A Lesson from Isabel

Once upon a time companies provided pensions but they didn’t want to. So, the 401k was invented and, to get people to sign up, companies promised matching contributi­ons. After a time, many companies stopped making matching contributi­ons because they didn’t like to. (Details here and here.) Then Wall Street fraud bleed our 401ks in part by slipping toxic mortgage bonds into our portfolios­. Retirement portfolios have been battered by the mortgage crisis and subsequent resulting volatility in stock and bond markets.

In the meantime, Social Security didn’t skip a payment. That’s why it’s called a safety net. Do you really want to rely on Wall Street to be your safety net? Ask this question of your Representative or Senator. I’d ask this of my representative but, unfortunately, it’s Joe Walsh and, given his recent performance, I’m afraid his head would explode and by-standers would get hurt. Newt Gingrich’s head, at least egotistically, has already exploded in promoting the privatization of all retirement funds.

Where is all this coming from? David Koch ran as vice president in1980 on a plan to abolish Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and all forms of “welfare” and public education. The results of his failed campaign are being played out today.

Post-1980, Koch and his brother set about to redefine the narrative, the “script” as he called it that politicians follow. The Koches founded the Heritage Foundation, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and more, all organizations that set about to recast the narrative. While this sounds conspiratorial, it’s not. You can look up on ALEC’s web site how mush so-called model legislation, crafted by corporate lobby attorneys, they’ve pushed through state legislatures. The contentious Arizona immigration bill is one. Ohio Governor John Kasich’s anti-union legislation so roundly rejected by voters is another. This isn’t conspiracy: it is history and current events. ALEC Exposed discusses the forces behind ALEC model legislation.

My late grandmother, Isabel, told me why she was staunchly Republican. During the depression, she was offered a job, a great opportunity since she was disabled young by severe arthritis. But, one requisite was she would have to register Democrat. She wouldn’t and didn’t take the job: A stand of principle over self-interest and a stubbornness that defines our family heritage. She also told me that as much as she rejected Franklin D. Roosevelt, that Social Security was the best thing the government had accomplished. Social Security enabled my grandmother to live to 88 with a modicum of dignity. Details here, so we needn’t bandy about percentages of seniors living in poverty before and after enactment. Legitimate dispute may exist on the percentages but no dispute should exist that too many elderly lived shorter lives in poverty before Social Security.

Today’s GOP and its Koch-driven allies simply don’t want to pay towards the earned benefit that is Social Security, promoting some sort of Libertarian Nirvana where we all take care of ourselves. Would that we all had the wherewithal. I don’t like the look of a nation where a huge proportion of elderly live in poverty and I’m willing to live with fractional abuse of the system in order to retain a safety net.