Democrats must reject austerity and keep Biden's promises to seniors
© Getty Images

Odds are you spent the week watching election workers count ballots and network news anchors gesture frantically at maps. But Republicans like former Ohio Gov. John Kasich spent it plotting against your retirement.

How else do you explain Kasich’s immediate reaction on Saturday afternoon, moments after the major news outlets finally called it for Joe BidenJoe BidenBudowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit DC might win US House vote if it tries Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman inks deal with IMG Models MORE? Right away, Kasich told CNN that the election “is an opportunity for Biden to talk about the center-right and center-left of this country and what can be achieved, because we have enormous problems with debt, Social Security, [and] Medicare.”

This is callous, opportunistic dishonesty. Even Ronald Reagan understood that Social Security doesn’t add a single penny to the deficit. And voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly oppose Social Security cuts. More Americans believe in Bigfoot than support cutting Social Security! The only people clamoring for cuts are Kasich, his fellow Republican politicians, and their billionaire donors.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kasich’s comments are the latest attack in a decades-long war on our earned benefits. Conservatives have spent years bamboozling the country about the finances of Social Security and Medicare. And in the past, they’ve even gotten some Democrats to abandon the party’s proud legacy of protecting and expanding these programs.

When Democrats acceded to the right’s demand for austerity in the wake of the Great Recession, the consequences were devastating. We got a stimulus too small to make Americans whole and get the economy back into gear. We got “sequestration” that both undermined public services and gave workaday voters another obtuse, jargon-heavy reason to distrust politicians.

The austerity obsession accelerated a decades-long GOP project to muddy the waters for voters. Tens of millions of Americans lost track of which party was committed to protecting the benefits they’ve earned, and which one is desperate to destroy them.

This summer, that confusion delivered what these ghouls have always wanted. President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE froze the funding mechanism that keeps Social Security solvent, then started laying the groundwork to make that change permanent — and end Social Security payments by mid-2022.

Luckily, Trump didn’t just lose. He lost to a man who explicitly, repeatedly, and loudly promised to defend Social Security from such attacks.

ADVERTISEMENT

Biden ran his first ad blasting Trump’s Social Security cuts in August. By mid-September, Biden had two more spots up promising to protect the “sacred promise” of Social Security. And in October, when campaigns amplify their strongest core arguments in the closing stretch, Biden put out two more brand-new ads pledging to guard your benefits. Biden’s promise to protect Social Security from Trump’s attacks was also a feature of nearly all his campaign speeches.

Biden ran on protecting and expanding Social Security. He drew seniors back to the Democratic side of the voting booth, including winning over a majority of voters over 65 in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

So why on earth would anyone in his party listen to Kasich’s austerity pitch?

If you’re a Democrat trying to figure out how to do the most good for the most people, Biden gave you your answer: Protect and expand Social Security. If you’re a Democrat trying to figure out how to win re-election, Biden gave you your answer: Protect and expand Social Security.

People like Kasich have watched Democrats wriggle in a political trap for decades. President-elect Biden has a historic opportunity to escape that trap once and for all.

Biden must govern like he campaigned, and refuse to treat the people who want to raid Social Security in the middle of a pandemic like they’re honorable, decent men and women who can be reasoned with. Every Democrat in Congress must join him in holding that line.

Alex Lawson is executive director of Social Security Works.