Why the GOP Hates Social Security

5 mins read

Mar a Tacky asked:

Indeed, cutting social security in an election year is counter-intuitive.

The wealthy GOP oligarchs (and would-be oligarchs) hate social security because it helps get rid of income inequality and oligarchy requires income inequality. That’s why oligarchs create policies that harm their supporters. For more on that, see this post.

For why regular working class Republican base hates social security, we have to go back before 1936, when there was a lot less federal government. (FDR brought us social security. We got medicare in 1965 while LBJ was president. Under LBJ, we also got the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights.)

When FDR took office in 1933, the US was in the throes of the Great Depression. Income inequality was like today, but with big differences. There was:

  • no social security
  • no 40 hour workweek
  • no minimum wage
  • workers who were injured were left to starve.
  • after a lifetime of subsistence wages, workers (and wounded soldiers who returned from war) died in poverty. Labor was cheap so the wealthy lived like kings.
  • There were no laws against price fixing and insider trading, so people got rich by cheating and market manipulation.

You get the idea.

There wasn’t much government. The wild west, for example, really was wild. Rule breakers had a place to go where they could grab land, and cheat, and do whatever they wanted.

About 45 years after the frontier closed, the federal government began a period of rapid expansion.

FDR introduced the New Deal (including Social Security). He also did things like bring electricity to rural areas in Mississippi. He also created agencies which promulgated regulations that prevented people from getting rich by manipulating markets and fixing prices.

FDR was generally popular with labor. It was the factory, business owners, and people who had inherited their wealth who hated him. FDR’s critics denounced the New Deal as a piece of anti-American communism. In fact, they didn’t like it because it cut into their profits.

Since the 1930s, the federal government expanded further. For example, the states were not about to desegregate schools unless someone forced them to do it. That someone was the federal government. The feds forcing the states to desegregate created more government-hate.

The federal government also outlawed money laundering, which should have cut into Trump’s income, but he ignored the laws, and continued to accept money that had been stolen from the Russian people—but he hated the laws, and by extension, the government that promulgated them.

The GOP has now morphed into a reactionary party. “Again” in “MAGA” signals reactionist politics.

Political psychologists Capelos and Katsanidou define reactionism as “a forceful desire to return to the past.”

Underlying reactionism is “anger, fear, nostalgic hope, betrayal, and perceived injustice.” They long to return to the “good old days.”

In fact, bygone America offered much liberty—for white men.

  • On the frontier, they could grab land!
  • Before modern rape and sexual harassment laws, they could grab women!
  • Before all those federal agencies, they could launder money and manipulate markets.

To return to the good old days, they need to destroy all of the laws and agencies put in place since the New Deal and Civil Rights movement. GOP leaders had to persuade working people to agree to cut social security and programs that benefited them.

Anyone here old enough to remember when Reagan talked about “Welfare Queens?” The idea was that women had babies so they could collect welfare as a way to get out of working. Guess what color skin this mythic creature had?

(Aside, I read about the welfare queens propaganda program in a law school class on feminist jurisprudence. I’m forgetting the name of the scholar, but she did work on how that propaganda tapped into racial prejudices.)

Trump’s base knows that they benefit from social security and medicaid. So they’re perfectly willing to throw out the baby (social security) with the bath water (government) if it means returning to the good old days when [white men] could grab whatever they wanted.

Originally posted on Musing about Law, Books, and Politics. Re-posted with permission.


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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