Association of Retired People (AARP). For many others Social Security is the only thing standing between their families and the street.
Social Security is the most potent political issue in America; because one out of six Americans or 57 million people receive it, according to the AARP. Around nine out of 10 Americans over 65 receive Social Security benefits; which means it is the one issue every politician should be talking about.
How to Use Social Security to Win
Polls have long shown that older people on Social Security are more likely to vote to protect their benefits. Part of the reason why Donald J. Trump won both the Republican nomination and the Presidential election, was a clear and simple pledge to preserve Social Security.
What if Democrats had countered that with a pledge to increase the average Social Security benefit by $650 a month? What if Hillary’s major message had been “I vow to increase your Social Security payment.” Seniors have listened, even many Tea Party members would have voted for her.
Had Trump disagreed, Hillary could have said, “see; he hates Social Security and wants to cut it.”
A Winning Strategy
How would Trump have responded if the Democrats had flooded the internet, television, radio and print media with simple ads stating “we vow to increase Social Security to $2,000 a month?” Just imagine how wind-bag Right Wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh would have responded if every other ad on their programs had Morgan Freeman’s voice explaining how Hillary plans to raise your Social Security?
Given the current state of American media getting such ads in newspapers, radio and television would be simple. Stations and networks are having trouble selling ad space and time; right wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh are even more desperate for advertising.
Rush in particular is practically begging for advertisers these days, Politico reported that many mainstream advertisers are boycotting “American’s anchorman.” Listeners to his show often hear Rush peddling such questionable products as chocolate dipped strawberries, Lifelock and home security systems.
History proves that such a simple message would work. During the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, the Democrats committed themselves to preserving and expanding Social Security. That allowed them to control the House of Representatives for over 40 years. Yet, when they embraced the fiscally conservative dogma of Bill Clinton and ignored Social Security, Democrats started losing and kept losing.
Raising Social Security is Good Policy
Surprisingly increasing Social Security is not just great politics, it would also be a very good economic policy. Just imagine the increase in economic activity if 57 million Americans received a boost in income.
Those people would spend more in their communities which would create more jobs and stimulate even more economic activity. The economic benefits of Social Security are well proven; the AARP calculated that Social Security benefits added nine million jobs and $370 billion in wages to the US economy in 2012.
Increasing the average Social Security payment by $650 might pump around $42.25 billion into the US economy each month. The money would go straight to real folks on Main Street; not Wall Street or defense contractors, and much of it would quickly find its way into the pockets of small business and working folk like waitresses.
That means a significant boost in Social Security would lead to a large increase in job creation and hundreds of millions in new wages. That would do even more to ensure Democratic electoral victory because Americans will vote the status quo in prosperous times.
A $2,000 a month average Social Security payment would ensure the average retired couple a good middle class income of $48,000 a year. The average retired single would have a decent working class income of $24,000 a year.
That would enable millions of people to buy or maintain a decent home, purchase a new car or a good used car every few years, and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. They would not be sipping Champagne and eating caviar; but those people would be able to go out for the occasional meal, afford Cable TV and attend movies or ball games.
Increasing Social Security is an Antidote to the Pension and Retirement Crisis
There is another reason why we should consider increasing Social Security: the looming pension and retirement crisis. America is facing a retirement crisis that might lead to the largest economic collapse since the Great Depression.
One in three Americans currently has no money saved for retirement, Time reported. To make makes worse 56% have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. That means over 56% of Americans will rely on Social Security for retirement income.
With 76 million Baby Boomers rapidly moving into retirement this is a recipe for an economic catastrophe as large and as potentially as destructive as the Great Depression. Think of it this way, we could soon have a situation where 42.56 million Americans are earning just $1,350 a month or less.
That means a slowdown in economic activity similar to that which occurred during the Great Depression. Businesses with no customers, massive layoffs, mass unemployment, closed factories, empty stores and local governments with no tax revenue. To make matters worse it would lead to widespread hunger and poverty that would generate social and political upheaval
An obvious way to prevent is that with Keynesian stimulus in the form of increased Social Security payments. Instead of a catastrophe the retirement crisis would be an opportunity to generate an economic boost rivaling the post-World War II boom that would uplift all Americans.
Solving the Pension Crisis
The other big reason to increase Social Security is the pension crisis. Anybody that reads the news understands that there’s no way America’s state and local governments will ever cover all the pension obligations they’ve promised.
The California Public Employees’ Pension System (CALPERS) alone owes workers and retirees $1.43 trillion in future obligations, the Kersten Institute reported. The Hoover Institution estimated that state and local governments across the country accumulated $4.798 trillion in pension obligations by the end of 2014, but had only $3.7 trillion to cover them. And that’s just public pensions there’s also the tens of millions of Americans that depend on private pension benefits which can disappear even faster.
Increased Social Security would not be as good as many of those pensions but it would at least provide those retirees with a decent living. Expanding Social Security would also be cheaper and fairer than the other means of covering public pension obligations raiding the public treasury.
Cities and school districts in some parts of the country are already cutting basic services and diverting tax money to cover pensions. That’s unfair to both retirees and to taxpayers, who are getting nothing for their payments.
Increasing Social Security is great economics and good politics. One has to wonder if Democrats or Republicans have the brains to see it, and the guts to carry it out.