Social Security is a moral institution, Democratic strategist James Carville said.
The program has brought the rate of poverty amongst the elderly down from 30% in 1965 to 9.5%, despite a recession.
“That is the act of a just and moral nation,” Carville said on Tuesday's The Rachel Maddow Show. “That about two-thirds the number of old people in this country who go to bed cold or hungry has been reduced.”
Rebuilding the middle class by strengthening social programs and cutting health care and education costs is crucial to the upcoming election, Carville said, and many in the Beltway just don't get it. The middle class won't vote for candidates who want to cut their Social Security to fund wars and bank bailouts, he argued.
"They're not stupid. They'll pay for Social Security if it's to strengthen Social Security for their retirement," Carville said. "They won't pay for the mistakes that Washington made."
Much of the Beltway's mistake, he said, is in its focus. “We make a fundamental error: We say the biggest problem we have in our country is the deficit. You look at that and say, ‘Well, let’s cut entitlements,” Carville said.
Carville, co-author of the new book It’s The Middle Class, Stupid!, said that candidates spend too much time speaking in macro-economics terms without addressing the economy's effects on the middle class itself.
“[Middle-class voters] were kind of against the stimulus because they thought it was just throwing money at a problem," he said. "If you would have done many of the same things and said, 'This is a problem to help the middle class, we need to build infrastructure in this country, to be more constructive'—they would support that instantly.”
Carville’s final advice for candidates? “They know how much trouble they’re in, they know what they’re having to do, and they want somebody to show them that there’s a way out,” Carville said. “The person that does that is going to be rewarded.”