The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan

Overview

"Readers mystified by the yawning gulf between public opinion and current political discussion might benefit from the background provided in Eric Laursen’s magisterial history, 'The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan' The book offers more than 800 pages of fascinating if gory details about the lobbying efforts and misinformation campaigns aimed at bringing the program down."—Nancy Folbre, NYTimes Economix Blog

“Laursen has given us a comprehensive account of the three decade long war against Social Security. . . ...

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The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan

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Overview

"Readers mystified by the yawning gulf between public opinion and current political discussion might benefit from the background provided in Eric Laursen’s magisterial history, 'The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan' The book offers more than 800 pages of fascinating if gory details about the lobbying efforts and misinformation campaigns aimed at bringing the program down."—Nancy Folbre, NYTimes Economix Blog

“Laursen has given us a comprehensive account of the three decade long war against Social Security. . . . This is a fascinating history that progressives must learn, not only to protect Social Security but also to understand the dynamics behind an effective long-term strategy.”—Dean Baker, author of False Profits: Recovering From the Bubble Economy

“This magnificent history documents the hydra-headed campaign to cut and kill Social Security, conducted over decades by rightwing bankers, foundations, economists, and politicians. [The People's Pension] is utterly urgent.”—James K. Galbraith, author of The Predator State

The People's Pension is both groundbreaking history and an indispensable guide for anyone concerned about one of the biggest issues in the upcoming election. With 95 percent of Americans participating in the program either as beneficiaries or through their payroll tax contributions, Social Security is quite literally the “glue” that binds Americans together as a community. Yet in the aftermath of the debt reduction deal between Barack Obama and congressional Republicans, the 2012 election promises to be a kind of referendum on the size and role of government—including economic support programs like Social Security. Arguing to democratize, not disable, the program, Eric Laursen suggests that the only solution for Social Security is taking it out of the government's hands altogether.

Eric Laursen is an independent financial and political journalist, activist, and commentator. The co-founder and former managing editor of Plan Sponsor, a magazine for pension fund executives, Laursen is also the co-author of Understanding the Crash (2010). His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The Huffington Post, The Nation, Institutional Investor, The Village Voice, and Investment Dealer's Digest.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you want to put the current struggle over Social Security’s future in context, read this book."—Mark Miller, RetirementRevised.com

"Independent financial reporter Laursen offers a breathtakingly comprehensive look at the history and politics behind ‘the largest income support program in the U.S.,’ ... Comprehensive and compelling reading on an important topic."—Booklist, starred review

"Eric Laursen has written a comprehensive and exhaustive history of the Social Security program in the United States. The People’s Pension is an honest, detailed and even eye-opening discussion of the program’s origins and continuing efforts to provide elderly and disabled Americans with a livable income. Equally important, it is a discussion of the attempts to alter and ultimately destroy the program by forces whose only interest seems to be profit and the elimination of any government institution that guarantees every citizen worker an income in their old age." — Ron Jacobs, CounterPunch

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781849351010
  • Publisher: AK Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Pages: 750
  • Sales rank: 603,836
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 2.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Laursen, born 1960, is an independent financial and political journalist, activist, and commentator. A native of San Francisco and graduate of Columbia University in New York (B.A. in History, Master's in International Affairs), he began his journalistic career as a reporter for Wall Street Letter, a weekly newsletter for the financial services industry. He later worked for a succession of publications: as a staff writer for Corporate Finance Magazine; editor of Asset International, a weekly newsletter for international investment firms; and as co-founder and managing editor of Plan Sponsor, the leading monthly magazine for North American pension executives. It was there he became interested in the debate over Social Security.

An independent journalist since 2000, Eric has written for publications ranging from Z Magazine and The Nation to Institutional Investor and CFO. His specializations are national politics, retirement and aging, global trade, U.S. fiscal policy, social services, business and financial services, civil liberties, and alternative economics. He has also written on anarchist theory, practice, and history for a variety of publications.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part I Social Security and the Reagan Revolution (1981-83) 31

1 A New Deal 33

2 "A Despicable Thing" 51

3 The "Third Rail" of American Politics 67

4 "Watching for the Commission" 79

5 The Compromise of 1983 95

Part II The Movement against Social Security is Born (1983-94) 111

6 Making the Case 113

7 "Generational Equity" 131

8 The War against the Geezers 153

9 The Anti-Deficit Obsession 171

10 The Struggle for Austerity 187

11 Bob Kerrey Gets His Pulpit 203

12 Tax Cuts and Magic Bullets 211

Part III Selling Privatization (1994-96) 223

13 "Just About Unanimous" 225

14 Privatization Repackaged 233

15 Wall Street Enlists 243

16 "What's In it for Me?" 251

17 Scary Numbers 265

18 The "Intergenerational Chain Letter" 275

19 Modest Proposals 293

20 Chile's Pension Revolution 307

Part IV Mating Dance (1996-99) 319

21 The Pension Revolution Comes Home 321

22 "Save Social Security First" 341

23 The Debate Hits the Road 355

24 Democratic Backlash 369

25 "So Surreal You Wouldn't Believe It" 379

26 The Unbridgeble Gulf 387

27 Washington Politics and Public Opinion 405

Part V The Social Security Electron (1999-2000) 419

28 The Politics of Prosperity 421

29 Bush vs. Gore 427

30 The Road to Florida 439

Part VI The Ownership Society (2001-05) 451

31 The Vanishing Surplus 453

32 A Zero-to-One Shot 459

33 The Bush Commission Punts 471

34 Guns and Butter 481

35 Reaching for a Mandate 493

36 Karl Rove's Dream 503

37 Bush Rolls the Dice 517

38 "We Need Public Pressure" 529

39 Propaganda and Politicization 541

40 A Tipping Point 551

41 The Republican Debate 561

Part VII Back to Austerity (2006-11) 573

42 "No One Is Talking Anymore About a 'Permanent Republican Majority" 575

43 The Rebirth of the Pain Caucus 589

44 Obama vs. McCain 609

45 Obama Stumbles 627

46 The Deficit Commission 649

47 The Return to Austerity 669

48 The Retirement Crisis 693

Epilogue 705

Bibliographic Note 727

Notes 731

Index 785

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