July 16, 2015

Social Security is healthy, but don't thank FDR

Social Security Works!: Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us AllSocial Security Works!: Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All by Nancy Altman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Informative, but with notable historical errors

Per the header, this book is informative about how Social Security works, and why, and about Pete Peterson, the Koch Bros and others launching attacking against it, and President Obama, per Teddy Roosevelt, not having the backbone of a chocolate eclair to defend Social Security.

However, the authors make some BIG missteps on how Social Security got started, big enough that, with all the apple polishing of other reviewers, the book deserves a two-star ding, because you can read other books about how Social Security works and how bazillionaires hate it.

FDR did not magically dream up Social Security, either by himself or with the help of Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. Nor did he magically decide to push for the adoption of Social Security himself.

Instead, he had to be pushed, and pushed hard, into making it part of his second New Deal in 1935. That's after Francis Townsend pushed his Townsend Plan in California. That's after Upton Sinclair ran for governor of California in 1934 on his Townsend-based EPIC plan, and FDR himself connived with the California Democratic Party to kneecap Sinclair. That's after Huey Long pushed his Share the Wealth ideas.

After FDR finally pushed for Social Security, he had to be pushed by Townsend-organized activists to increase the originally planned benefits, and to start the payout in 1940 instead of 1942.

It also has a present-day error or two. Yes, folks like the Center for American Progress allegedly are fighting to "save" Social Security. However, the authors don't tell you that CAP has repeatedly supported trimming Social Security benefits by changing how its cost-of-living adjustments are calculated to using the chained CPI, a move they deride earlier in the book.

To put it bluntly, allegedly "progressive" Democratic think tanks arguing for the chained CPI is just a mirror of the old GOP argument for eating hamburger instead of steak when meat prices go up. But, if you're already eating hamburger, and not very often, and your OTC medication or prescription prices go up, then that argument for the chained CPI is totally idiotic.

I know the authors know this. Why they insisted on telling falsehoods about the start of Social Security, and elisions about "liberal" think tanks today, I have no idea. But, it hurts their credibility.

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