We all know that politicians tend to play around the edges of the truth, especially when they are seeking election, which seems to be most of the time these days; however, egregious lies have become more commonplace in recent years, fueled by ideological battles over the future of our nation and the role of government. In the post-Gringrich partisan world, vision of government varies from “nurturing the greater good” of the Founders, along with today’s moderates and progressives to “every man for himself” of the modern day conservative. In order to foster the perceived necessity of “every man for himself”, the Tea Party funders and GOP strategists do their best to foment outrage of the masses over fake and/or distorted issues, creating crises where none exist, and exacerbating societal weaknesses if doing so fits their political aims, all the while lying about their actual intentions. One of the prime targets for this fake outrage? Social Security.
To foment a crisis, blatant lies are necessary, and there were many repeated during the recent debt limit hostage-taking and have continued into the presidential primary debates. Most of these lies follow a common theme, including classics such as Social Security “is broke”, is “a ponzi scheme”, “a monstrous lie”, “socialism”, “broken”, “a fraud”, so on, and so forth. Additionally, the Republicans love to conflate deficit spending and Social Security, working diligently to create the false impression that Social Security is our big budget problem while ignoring the fact that we spend almost 60% of our discretionary spending on war fighting and supporting our massive war machine. Under Bush, deficit spending and starting unfunded wars was gospel, under a Democratic president, those actions have become cardinal sins.
The boring truth (Ezra Klein’s term) about Social Security is that it is none of the things that Republicans desperately want us to believe are true. Social Security’s projected shortfall over the next 75 years totals a whopping .7 percent of GDP. This gigantic crisis whipped up by Conservatives is a tiny piece of the US economy, easily fixed with 30 tweaks to the program proposed by the CBO.
The challenge here, in my view, is understanding what conservatives really stand for. There is so much noise coming from the right, especially during the primary season where candidates are appealing to the most radical fringe of their party to get nominated, that you can’t tell where they really stand. Do they really want to push Granma over the cliff to save a few bucks and protect tax breaks for their contributors? Do they really believe that doctors should withhold critical medical care from a person in a coma and just let him die? If that is really the case, we are in a lot more trouble as a society than any of us really understand. I personally believe that most politicians who spew this kind of hate are just pandering for votes and leading from the rear, which is a common tactic for elected officials.
For the Republicans to claim that Social Security is broke or a fraud is simply using falsehood and fearmongering for political gain. It’s nothing more, and nothing less. We have become a political system that is all politics, all the time. Governing and policy have taken a back seat to demagoguery.
And that’s the real problem.
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