on May 10, 2012
There is a no more instructive telling of the endless struggle between the 99% and the 1% than Eric Laursen's wonderful book "The People's Pension." This page turner tells the story of the fight against social security -- and of the defense of it -- with incisive analyses of both the solvency of the system and of the numerous arguments that have been made over the years about why it "must" be changed to survive.
The program has survived, so far, but the fight to defend it is far from over. Why? This book will tell you who would benefit from the destruction of social security and how these individuals are trying to destroy it; it will also tell you who are the politicians and organizations that benefit from serving these socially destructive individuals. Brace yourself! Many that you assumed to be on your side are not. This book will also tell you about the heroic individuals and organizations who tirelessly defend social security on your behalf.
Senator Tom Harkin called the Obama 2% cut of social security taxes the unraveling of social security and there is no doubt that it has
been a major blow. Social Security is now in greater peril than it has ever been, but as this book shows the system has always been on the precipice, and the only reason it has survived is because of its defenders.
For all who believe in the system designed to put an end to "poverty-ridden old age," in Franklin Roosevelt's words -- and
for all those of who doubt the effectiveness of activism -- "The People's Pension", is a must read.
on May 16, 2012
Having worked with Eric Laursen on numerous financial magazines, I'm very familiar with his profound, if not arcane, knowledge of such things as Social Security. This is a book that needed to be written for a long time, and it's good that a precise writer like Eric Laursen took it on. While it's a terrific historical read, The People's Pension: the Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan, is also very topical in regard to today's political brinkmanship. This should be required reading in the halls of Congress.
on May 31, 2012
In "The People's Pension", political journalist Eric Laursen chronicles the ongoing fight to defend Social Security from bipartisan attempts to privatize and destroy it. As Laursen shows in this important and informative book, Social Security is the product, not of benevolent politicians, but of grassroots activism organized from below. As such, it will take a mass movement to save it from a greedy ruling-class indifferent to the suffering of millions of poor, disabled, and elderly people. More than just a call to preserve Social Security, it is also a call to radically democratize it. With so many activists taking to the streets these days demanding economic equality and social justice, this is a timely book that should be read immediately by everyone working for revolutionary social change. If you're debating whether or not to read this book because of its size, I can assure you that this is a quick and enjoyable read, a real page-turner. Eric Laursen is a great writer and I commend him for writing this excellent book!
on January 14, 2015
I purchased this book for a class. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I ended up reading the whole thing, even though it wasn't required. If you are interested in the topic of Social Security, I highly recommend this book.
on August 19, 2012
just saw mr lauerson on cspan book tv. He gave one of the most impressive talks i've ever seen by an author. I will get this book--his talk was easy to grasp and full of facts. that explained the unjustified attacks on ss from all angles,so one can grasp the horrible consequences of privatizing it.
Much motivation for this comes from an exaggerated anti tax, anti govt philosophy of right wing billionaires, that would end up putting millions in poverty. They don't even pay into ss over 106,000, which should be raised now. They spread the myth that ss is in trouble and that it's related to taxes which it isn't, being a contract between employer and employee, both paying in.
The center right democrats who need campaign funds from wealthy anti ss donors are also to blame for allowing the rw ideas to take hold.
Other pillars of retirement funding for individuals have been ruined--private pensions and home equity. SS is a crucial pillar of old age that for many will be all they will have. Younger people will have to support their parents if ss is destroyed or weakened.This will affecttheir being able to afford college, setting up a career, home buying, starting a family, saving for their own retirement. So it will affect people in their teens through the 50s also. Most of the population is actually in financial peril from any weakening ss. The benefits now are too low as it is, especially compared to European benefits, as the author mentions. So they should be increased,not undermined.
on August 25, 2012
In this political season, with a 24-hour cable news cycle that's become infested with profit-seeking shenanigans to attract more viewers, it's become increasingly more difficult to spot intellectual honesty among political pundits, writers, and think tanks from both the left and the right. Consistency in defending ideals seems to have been replaced by consistency in defending short term political or commercial opportunities. Reporters on all sides of the political asile become silent when a president or politician sharing the same political stripes performs an act that goes completely against what she/he once stood for as a campaigner.
One classic example is the George W. Bush Presidency, led by a man who campaigned off of promises of limited government intervention in the lives of US citizens. Yet only months within his presidency began an unprecedented expansion of executive power, which soon led to the unchecked expansion of an unconstitutional surveillance state, an increasingly unsustainable foreign military presence that weighed upon the lives of millions of Americans, and further degradation of trust in the nation's leading governmental institutions. Yet nearly every one of these actions was defended by George W. Bush's Republican colleagues/party members, and had similarly been portrayed by Right-wing media institutions as "necessary actions" in response to "specific domestic threats," despite their clear contradictions against the individualism that had been trumpeted by the Bush/Cheney campaign stickers.
Several years later, Barack Obama, a Democratic President, appears to have fallen in that same conundrum of political opportunism. From an anemic response to the unequivocal criminality of the Wall Street bankers that had swindled the nation's finances, to resuming and expanding upon several of George W. Bush's old foreign policy measures, he seems in thrall to the same political and financial grips that imprison almost every American who wishes to make a genuine change to the US government.
