Obama's mythical great Social Security compromise, by the numbers (Medicare, too!)

by: Paul Rosenberg

Thu Dec 09, 2010 at 19:30


Obama babbled, Reagan-like at his Dec. 6 press conferece:

Most Americans, they're just trying to figure out how to go about their lives and how can we make sure that our elected officials are looking out for us. And that means because it's a big, diverse country and people have a lot of complicated positions, it means that in order to get stuff done, we're going to compromise. This is why FDR, when he started Social Security, it only affected widows and orphans. You did not qualify. And yet now it is something that really helps a lot of people. When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew.

Under the criteria that you just set out, each of those were betrayals of some abstract ideal.

Fact: (Dan Froomkin):

The Social Security Act, as first signed into law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935, paid retirement benefits to the primary worker -- and not to their widows and orphans.

1935 SS Act Old Age Provisions here.

1935 SS Act Death Benefits here.

"History (Social Security Numbers / Social Security Number Chronology):"

1936-1937 | Approximately 30 million applications for SSNs were processed between November 1936 and June 30, 1937.

Geez!  Obama sounds just like Hannity or Beck!  And what about the notion that this was some sort of hard-fought compromise?  Well, of course blacks were almost entirely excluded, due to how racist the country was.  But within those restrictions, the Democrats had a landslide majority, and even the small slice of Republicans in Congress didn't put up much of a fight. From Social Security Online (History):

And the legislative backstory is similarly placid:

Paul Rosenberg :: Obama's mythical great Social Security compromise, by the numbers (Medicare, too!)
Proposal Introduced in Congress
Shortly after the 74th Congress convened in January 1935, President Roosevelt sent his "Economic Security Bill" to Capitol Hill. The Administration proposal was transmitted to the Congress on January 17, 1935 and it was introduced that same day in the Senate by Senator Robert Wagner (D-NY) and in the House by Congressman Robert Doughton (D-NC) and David Lewis (D-MD). The bill was referred to Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee.

Hearings
The House Ways & Means Committee held hearings on the bill from January 21, 1935 through February 12, 1935. The Senate Finance Committee held hearings from January 22, 1935 through February 20, 1935.

Renamed the "Social Security Act"
During a Ways & Means meeting on March 1, 1935 Congressman Frank Buck (D-CA) made a motion to change the name of the bill to the "Social Security Act of 1935." The motion was carried by a voice vote of the Committee.

Committee Reports & Initial Passage
The Ways & Means Committee Report on the Social Security Act was introduced in the House on April 4, 1935 and debate began on April 11th. After several days of debate, the bill was passed in the House on April 19, 1935 by a vote of 372 yeas, 33 nays, 2 present, and 25 not voting. (This vote took place immediately followed a vote to recommit the bill to the Committee, which failed on a vote of Yea: 149; Nay: 253; Present: 1; and Not Voting: 29.)

The bill was reported out by the Senate Finance Committee on May 13, 1935 and introduced in the Senate on June 12th. The debate lasted until June 19th, when the Social Security Act was passed by a vote of 77 yeas, 6 nays, and 12 not voting.

Conference Report & Final Passage
Due to differences between the House and Senate versions, the legislation then went to a Conference Committee which met throughout the month of July. Final Congressional action on the bill took place when the Conference Report was passed by voice vote on August 8, 1935 in the House and on August 9th in the Senate.

Signed Into Law
On August 14, 1935 President Roosevelt signed the bill into law at a ceremony in the White House Cabinet Room.

As for Medicare, recall, Obama said:

When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew.

Small?  Not so much:

Year:   Medicare enrollment
1966:   19.1 million
1971:   20.9 million
1976:   25.7 million
1981:   29.0 million
1986:   31.7  million

And then there's the legislative history--another sweeping landslide (Medicare \ Legislative History | Vote Tallies for Passage of Medicare in 1965):

Of course it was a compromise--it only covered those over 65, instead of covering everyone. But as the figures above show, it was a massive program from the very beginning.

So how come Obama's knowledge of these two key welfare state programs is roughly the equivalent of a Fox News host?

Beats me!  We report.  You decide.


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I think it's because he's auditioning-- (0.00 / 0)
for a Fox News program host slot after he retires from his current job!

Since he admires Reagan so much, I could see him pulling a Reagan/Nighthorse Campbell at some point and making the switch official.


What a perfect fit! Heck, Obama's got hours of audition tape at this point! (4.00 / 1)
Hannity must be lonely since Colmes tired of all the abuse on that show. Maybe Roger Ailes offered him up as Colmes' replacement? Obama sure seems really well tempered for such a job. The pay would be a good deal better too....

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
Game, Set, Match (0.00 / 0)
Sheesh. I thought I was being hyperbolic. Not enough, apparently. ;^)

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
Parabolic, At Best (4.00 / 1)
And perhaps merely elliptical.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
The new Colmes (4.00 / 1)
At least Colmes would fight back once or twice a quarter.

