Bernie August, Green Party Candidate for US House.

By Desmond M. Kahn, Ph.D.

 The News Journal has finally informed the people of Delaware that Bernard August is the Green Party Candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. I want to explain Bernie’s positions on the economy and Social Security in comparison to those of incumbent Democrat John Carney.

Bernie is totally opposed to any cuts in Social Security benefits, including increasing the age of retirement, even in the face of a relentless campaign by some to cut Social Security benefits by Wall Street interests. I cannot say the same for Representative Carney. During the 2008 campaign, working with the Campaign for America’s Future, I contacted his office to ask if he would sign a pledge not to cut Social Security benefits. He refused, although over one hundred other Congressional candidates did so.

Congressman Carney says he supports the recommendations of the President’s Deficit Commission, which call for cuts in Social Security payments. In reality, that Commission made no recommendation, which would have required fourteen votes. Congressman Carney is actually bestowing false legitimacy to an extreme proposal from Simpson and Bowles, the former Co-Chairs of the now-defunct Commission. In a recent debate, Bernie August labeled the Simpson-Bowles proposal, “a 1% ruse”, referring to the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans.

As economist Dean Baker explains, the current deficit was created largely by the Great Recession. Social Security did not contribute one penny to the deficit, and has a current surplus of $2.6 trillion that will build to over $4 trillion. There is no justification for cutting benefits, yet the Simpson-Bowles proposal, supported by our Congressman, calls for reducing future payments by changing the way the cost of living allowances are calculated. Their method would reduce future allowances by 0.3 percent a year, Baker points out. That change would accumulate, so in ten years, the COLA would be 3% lower, and in thirty years it would be 9% lower than the current method. Simpson-Bowles also calls for raising the retirement age, a clear cut in lifetime benefits. As Bernie said, “Some people won’t be satisfied until the retirement age is ninety.”

The Social Security Trust Fund has built up its surplus, in part, by investing tax income in U. S. Treasury Bonds, in effect loaning the money with interest to the rest of the federal government. In a conversation we had recently, Congressman Carney emphasized that the federal government has to pay the loan back to the Trust Fund as the bonds mature. I had the distinct impression that he saw that as a problem.

What the austerity hawks and Wall Street financiers want to do is to renege on that obligation to repay the loan, instead stiffing working people and thus reducing the financial obligations of the federal government. Is Congressman Carney one of them? At least 29 Democratic Senators have recently signed a pledge that they will “oppose Social Security cuts for future or current beneficiaries in any deficit reduction package.” Bernie August has already made such a pledge. Why won’t our Congressman sign the pledge?

On the economy, Bernie August is in favor of putting America back to work, through a program like the Green New Deal advanced by Doctor Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President, using deficit spending. He is joined in calling for stimulus spending by Dean Baker and Nobel laureate economists Krugman and Stiglitz. In contrast, the Congressman announced at a recent town hall meeting that his main priority in office was to balance the federal budget, a move towards austerity. He did not even mention increasing employment as a priority. In 2009, shortly after he assumed office, I was surprised to receive mailings from our new Congressman in which he sounded like a Tea-Bagger, focusing on the budget deficit.  

Bernie August will have nothing to do with austerity, but John Carney seems inclined to meet the Republicans halfway. First the Republicans under Bush cut taxes, especially for the wealthy, and then when they lose the White House, they say that our budget is out of balance, so we need to cut programs that benefit people who have to work for a living. By looking at the economic devastation sweeping working people in Europe caused by government austerity, we can that would hurt our economic opportunities.

Not surprisingly, Congressman Carney was only rated 79%, a C+, on votes on legislation affecting working people by Bernie August would rate an A+.

Bernie is a former GM autoworker, DuPont Newport plant worker, organizer for the Steelworkers Union and long-time community activist. Over the last year, he has been an active member of Occupy Delaware, focusing on economic injustice and inequality. Delaware will be better off with Bernie.

– Desmond Kahn is a Newark resident who works as a biologist.

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