Fortunately, there are always those few writers and journalists that are willing to speak out against partisan contrivances, and instead stick to the defining principles of their ideology, no matter the political costs. Eric Laursen is one of those writers, taking no prisoners in his indictment of both Barack Obama and the Republican Party on issues like Social Security and the national safety net. The book wastes little time on the apologetics or excuses that seem to outline your typical political books these days, and goes straight to the meat of the subject by exploring the history and founding principles of Social Security, and the risks it has been and is up against.
This is a type of book that ought to serve as a precedent for other political writers having trouble when weighing ideology with partisanship. If more Americans could learn of issues the way this book presents Social Security, our electoral process would surely be on its way to producing clearer, more honest politicians ready to enforce their ideas rather than cower behind political opportunities.
on January 21, 2013
Laursen's book is an excellent compliment to Nancy Altman's "The Battle for Social Security". While there is some overlap of discussion, they are looking at Social Security from somewhat different perspectives. Also, Laursen't book probably is less academic than Altman's, and therefore probably more readable for non-academician readers. Like Altman, Laursen identifies the rationale for Social Security, the Republican initial and continuing opposition to it, the great benefits that have accrued to ALL Americans as a consequence of Social Security. For example, both note Social Security keeps more children out of poverty than any social welfare program. Laursen discusses how Republicans have worked to make "entitlement" a dirty word. But Americans are ENTITLED to Social Security benefits when they retire, become disabled, or are a surviving child or spouse because ALL EMPLOYED Americans pay into the program. Both Laursen and Altman discuss how Roosevelt understood, making Social Security a welfare program, where benefits were means tested, would make it an easy target for Republicans to attack it, saying beneficiaries are lazy, won't work, and looking for a handout. To EARN Social Security benefits for one's self and family, ONE MUST WORK. Thus, as Roosevelt wanted, Social Security is a program that encourages work. Each of the Republican myths/lies about Social Security is identified, examined and disproven, and done so in a very readable and engaging writing style. Like Altman, Laursen examines ways to keep Social Security solvent. Although Republicans love to wave around huge numbers--over a trillion dollars--that is the cumulative shortfall projected over many years. The "fix" for Social Security could be as easy as raising the income cap from its current $106,800. There are many ways this could be done and raise more than enough funds to keep Social Security solvent in perpetuity. My personal choice is to create a "doughnut" between $106,800 and $250,000 in which no additional Social Security taxes are collected; then reimpose the full Social Security tax on all incomes above $250,000. Over time, as the cap is adjusted for inflation, the cap will close. But, this spares what we might consider to be those of the upper middle class from having to pay additional payroll taxes. And this identifies another strength of Laursen's book; it is thought provoking. As one reads, Laursen encourages one to think about what is being said, and think of and examine potential alternative solutions to what really is a relatively minor problem, despite Republican lies. Remember, from its inception there have been Republicans--fortunately not all, but far too many--who have been determined to destroy Social Security. Unfortunately, in today's environment, there are far too many Democrats willing to "put Social Security on the table." After reading Laursen's book, readers will be better able to communicate their opposition to these attacks on Social Security to their elected representatives, and to make clear to them "touching the 3rd rail" truly will be political death.
on May 16, 2013
This book is an excellent reporter's historical examination of the attacks on Social Security since the inception of the Reagan administration. But, it goes much further than that.
The author does a great job explaining and exposing the underlying agenda behind the drive to eliminate not only Social Security but all government programs that actually improve the economic lot of the non-elite US citizen. Think there is no connection between hyperbolic debt obsession and perpetual war, think again. The strange part is that the agenda has never been hidden except from the elite press who, apparently, have little or no curiosity or do not have access to the Google. For whatever reason, Eric Laursen is not afraid to expose the intellectual underpinnings of the "small government" hawks whose goal is to transform the entire concept of "nation-state" into a new concept: "the market state." Central to this plan is reconceptualization of citizenship and undercutting of the idea that the market state has any role in helping people. Selling this idea to voters has had mixed results but the intellectual game plan has never changed. Keeping a permanent underclass is essential to perpetuating war which is seen as fulfilling the global responsibility of this new "market state." Reducing the debt is essential to free up budgetary room to fund these endless wars. And cutting Social Security will make sure that the elites do not have to pay more taxes to pay for it.
A must read. I could not put it down.
on July 16, 2013
This book perhaps should be considered the Masters Degree in Social Security education. Their is little or no time devoted in formal education to the importance of Social Security for all Americans, and the absolutely critical value of saving this safety net for future generations. If not us, who? If not now, when?
on January 10, 2013
While you may not remember all the pertinent facts contained in this massive book, it will give you a firm foundation on how to assess the validity and motivation of those who say Social Security needs "tweeking." The writing is clean and easily understood. As someone who didn't expect that Social Security would be the "bedrock" on which to build a retirement, it has become a lifeline for a very modest quality of life. Between children's college education, horrible 401K performance, non-existant pensions, very expensive health care, falling house values, and modest salaies, how on earth can the ordinary person possibly save enough for retirement? We can't! Thank you Social Security! This book is now my "Bible."