The Social Security fight: A victory for the progressive movement

Expand social securityJust six years ago, the movement to expand Social Security was virtually invisible. President Obama had empowered a fast-track commission that was dead set on cutting Social Security and Medicare. The Washington consensus was that Social Security benefit cuts were inevitable – the only question was how big the cuts would be.

Back then it was pretty lonely in D.C. to be standing against the Democratic president’s commision. We had to push back not only against a popular Democratic president, but against the mainstream Democratic establishment that wanted to give him leeway to cut other deals. In 2010, it was like pulling teeth to get Democrats to pledge “no cuts” to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

But CREDO Action and Social Security Works weren’t interested in being popular in D.C., we were interested in what was right. And so from day one we opposed any and all efforts to cut benefits.

Whether we faced fast-track commissions like Bowles-Simpson, debt ceiling hostage crises, or supercommittees, we collectively raised our voices and stopped these attempts to dismantle our earned benefits. The plain fact of America’s retirement security crisis was powerful enough that the same arguments against cuts were also arguments FOR expanding benefits. We didn’t rest in victory – we kept fighting. And six years later, the president announced that he supports increased benefits to address the retirement security crisis. We did that together. Our voices changed the conversation.

Working together, Social Security Works, CREDO Action and other key partners in the progressive movement determined that the best defense would be a good offense – and that our Social Security system needed to be expanded.

Along the way, we changed the entire debate. Social Security expansion became the official position of the Democratic Party. President Obama, both remaining Democratic presidential candidates, and over 90 percent of Senate Democrats are now on record supporting expansion. And Republicans who want to cut our earned benefits are scared and desperate.

So when you saw President Obama say Social Security should be expanded, yes, it was a victory for CREDO, Social Security Works, and leaders like Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Harkin, Sherrod Brown, Reps. Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, and other progressive champions in Congress. But that victory would never have been in reach without you and everything you’ve done with us since 2010.

The emails, the calls to Congress, the meetings in district offices, the protests at town hall meetings. You made President Obama change over the course of these last six years. Now it’s up to us to make the next president and the next Congress do it.

We know the American people are on our side. In fact, polling shows that 79 percent of likely voters – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – support expanding Social Security benefits and paying for it by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share. And when we do, we’ll be able to increase benefits for millions of Americans and extend the lifespan of the Social Security trust fund.

Thank you for helping us get this far.

With Nancy Altman, President, Social Security Works.