For a long while, I was perplexed as to why so many on the privileged, predominantly-white, ideologue Left insisted on attacking Barack Obama almost as virulently as the Tea Party. For a time, I thought they'd just lost their collective minds. But then it became clear. For a lot of organizations on the Left, just like on the Tea Party Right, opposition to the most progressive president in history is, first and foremost, a cash-cow.
Over the weekend, my mother received a big envelope from the Left-ideologue group National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM). In large font it sounded the alarm bells (while noting that they didn't "want to alarm" my mother) that the black guy is coming for her Social Security. "Troubling" changes "appear to be inevitable", they warn,
... especially now, with a disturbing new willingness by President Obama and lawmakers in both parties to fundamentally change Social Security and Medicare - and cut your earned benefits! [bold and italics as in mailer]
OMG! Really? Obama is still trying to cut Social Security and Medicare? Not just still, but especially now. Like, you know, that time when Obama massively expanded Medicare benefits as part of the Affordable Care Act by making all preventive care free? Or that time when he - also in the ACA - signed into law a closure of the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, which is now literally adding benefits worth billions of dollars for millions of seniors? Someone stop that social safety-destroying sob that had the galls to implement the largest expansion of the safety net since Medicare itself.
Or maybe they mean the fact that the president has proposed expanding Social Security benefits for the most vulnerable retirees and early full benefits for those in menial professions - as well as raising taxes on the rich - along with using what economists generally agree is a more accurate measure of inflation, known as the chained CPI.
Are these the fundamental changes and cuts that self-proclaimed defenders of Social Security - whose current plan of "don't touch it" will result in an automatic 23-percentage point cut in benefits for everyone beginning in 19 years - referring to? It seems so.
But really, you see, this isn't about Social Security, Medicare, or the broader social safety net. It's about constantly instilling fear in the hearts of those who will listen, and especially those who can be easily manipulated to part with their money. As you can see in the photo above, the "urgent" letter included a form letter to Congress and a "membership acceptance form" kindly listing suggested donation amounts.
As sure as the sun will come up in the east tomorrow, these scary-sounding direct mailers always include - and always come down to - one central purpose, and one central purpose alone: fundraising. Whether or not Social Security and Medicare needs protection by a bunch of Washington-based lobby groups, those lobby groups sure need to be preserved themselves. For that, they must keep milking the cash cows.
Those cash cows, you see, are a lot easier to milk if you can create an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Hence, damn the facts. Never mind that the only thing President Obama has done to the social safety net - and to Medicare benefits - since entering office, is to massively expand it. Expressing a little gratitude for performing that herculean task? That's out of the question. Instead, you have to incessantly attack that very president as if he's coming to clean your pockets.
It is this blatant self-serving nature of lobby-groups like the CPSSM that are the biggest threat to Social Security from the Left, not President Obama. By constantly attacking President Obama and by crying wolf again and again, they - along with the Republicans - have made it that much more difficult to add modest adjustments to Social Security and Medicare - in many cases increasing benefits - to solve the long term funding challenges.
Too often, it seems like these groups want a repeat of the 1980s Reagan fix to Social Security, when faced with an imminent depletion of the trust fund, a Republican president and a Democratic Congress increased the retirement age and hiked payroll taxes. If they continue to succeed in their efforts to stall reform until the last minute, that is where we will end up again.
But hey, the most important thing is, they'll still be able to get your money by scaring you. They've got their message hammered out: don't give your social security money to the black guy; give it to us instead!