He's gotten grumpier and grumpier about some current attitudes toward Social Security. He thinks many politicians just don't understand the issues. "It's stupid politics by my judgment," he says.
Bernstein, 88, who has been a recipient of Social Security since he was 70, after he retired from teaching at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, says, "The argument against Social Security in the 1990s was 'You aren't making enough money on the money you were putting into it. If only you had a chance to invest in the market. ...' Since then, the market is a mess. I know all kinds of people of modest means with 401(k)s who can't retire because the value has disappeared. The gloss is off that plan to the extent that there ever was any."
That means Social Security is "far more important than it ever was," Bernstein says.
"But the thing I really don't understand is the lack of business support for Social Security. Social Security will pay the living expenses of 56 million people this year -- one of every six Americans -- a total of $800 billion, which used to be a lot of money. (Drug stores, grocery stores,) wouldn't you think their top executives would sit up and say, 'If you cut Social Security, it's going to cut into our business?
"Business is heavily dependent on Social Security. If it's cut -- even they just trim the cost of living adjustment -- what are people going to buy food and medicine with -- food stamps?
"Businesses don't have to be idealistic. They just have to recognize that when people are prosperous, they make better customers."