**FILE** Utah Sen. Mike Lee (Gage Skidmore)
**FILE** Utah Sen. Mike Lee (Gage Skidmore)

During last year’s midterm election, Utah Republican Mike Lee was reelected for a third term in the U.S. Senate, defeating independent challenger Evan McMullin. It was one of Utah’s most closely watched Senate races in decades. McMullin’s bid focused largely on Lee’s text messages with Donald Trump’s staff in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The text messages between Lee and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed how the senator encouraged top Trump advisers to embrace Sidney Powell, a Republican lawyer who later spread wild and baseless claims of a rigged election. Just days before Election Day, McMullin condemned comments Sen. Lee made about ending Social Security more than a decade ago. “It will be my objective to phase out Social Security, to pull it up by the roots and get rid of it,” Lee said at a campaign stop during his first run for office in 2010.

For the majority of Utah voters, Lee’s early efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and his desire to end Social Security didn’t matter and were not sufficient reasons to keep the Republican from returning to Washington. Lee’s defenders say his voting record exemplifies a willingness to fight for them and their values. I am not sure which is worse — the elected official who seeks to destroy American democracy and the Social Security system or the exploited voters who keep him in office.

You cannot say the voters were not informed — they simply didn’t care about the threats. Republican voters who receive retirement payments through Social Security are literally voting against their own self-interests when they elect Lee and others who seek to end a system critical to millions of American seniors. Ignorance plays a major factor as well. Lee’s defenders believe he is a fighter on their behalf, but do they fully understand the motive behind cutting Social Security is to pay for tax cuts benefiting the wealthy? When we consider the exploited Utah voter, we should always remember Bernie Sanders and his constant warning about the one percent. We also cannot forget the history of American aristocracy.

We must remember where we came from in order to answer the simple question, “Why is America such a divided nation based on economic disparities?” Part of our nation’s heritage comes from being a British colony. Great Britain was America’s mother country. With the expansion of the British Empire westward into North America, the idea of aristocracy came with it. Winning the fight for national freedom in the Revolutionary War meant the American colonists were no longer tied to the British hereditary aristocracy. This signaled the end of the type of ruling class in which the title of king or queen was handed down from parent to child. By moving from a hereditary aristocracy to a social aristocracy, Americans were not necessarily free from a society where the most vulnerable citizens were ruled by those who were the most powerful, affluent and privileged. Aristocracy is simple.

You have a small group of people who put themselves in the position of control because they view themselves as superior and truly believe they are the best qualified to rule the entire population. By way of arrogance and a sense of superiority, a small minority within America (the wealthy) has a disproportionate concentration of political power and influence. The priority for aristocrats is to avoid sharing wealth by keeping as much of it as possible exclusively to members of the highest social and economic class. They will achieve this goal even if it means using their political influence in the destruction of critical programs (Social Security), the destruction of human life (opposing meaningful gun regulation) and the destruction of the earth (denial of climate change).

Generally, aristocrats enjoy political power and influence which far exceeds their few numbers by way of exploitation. The majority of Utah residents are not wealthy, but masses of poor and middle-class Republicans will happily vote for someone who wants take away their Social Security. What happens in Utah occurs in all red states. The politics of Sen. Lee makes Utah a good example of how gullible voters will use their one vote/one voice to follow politically, racially and cultural divisive rhetoric rather than support the economic and safety matters benefitting their households and communities.

The attack on social entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security programs should consider the fact millionaires receive Social Security even when they don’t need it. If senators like Mike Lee and Florida’s Rick Scott are determined to cut Social Security, they should start with those making up the one percent. Why should billionaires and other wealthy individuals be entitled to Social Security benefits when they really don’t need it?

The maximum Social Security benefit in 2022 is $2,364 for someone who files at 62. It is $4,194 if the person files at age 70. The system is no doubt in trouble. One potential way to help the struggling system is to stop protecting the wealthy. If a “means-test” is applied, it could reduce or even eliminate benefits for wealthy retirees who didn’t need the money. In 2017 more than 47,500 millionaires received Social Security benefits totaling $1.4 billion annually. The perception that the people who are draining government entitlement programs are all poor and middle-class individuals is far from the truth.

Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization TRB: The Reconciled Body and author of the book “God Bless Our Divided America.”

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1 Comment

  1. . Remember this, Social Security funds come from employees and their employers. Not the government.
    Also note in 1969 The Government stole funds out of the Social security to fund their welfare programs. Then Under Bill Clinton’s regime therly stole more trillion to fund Medicare for .

    This is why Social security is in financial he’ll. In both cases the government was to pay back the Social security funds with interest.

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