The Democratic primary campaign is not over and already there are media rumblings about who is working the inside track to become Hillary Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, if she’s elected President. Normally, this is the kind of story we read and then move on to the next one (it is only March, after all). However, David Dayen’s story in The Intercept suggesting that Wall Streeter, privatization supporter and Pete Peterson-connected, Larry Fink, is positioning himself for the Treasury job stopped us dead in our tracks. Dayen reports:
“Larry Fink, BlackRock’s CEO, has assembled a veritable shadow government full of former Treasury Department officials at his company. Fink has made clear his desire to become Treasury Secretary someday. The Obama administration had him on the short list to replace Timothy Geithner. When that didn’t materialize, he pulled several members of prior Treasury Departments into high-level positions at the firm, which may improve the prospects of realizing his dream in a future Clinton administration.”
Now, considering someone from Wall Street to serve as Treasury Secretary is hardly shocking. However, what is alarming is Fink’s views on Social Security including raising the retirement age and shifting Social Security funding to private accounts:
“Fink has also promoted the privatization of Social Security, while mocking the idea of retiring at 65, which is easy for a business executive who sits at a desk all day to say, rather than working on an assembly line or as a waiter. Fink owes his initial backing at BlackRock to Pete Peterson, the former commerce secretary who has been at the forefront of the campaign to cut or privatize Social Security. He sat on the steering committee of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a stalking horse for Peterson’s ideas.
Fink’s claims that all Americans are living longer and thus should work longer is classic boilerplate language offered by the GOP and the billion dollar anti-Social Security lobby (funded by Pete Peterson) to justify cutting benefits for average Americans by raising the retirement age. It ignores that fact that it’s wealthy white men who’ve benefited most from any longevity increases, while communities of color, women and low income workers do not see the same benefits.
“Men at the top of the economic ladder saw an eight-year increase in life expectancy, while men at the bottom saw virtually no change.” National Academy of Science
For perspective, let’s remember that there will be a lot of political tea leaves to read between now and November. It has been welcome news to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare that Hillary Clinton’s positions on Social Security have already seen some shifting during this campaign…in the correct direction. She has restated her long-held opposition to privatization. Raising the retirement age, cutting the COLA and benefit cuts are non-starters for her. She recently gave her support for boosting benefits in a more limited way than Senator Bernie Sanders, with her focus on elderly women and caregivers. Clinton also has softened her position on lifting the payroll tax cap while proposing raising revenue by taxing unearned income for Social Security.
There’s a lot for retirees, people with disabilities, survivors and their families to like in both Democrats’ campaign approach to Social Security. However, seniors expect more than just campaign promises. Appointing a Treasury Secretary who believes Americans must work longer with some of their payroll taxes diverted into private accounts would deliver a very different message about what a Clinton administration could mean for Social Security.
“While Clinton has adamantly pledged not to cut or privatize Social Security benefits, Fink’s track record would cause concern among advocates, were he to obtain a cabinet post. And having a ready-made team of trusted advisers who know their way around the Treasury building and the players in a potential Clinton West Wing can only help Fink in that campaign.”…David Dayen, The Intercept