Social Security and the Middle-Class Squeeze
Fact and Fiction about America's Entitlement Programs
by Leonard J. Santow, Mark E. Santow
September 2005, 232pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98881-4
$41, £31, 36€, A56
Paperback: 978-0-313-36189-0
$20, £15, 18€, A28
eBook Available: 978-0-313-05608-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

A primer to the Social Security debate and more—how to reform our key entitlement programs while relieving the economic squeeze on the middle class.

At the outset of his second term, President Bush’s proposal to partially privatize Social Security has touched off a debate of enormous proportion. Disentangling the rhetoric and hyperbole from fact is essential for anyone trying to evaluate the potential merits or pitfalls of the plan. Leonard and Mark Santow—a father-and-son team who integrate two different political viewpoints (fiscally conservative and socially liberal, respectively)—offer specific recommendations for improving Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in socially responsible ways that relieve some of the stress on the middle class and promote upward mobility. Explaining sophisticated economic concepts in layman’s terms, the Santows expose myths about how entitlement programs actually work, arguing, for example, that while the financial state of Social Security gets most of the press, Medicare and Medicaid are in much more serious trouble. They integrate conservative and liberal viewponts to propose a package of reforms that includes both tax cuts and increases and an overhaul of the government’s economic forecasting system.

Synthesizing mountains of data and explaining sophisticated economic concepts in layman’s terms, the Santows expose myths about how entitlement programs actually work, arguing, for example, that while the financial state of Social Security gets most of the press, Medicare and Medicaid are in much more serious trouble. Moreover, they are highly critical of privatization plans, demonstrating that similar programs have failed in other countries and that such plans are programs are neither fiscally nor socially sound. If the American people value the common commitments that these programs embody, we will need to see them as a package, and fund them accordingly. In response to this challenge, the Santows integrate conservative and liberal viewpoints to propose a package of reforms that includes both tax cuts and increases and an overhaul of the government’s economic forecasting system. Featuring a timeline of key events since Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935 and an appendix of data tables, the authors offer a primer for concerned citizens, policymakers, educators, students, and finance professionals—anyone with a stake in designing a system that pays for these essential programs in an equitable manner and contributes to our collective prosperity.

Features

Featuring a timeline of key events since Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935 and an appendix of data tables, the authors offer a primer for concerned citizens, policymakers, educators, students, and finance professionals—anyone with a stake in designing a system that pays for these essential programs in an equitable manner and contributes to our collective prosperity.

Reviews

"The book has much to commend it, e.g., its convincing argument that the Social Security trust fund is meaningless, critique of official forecasts regarding the system, and warnings that Medicare reform deserves greater attention....General readers and upper-division undergraduate students."—Choice, March 1, 2006

"[A]n examination of the pressing social and economic problems of the American middle class and how they can be alleviated in an equitable and logical manner that will satisfy both the political right and the left."—Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2005

"[A]n attempt to bridge the political and economic chasms that separate idea for solving the country's problems, the authors say they believe that Republicans and Democrats can sit down, make policies, admit mistakes and come up with solutions."—The Advocate and Greenwich Time, November 27, 2005

"The father-and-son team, who integrate two different political viewpoints (fiscally conservative and socially liberal), offer specific recommendations for improving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in socially responsible ways that relieve some of the stress on the middle class and promote upward mobility."—The Providence Journal, November 24, 2005

"A fascinating amalgam of social policy recommendations by a conservative (right-wing) economist father and his liberal (left-wing) historian son. It is a refreshing antidote to the slanted and dishonest descriptions that currently prevail in the public debate. Although I do not subscribe in every detail to the Santows' arguments and proposals, they present a useful compromise as to what the country could and should do to deal with the divisive problems facing us. What is perhaps the most instructive is the huge extent to which both right and left would have to retreat from the ideological sloganeering to reach any useful agreement. Both authors will be regarded as traitorous renegades by their constituencies. The reader will have to judge whether the country can arrive at a fruitful reconciliation of views was apparently accomplished by the authors within the family."—Albert M. Wojnilower, Economic Consultant, Craig Drill Capital and former Chief Economist, Credit Suisse First Boston

"[A] thoughtful analysis of the core fiscal problems our nation's economy and our government now face, including not just the Social Security program highlighted in the book's title, but Medicare and Medicaid as well. If more Americans understood what the Santows have to say, our prospects for successfully meeting these difficult challenges would be significantly greater."—Benjamin M. Friedman, William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University

"This important book should be read by every American. By examining the program of Social Security and its historical roots, this book forces us to think about what we owe one another and what ties us together as a nation bonded together by civic principles. America is in deep danger of losing a sense of mutual obligations and the importance of a healthy middle class; this book alerts us to that danger with clarity and conviction."—Kevin Mattson, Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History, Ohio University, author of When America Was Great: The Fighting Faith of Postwar Liberalism
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