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The Battle for Social Security: From FDR's Vision To Bush's Gamble

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ISBN-13: 978-0471771722
ISBN-10: 0471771724
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Altman, a pension-rights advocate, traces the history of Social Security from its introduction in 1935, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered it as a safety net to protect not only the elderly but also children and disabled people. We learn that Roosevelt faced stiff opposition to his innovative concept, and ever since it has attracted controversy. The author claims that President George W. Bush has broken ranks with every president since Roosevelt, Republican and Democrat, in his current, high-profile effort to undo the program. She is highly critical of the Bush strategy, which she chronicles in detail. The author also offers a three-prong solution to Social Security's long-term projected shortfall--conversion of the residual estate tax to a dedicated Social Security tax, restoration of the maximum taxable wage base to 90 percent, and diversification in the trust fund portfolio to include stocks and bonds. This is a thoughtful, well-researched case against President Bush's efforts to reduce Social Security protection. Mary Whaley
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Review

"[A] fine history … the best single explanation for Bush's [defeat] …Altman tells the story wonderfully…moves briskly…interesting story line."
—Robert G. Kaiser (The Washington Post, December 28, 2005)

“…a well-written political history, appealing to lay readers and policy analysts alike.” (Private Enterprise Research Center, March 2007)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (November 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471771724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471771722
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,184,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nancy J. Altman has a forty year background in the areas of Social Security and private pensions. She is co-director of Social Security Works and co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition. She is the author of The Battle for Social Security: From FDR's Vision to Bush's Gamble (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), and co-author of Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All (The New Press, 2015).

From 1983 to 1989, Ms. Altman was on the faculty of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and taught courses on private pensions and Social Security at the Harvard Law School. In 1982, she was Alan Greenspan's assistant in his position as chairman of the bipartisan commission that developed the 1983 Social Security amendments. From 1977 to 1981, she was a legislative assistant to Senator John C. Danforth (R-Mo,), and advised the Senator with respect to Social Security issues. From 1974 to 1977, she was a tax lawyer with Covington & Burling, where she handled a variety of private pension matters.

Ms. Altman is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of beneficiary rights. She is also on the Board of Directors of the National Academy of Social Insurance, a membership organization of over 900 of the nation's leading experts on social insurance. In the mid-1980's, she was on the organizing committee and the first board of directors of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Ms. Altman has an A.B. from Harvard University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Ball on November 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was the Commissioner of Social Security under three Presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon), I began working on Social Security on January 1, 1939, and I have read just about every book written on the subject. The Battle for Social Security is the best Social Security book to come out in a long time, and indeed is among the best ever written on the subject. It is a lively and highly readable journey through the establishment of Social Security, its expansion, and the present attack on the program's principles. Written in an accessible style, it will inform all readers, nonexpert and expert alike, about the dramatic history of Social Security and why the program should remain as it is currently structured. I urge everyone with a stake in the present battle over Social Security - that means everyone - to read this book.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Virginia P. Reno on November 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Battle for Social Security reads like a fast-paced novel, but with the unique advantage that you can read it in any order. Skipping way ahead to the final chapter From FDR's Vision to Bush's Gamble (chapter 17) you find a six-page summary of the entire book, while The Ideal, Pain-Free (for Almost Everyone) Way to Strengthen Social Security (chapter 16) outlines the author's favorite plan to keep Social Security solvent for the long term.

Each chapter tells its own engaging story. The All American Program (chapter 10) recounts the Eisenhower years and the Hobby Lobby; Social Security's Grandfather (chapter 2) explains how John R. Commons' groundwork influenced the people who would advise FDR; Bold Woman, Cautious Men (chapter 4) brings to life the audacious role attorney Barbara Armstrong filled amid the economists and actuaries who crafted FDR's blueprint for Social Security; and Aging Gracefully (chapter 13) describes how the deal was struck by Republicans and Democrats on the commission led by Alan Greenspan (who hired the author as his executive assistant). On signing the compromise legislation in 1983, President Reagan said it "demonstrates for all time our nation's ironclad commitment to social security." A Leninist Strategy (chapter 14), cites plans of some libertarian think tank scholars in the early 1980s to wage "guerrilla warfare against the Social Security system and the coalition that supports it" by a strategy to promote private accounts for young workers and "detach or at least neutralize" older Americans. The Drumbeat Finds a Drummer (chapter 15) recounts how turning part of Social Security into private accounts became the top priority of President Bush's second term in 2005.

With careful research, artful story telling, compassion, and wit, The Battle for Social Security clarifies the choices Americans voters and policymakers face as they decide where they want to stand on the future of Social Security.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Charles Wolf on December 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is different from anything I have ever read on this subject (and I have read widely in the field). The Battle for Social Security is deeply researched, entertainingly written, and full of insight about the history and political values of the program. The author, who is very highly qualified, obviously believes in those values, but this book does not involve mindless cheering for Social Security, or knee-jerk Bush bashing. Instead, this work thoughtfully and powerfully details the program's creation and expansion, and explains all the very good (and quite traditional) reasons why it remains popular with most Americans. Chapter 16 has some excellent ideas about how to keep Social Security solvent for many years without going down the destructive road of private accounts. If you want a pleasant path to a profound understanding of Social Security, this book is for you.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Charles B. Craver on November 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In The Battle For Social Security, Nancy Altman provides readers with a detailed and interesting history of the Social Security System from the beginning in the mid-1930s to the present. She brings to life the different participants, and explores the legally and philosophically controversial nature of the Social Security pension and Medicare programs. She also describes the recent efforts to change the system through privatization and recommends modest changes in the current system that will make it actuarilly sound for generations to come. A must read for anyone interested in the future of Social Security.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By John Shutkin on October 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
While Bush's Social Security "reform" now appears to be DOA, this is still a most important book. It is a comprehensive, well-reasoned and non-ideological analysis of a proposal that is itself non-comprehensive, poorly-reasoned and ideological. Through this approach, the book cogently exposes the Emperor as having no clothes (or at least very different ones from the "reform" ones that the Bush Administration has claimed to be wearing) and, even beyond Social Security, offers troubling insights into the manner in which this Administration operates on many fronts. But, again, it is not in any way a political screed, but a thoughtful and careful academic analysis, which makes it that much more credible and important. In addition, it does not only criticize the Bush plan (easy enough to do), but offers its own, well-reasoned approach to avoiding a Social Security deficit in coming years. And, despite both the gravity of the topic and the inherent complexity of the issues surrounding it (legal, economic and political), it is an immensely readable book. I believe this will be THE definitive book on the Bush Administration's Social Security plan -- and why it deserved to fail.
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