Following on Digby's post about seniors being the lagging demographic for Obama in this election (and really the only one - the myths of his struggles with Hispanics, women and the white working class have all been debunked for the most part), Democrats are marking the 73rd anniversary of one of the most successful government programs ever created - one that has lifted the elderly out of poverty to a historic degree - and one that John McCain and the conservative movement want to destroy. The DNC put together a Web video featuring Franklin Roosevelt's grandson, and it's pretty solid.
The public is very much with us on this, and highlighting McCain's "Social Security is a disgrace" comment makes sense. Obama put out the same message in a statement today.
On this anniversary of Social Security, let’s reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that Social Security remains a safety net that seniors can count on today, tomorrow, and always. It is impossible to fully measure Social Security’s value for its recipients, as well as for those who look after and love them. Nearly 13 million seniors depend on it each month to keep from falling into poverty, and millions more depend on survivor and disability benefits to protect their retirement.
As President, I will protect Social Security for today’s seniors and future generations. That means strengthening Social Security’s solvency while protecting middle class families from benefit cuts, tax increases or increases in the retirement age. It means treating Social Security not as a political football or describing it as an “absolute disgrace,” but instead honoring it as the cornerstone of the social compact in this country. And it means opposing efforts to privatize Social Security, as I did when President Bush proposed risky private accounts a few years ago. Privatization is wrong and tears at the fabric of Social Security – the very idea of mutual responsibility – by subjecting a secure, earned retirement to the whims of the market. The Bush privatization plan that Senator McCain now embraces would tell millions of elderly Americans that they’re on their own, putting them at risk of falling into poverty. That’s not what this country is about.
It’s time to reclaim the idea that in this country, we’re all in it together. That is America’s very promise – and Social Security’s very guarantee. And it requires a President who will change the ways of Washington, protect the people’s interests, and bring Americans together to meet the great challenges of our time. That is exactly the sort of leadership I intend to offer.
Now, during the primary Obama highlighted Social Security and framed it as a looming problem, which was unfortunate and frankly wrong, but it's important to note that his solution has always been progressive, by raising the cap on payroll taxes above $250,000. And, the Democratic platform steered and adopted by the Obama campaign specifically includes this statement:
We recognize that Social Security is not in crisis and we should do everything we can to strengthen this vital program, including asking those making over $250,000 to pay a bit more.
McCain and conservatives reject Social Security because it shows the promise of good government solutions to impact people's lives in a positive way. They want to enrich fund managers and corporate board rooms by plunking savings into a volatile stock market. The AFL-CIO is hitting this pretty hard as well, dropping a mailer that specifically cites McCain's wealth and concludes "If John McCain lost his social security, he'd get by just fine... would you?" The mailer specifically targets union retirees in Rust Belt state, and the labor federation's goal is to reach a million union retirees in the next few weeks.
The point is that I think Democrats recognize this as a problem and are using the extreme views of McCain on Social Security to paint him as unacceptable. The Village has been conditioned into viewing Social Security and all entitlements as a scourge, but we've one this one already and we can do it again, and in the process Obama can pick up the support of seniors who view him as on their side. This new Olympics ad continues that theme:
There's also this ad contrasting McCain's chipper comments about the economy in recent months with the testimony of ordinary Americans who are struggling and worried.
Obviously policy arguments like this are often swamped by whether or not one's vacation spots are elitist, but a populist message in this time, and more important, putting the focus on McCain and his failed conservative vision, is going to have some effect. And a little fearmongering on Social Security is completely in bounds.