[ Parent ]
A question for the ages: (4.00 / 5)
So how come Obama's knowledge of these two key welfare state programs is roughly the equivalent of a Fox News host?

I having some difficulty, at the moment, of coming up with an appropriate answer that doesn't involve heavy usage of profanity. For some reason, every answer thus far has involved the kind of language that would make Dick Cheney blush with envy.

So I'll just hand over the keyboard to an actual genius... take it away Albert (drum roll):

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.


"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

Someone with some pull get ahold of Chris Bowers (4.00 / 8)
and all the other left leaning blogs.  We need to frame the opposition to the tax plan as an effort to save Social Security.  That's the upshot of this whole process and killing Social Security represents its most insidious likely outcome.  

I'm watching Rachel Maddow with Austan Goolsbee (4.00 / 5)
and the failure to present Obama's cave in the context of jeopardizing Social Security unnecessarily undermines her position.  

The White House wanted the payroll tax cuts to buttress the catfood commission's argument.  We are now engaged in a fight over the ability for America's senior citizens to house, feed and clothe themselves: this is a question of individual freedom and independence, and that's the strongest position from which to make our case.


Yes (4.00 / 5)
The response should put Social Security front and center - not just protecting it, but strengthening and expanding it, instead of enabling further predation.  

The fact that the payroll tax cut is supposed to be a get for the Democrats is all too telling about where things stand.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Well, speaking for myself (0.00 / 0)
I wouldn't mind a temporary payroll tax holiday so long as it was guaranteed to end.  The trouble is, we don't have that guarantee.

[ Parent ]
Reg the "compromise " on which this country was (4.00 / 3)
founded :

http://my.firedoglake.com/impe...

Don't miss the funny caption.


that picture is fantastic! (4.00 / 3)

Early Americans seen here compromising with the British


[ Parent ]
Bearings coming unhinged and wheels coming off faster than I imagined. (0.00 / 0)


He's done. (4.00 / 2)
President Phonyface Fourflusher has served his Wall Street masters well, and all that's left for him to do is rubber stamp
all Republican legislation for the next two years.  He will then take a dive for the Republican team and lose the contest for a second term.  We might as well start getting use to a Romney regime...actually, it may be more progressive than the Obama regime.  

Thank goodness for you, Paul Rosenberg (4.00 / 4)
Otherwise we'd be getting all our information from President Obama.  And it's becoming clear that the only job that he'd be worse at than President is history teacher.

Galbraith.... (paraphrase) (4.00 / 1)
Forget the majority and concentrate on a strong minority party.  

The Republicans proved to me that a minority is better than a majority any day, particularly when you have a stealth Republican in the WH disparaging FDR and praising REagan.  I sent a part of what you wrote to the WH.  Couldn't resist.  


Last night on the Chris Matthews show, some time at the end he (4.00 / 1)
mused about a 'test' that candidates would have to take to show the extent of their knowledge about important subject matter.

How embarrasing would it be to have Obama coming out BEHIND Sarah Palin on the subject of Social Security( she being so eager to tell anyone who will listen that 'she's reading, reading anything she can get her hands on')

Or for that matter if ANY Republican  scored better on the 'history' of Social Security.....

Ivy League education, fact checkers at the White House and he peddles this drivel.....doesn't anyone have the guts or the knowledge themselves who also work at the White House to say"uh, Mr President, what you said on Soc. Sec. origins is wrong and it isn't the first time you've made a mistake like this. My best political advice is that you lose the trust of voters( and the disdain of many if you really want me to be frank) when you are seen as caving over a false premise. It's hard to win back trust"

Well nigh impossible.

 


The President lies about FDR constantly (0.00 / 0)
Its really sickening.

Well, It Makes It Easy To Seem As Good As Him (0.00 / 0)
Besides, check out WikiLeaks:  Trash talk.  It's the new diplomacy!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
As I'm fond of saying (0.00 / 0)
Joe Wilson was more right than we might like to admit.

The President has gone from a side distraction to an embarrassment.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c...">http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c...">http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c...


[ Parent ]
There was a time (4.00 / 2)
when Social Security and Medicare were the prototype of what government was supposed to be, of what the Democratic Party's core values were.  But elite Democrats have given up on that legacy. With some important exceptions, most can be sorted into two categories - 1) those who see these programs (and things like the Civil Rights Act) as a good thing government once did (in large part because of their popularity rather than because they were right) but not something that has any direct relevance to today and 2) those that see these things as embarrassing mistakes of an activist, not-pro-business past that should be chipped away but never repeated.  

That is the climate that allows for a president to say such foolish things.

The twin salvos of the release of the fiscal commission report and the poison pill of the tax holiday are simply the latest moves in an assault on social insurance that has been going on for thirty years or more. Even now, progressive complaints too often fail to connect these programs with the idea of sharing social risk.  Hopefully, the fact that this tax deal threatens Social Security, progressive taxation, and unemployment insurance (which surely could have been passed on its own) will help us draw the connection to how these various policies are connected.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


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