Social Security and the Candidates

One of John McCain’s key demographic bases of support is old people, particular older working class Americans. These are much the same people who are likely to be strong supporters of Social Security. McCain, meanwhile, not only thinks that the very idea of a pay-as-you-go public pension system is a “disgrace” but was a firm defender of George W. Bush’s unpopular plan to dismantle the program and replace it with a riskier, less progressive system of mandatory private investment accounts. Under the circumstances, a lot of people have been waiting around impatiently to see Social Security play a larger role in discussion of McCain and his agenda.

As you can see over on the right, the AFL-CIO is stepping up to the plate with a hard-hitting mailer that not only tags him as a Social Security opponent but notes that his thinking on retirement seems to reflect his own vast wealth. Certainly it’s true that anyone with an heiress wife and a U.S. Senate pension can probably get along fine without Social Security but that’s no reason for McCain to try to make the rest of us get by. The DNC’s also put together a two-minute web video reminding people not only of McCain’s position on Social Security but also specifically trying him to the right-wing campaign against the program that’s been going on even longer (just barely) than McCain’s been alive.

At the same time, Christian Weller has a post up at the Wonk Room contrasting McCain’s approach with Barack Obama’s efforts to make retirement more, rather than less, secure:

Moreover, Sen. Obama wants to make it easier for people to save. He would require that employers automatically enroll their employees in retirement savings plans and, if employers don’t offer such plans, they would have to offer employees an easy way to contribute to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) through payroll deduction. On top of this, he would vastly improve the current system of public matches for people’s contributions to their retirement savings accounts, at least for families making less than $75,000.

The press has amasses an impressive record over the past several election cycles of letting Republicans who favor privatizing Social Security get away with claiming they don’t favor it, but this time around there seems to be a more concerted effort to try to make the point clearly so maybe that will change.