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The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan
Social Security, not for nothing do politicians call it the “third rail of American politics—touch it, and you die.” Yet a powerful, well-funded movement to phase out Social Security or even privatize it has been gathering strength since the election of Ronald Reagan. Each time it comes close to succeeding, it's beaten back by a coalition of labor, grassroots organizers, and the elderly. Meanwhile, Social Security has only become more vital to retirees and their families as the federal and state governments slash other benefits and services—a trend that's grown ever more troubling in recent years.
The People's Pension is both groundbreaking history and an eye-opening guide for anyone concerned about one of the biggest issues of our times. With 95 percent of Americans participating in the program either as beneficiaries or through their payroll tax contributions, Social Security is quite literally the glue that binds Americans together as a community. In a provocative epilogue, Laursen argues to democratize, not disable, the program, suggesting that the only solution for Social Security may be to de-link it from government altogether.
Praise for The People's Pension
"Drawing on research and interviews with economists, politicians, and social scientists who shaped the early development of Social Security, Laursen analyzes how American economics and politics evolved to the point at which a program once considered nearly sacrosanct has come to be viewed as a government entitlement. He debunks that notion as well as the conservative conventional wisdom that in order to save Social Security for future generations, it is necessary to virtually destroy it by reducing benefits and raising the retirement age. Comprehensive and compelling reading on an important topic." —Booklist (starred review)
"This magnificent history documents the hydra-headed campaign to cut and kill Social Security, conducted over decades by rightwing bankers, foundations, economists, and politicians. [The People's Pension] is utterly urgent." —James K. Galbraith, author of The Predator State
“This is a fascinating history that progressives must learn, not only to protect Social Security but also to understand the dynamics behind an effective long-term strategy. It is remarkable that such a popular and successful program could actually have its survival called into question.” —Dean Baker, author of Taking Economics Seriously
“[Laursen] has given us as thorough, illuminating—and disturbing—a look at the decades-long ideological attack on this all-important program as we are ever likely to get.” —Michael Hiltzik, author of The New Deal: A Modern History
About the author
Eric Laursen is an independent financial and political journalist, activist, and commentator. He is co-author of Understanding the Crash (2010). and his work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The Nation, The Village Voice, Z Magazine, The Indypendent, and the Huffington Post. He lives in Buckland, Massachusetts.
Published by AK Press in 2012