Social Security is a Democratic Party issue, not necessarily a progressive one.
It’s the last significant remaining pillar of the New Deal. But the New Deal itself was–hard as it might be to believe now–essentially a compromise. The reform of the social contract, so to speak, where one party (the government, and industry) gave a little so that the people wouldn’t revolt and ask for larger change.
Despite the 70 years of conservative whining, despite the New Deal, America emerged from the Great Depression the least transformed of any industrial democratic nation. Most of Europe was swept up in the reverberation of the Depression’s effects in Germany. Nowadays, most of Europe consists of social democracies, with free health care, education, jobs programs, yet they still have capitalist economies and most have little or none of the oppression associated with communistic regimes.
Here in the States, even in the jumping-the-shark late 60s era of the New Deal, America had a smaller safety net, more government oppression in many categories, more bellicose foreign policy, and, after 1973, a steady loss of middle class jobs.
Without any evidence, I’ve guessed that economies that have saftey nets benefit from the safety nets in ways that some people haven’t considered. People are more willing to do their jobs with integrity, since termination doesn’t mean the end if their livelihood. Some people are probably also more likely to take risks starting businesses since the worst that can happen is the social safety net catches you; here, on the other hand, we have to scrape and claw, because if we fall, there is little or no forgiveness.
Social Security is supposed to be our big, generous entitlement to keep old people from eating dogfood. There’s nothing intrinsically progressive about the generation transfer tax structure, instead of any other way, and there’s nothing intrinsically progressive about limiting it to retirees, or whatever.
To me, it’s just a further expression that in America, citizens that aren’t independently wealthy are supposed to work during their best years, until they are old, and then thank god they have a small pittance to get them through until they die.
What a country.