As a Social Worker, I interact with many clients who rely on Social Security benefits. Whether disabled and receiving Social Security for income, or simply folks who rely on it to live comfortably after retirement, Social Security gives many Marylander’s safety and peace of mind. So why is Social Security constantly under attack?
Short answer, there is money in privatizing social security. Wall Street hedge funds stand to make billions as the managers of our retirement. Additionally, employers and large corporations would not have to match Social Security payments, which means more profits for them, less money in your retirement savings. So what did the bankers do when they needed to change the law to benefit them? They went to Washington, DC.
For private equity firms, convincing Republicans to cut social security is easy, but Wall Street needed buy-in from Democratic leadership. Who better than the corporate-friendly old-guard Democratic Steny Hoyer. In a June, 2010 address, Steny Hoyer praised Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget cut proposals (which would have kicked many seniors off of Medicare in favor of private insurance) and hammered home the assertion that “we could and should consider a higher retirement age, or one pegged to lifespan.” Hoyer was the perfect candidate. A corporate Democrat who has never seen a campaign donation he didn’t like.
Wall Street may be shifty, but they are no dummies. They understand that attacking Social Security is politically toxic. When G.W. Bush attempted to privatize Social Security in 2005, his approval ratings took a hit from which he never recovered. Wall Street knew that they couldn’t attack social security head on, they had to find a back door.
In 2012, it was reported by the Washington Post that a group of politicians and finance industry lobbyists met in DC to start an advocacy group known as “Fix the Debt”. This group was formed, and exists today, solely to weaken earned benefit programs like Social Security. The politicians present at the meeting were Mark Warner and Saxby Chambliss, and you guessed it, Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House.
As any investigative journalist will tell you, a single backroom meeting between Wall Street lobbyists and politicians does not make a conspiracy. However, Rep. Steny Hoyer’s continued lack of commitment to Social Security can only be understood as willful disregard for its future.
The most egregious example of this is Hoyer’s refusal to sign on to Rep. Larson’s common sense Social Security 2100 Act. This bill would provide sustainable protections, expansion of benefits and generous tax breaks for Social Security recipients. By refusing to support this bill, Hoyer was no longer simply offering Social Security as a sacrifice to republicans, he was actively blocking legislation that would strengthen, preserve, and improve Social Security.
To this day, Social Security 2100 is gaining popularity (over 210 co-sponsors). Yet, a dismissive Steny Hoyer refuses to bring the bill to a vote. “We all want to make Social Security solvent,” Mr. Hoyer said. “[Larson] has one way of doing it. There are other ways to do it.” Hoyer has not offered another way to do it. Frustrated House Democrats have introduced yet another bill to strengthen Social Security, but as of now Hoyer has not co-sponsored the bill.
Hoyer’s conservative views on benefits like Social Security have earned him a challenger in Maryland’s Democratic primary. Mckayla Wilkes, a working mother from Waldorf, MD who has experienced the consequences of Hoyer’s hostility towards earned benefits. In interviews, she speaks honestly about how cuts to healthcare and Social Security have hurt her and those in her community. She is running to lower the retirement age for Social Security, expand Medicare (and improve it) to all Americans, and making much needed investments to our Veterans health services. She proposes paying for these improvements by taxing billionaire executives like Hoyer’s top contributors, Prudential Financial, and those represented by Fix the Debt.
In this election on June 2nd in Maryland’s 5th Congressional District, we have a choice to make. Will we vote for a candidate who will protect Social Security for you and those you care about? Or will we vote for a candidate who has taken every opportunity over his career to cut Social Security, leaving our retirement security to the mercy of private finance executives.