Don’t give foe of Social Security a chance to cripple the agency

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Portland Press Herald
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NEWCASTLE — In his new and popular book “The Fifth Risk,” Michael Lewis explores the tran-sition period between the 2016 election and President Trump’s inauguration – and provides significant evidence that Trump appointees often lacked any background in government and the technical areas necessary for effective leadership in the various departments. Lewis focuses on three depart-ments – Agriculture, Commerce and Energy – which are charged with essential, complex functions. For example, the Agriculture Department’s responsibilities include food stamps and school lunch programs, on which millions of Americans depend. The Department of Commerce, essentially the Department of Information, is charged with ensuring fair and reciprocal trade and oversees the decennial U.S. Census. Much of the Energy Department’s budget addresses the challenges of atomic power,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is an Episcopal priest and a member of the board of the Frances Perkins Center in Newcastle.
nuclear weapons and contami-nated areas. These departments are now led by people who are not committed to their agency’s mission, but to warping that mis-sion so that somebody can make money for themselves at public expense. Trump’s recent nomination of his business school classmate, Andrew Saul, as the next com-missioner of the Social Security Administration suggests more of the same. Saul has no experience working with Social Security. His background would not help him run the Social Security system, but would help him privatize it. Saul has served as a board
member of the Manhattan Insti-tute, a right-wing think tank that actively opposes Social Security and has criticized current bene-fits as “simply too generous.” By claiming that Social Security may not be there when today’s young Americans become eligible, the Manhattan Institute endeavors to divide the generations. The Social Security Adminis-tration commissioner should be above reproach. Yet in 2007, Saul dropped out of the race for a New York state congressional seat after The New York Times uncov-ered questionable donations to his campaign. It’s not a coincidence that Trump nominated Saul as con-gressional Republicans raise “solutions” to their concerns over the federal deficit. Taxes have been cut to benefit the wealthy and corporations, so the deficit is growing. What is to be done? Republicans talk of cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medic-aid, regarding them as “entitle-
ments.” They ignore how Social Security is separately funded by payroll taxes and does not and cannot contribute to the budget deficit. Reducing earned bene-fits for millions of Americans to finance tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy exemplifies the cruelty and unreality characteris-tic of the current administration and its allies in Congress. Despite these attacks, Social Security remains immensely popular with the American peo-ple. It is by far the nation’s most effective anti-poverty program. Many who seek to destroy or crip-ple it adhere to the profoundly fallacious belief that the market alone can solve all problems. In religious terms, this is known as idolatry. The present administration amounts to a hostile takeover of the federal government by people unable to recognize the essential and commendable work that countless public servants accomplish out of commitment
to the mission of their agen-cies. America is harmed by this arrogance and ignorance in high places. Life is too dangerous -and too promising – to tolerate such folly. In addition to just laws, what America will always need are public servants at every level whose moral compass points them reliably in the right direc-tion. We have had such public servants in the past and many of them continue to work in govern.7 ment, often unrecognized and unappreciated. Respectful of all their fellow citizens, they strive diligently and intelligently for the common good through time-test-ed American institutions such as federal agencies. Those whom the people entrust with public power must continu-ally demonstrate that their use of power is solely for the good of the community. Nothing less will do.
— Special to the Press Herald