James Galbraith, one of the staunchest defenders of Social Security, has an op-ed in The Daily Beast that is definitely worth a read for those trying to contextualize arguments about the economic crisis, job creation, entitlements, and those hawking deficit concerns. A key point Galbraith makes is that we are not in an ordinary recession, but “We’ve suffered a major collapse of the financial system.” Despite this, Galbraith points out ” There simply is no funding problem for the U.S. government, and in the real world of financial markets, none is foreseen.” The best way out of the current unemployment troubles, Galbraith convincingly argues, is not by cutting but expanding Social Security and Medicare. Lowering the retirement age would allow millions of older workers to retire, creating new jobs for young workers while giving older workers a reliable stream of income for the rest of their lives in Social Security. Similar benefits exist for expanding access to Medicare for younger workers. Galbraith concludes:
Care for the elderly, energy, climate change, the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, our decayed infrastructure, public health—these are real issues. Let’s deal with them. The “long-term budget deficit” is a phony problem, ginned up by politicians, some economists, and the historic enemies of Social Security and Medicare on Wall Street. For God’s sake, let’s not sacrifice our most successful social programs to the hysteria we’re hearing from them.
This sort of message is critically important. Galbraith has been key in banging the Address Real Problems drum, as have people like Bob Herbert, Duncan Black and Paul Krugman. Moreover, as the deficit hawking heats up, having a sensible frame to talk about growing, not shrinking, entitlements is really important. Galbraith is a persuasive advocate and a voice who should be amplified.