The Frozen Politics of Social Security

James G. Chappel in the Boston Review:

Social Security is back in the news. Some Republicans are angling to reduce benefits, while Democrats are posing as the valiant saviors of the popular program. The end result, most likely, is that nothing will happen. We have seen this story before, because this is roughly where the politics of Social Security have been stuck for about forty years. It’s a problem because the system truly does need repair, and the endless conflict between debt-obsessed Republicans and stalwart Democrats will not generate the progressive reforms we need.

Social Security, believe it or not, has a utopian heart: the idea that all Americans deserve a life of dignity and public support once they become old or disabled. This vision does, for now, remain utopian: many Americans are right to worry that, without savings or private pensions, their older years will be just as precarious and austere as their younger ones. Social Security is nonetheless the lynchpin of the U.S. welfare system, such as it is.

More here.