News Release

​Barrett: “Is Social Security Safe from the Courts?”


NANCY ALTMAN, via Linda Benesch,
President of Social Security Works, Altman is author of The Battle for Social Security and The Truth About Social Security: Exploding Five Destructive Myths.

She just wrote the piece “Is Social Security Safe from the Courts?” which states: “Because of Social Security’s overwhelming popularity among even self-described Tea Partiers, conservative politicians generally say that they love Social Security. But at candid moments, they make clear that they would like the courts to do what they have been seeking (so far unsuccessfully) to do sneakily, behind closed doors and by ‘starving the beast’: End Social Security.

“Former Republican presidential candidate and former Trump Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has said and written that he believes Social Security is unconstitutional. Former Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney even voted, when serving in the South Carolina General Assembly, in favor of an amendment, which declared Social Security unconstitutional. …

“Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been systematically stacking the courts with young, extremist judges” and Supreme Court members for the last four years. “The courts on which they likely will sit for decades have the power to end Social Security.”

“It is important to remember that when Social Security became law, most thought it would be struck down as unconstitutional. There was good reason for their concern. At the start of President Franklin Roosevelt’s first term, the Supreme Court,” led by four conservatives “colloquially known as the ‘Four Horsemen of Reaction,’ systematically struck down New Deal laws. …

“Out of concern for Social Security as well as other key legislation pending before the court, Roosevelt put forward his so-called court packing plan. Though the plan failed, the court held Social Security constitutional in what was coined ‘the switch in time that saved the nine.’ [The Supreme Court largely reoriented when faced with Roosevelt’s threat of court packing.]

“Today’s court is more conservative than any court since 1937.” Judge Amy Coney Barrett, “who is just 48 years old, shares the same conservative views as the Four Horsemen of Reaction. If it were 1937 and Social Security were a new question in front of the Supreme Court, how would she have ruled? How would she rule if the issue were before her at some point in the future, once she has a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court?

“Revealingly, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Barrett to comment on the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare during her confirmation hearings, Barrett refused to answer.”