I believe that the role of society is to care for those that can’t. When pre-humans began to coalesce into communities, they discovered that it was possible to specialize - hunters, child raisers, security-providers, shelter creators, etc. As these specialists became more efficient, wealth was created; in this case, it was the wealth of time and reflection and communication and innovation.
Over time, they used fire for cooking and protection, they used farming to grow and improve their diets; they used knowledge of the human body and medicine to reduce infant mortality and increase life spans; and the community was able to “support” caring for the ill and aged, learning, art, and other “civilized” pursuits.
This is the essence and power of society and community, ...and civilization.
Then why nuke Social Security?
Western society has “evolved” to the point where necessities (healthcare, education, infrastructure, security, etc.) cost too much, and our organizations (governments, corporations, etc.) are so big, inefficient, and pendulous that real change/improvement is impossible.
For more than a generation, Western nations have had to borrow massive amounts of money just to maintain status quo. Despite deep programmatic cuts, operating costs today are still much higher than revenues. Bureaucratic inertia + embarrassingly juvenile (apologies to the world’s youth) and avaricious elected officials have prompted credit agencies to put most governments on “watch,” and recently, downgrade America and Italy, among others. This plus the prospect even bigger dufuses being elected in 2012 assures a future of worse government, greater ineptitude, and growing (more expensive) debt.
What to do? Short of a total national reboot, we must prioritize at the program level, and make some tough calls.
What programs must remain, and which can be eliminated? I say education and healthcare for all are more important than Social Security. With an effective education (early childhood through post secondary), and the comfort of basic healthcare, we give people the building blocks to not just survive, but thrive. Eliminating a safety net like Social Security creates an impetus for people to care for themselves and their families, or else.
Unfortunately, the Republicans/Democrats/Tea Partiers are proposing small, inconsequential but politically palatable cuts to everything; if they do recommend the elimination of programs, they are small and budgetarily inconsequential. Our situation is far too serious and dire to tolerate this kind of futzing around.
To protect the essence of our society and the viability of our community, we need someone with serious cojones to step up, take the bold step of throwing partisanship, politics, and silly amendments aside, and lead.