|March 14, 2005|
Was Bush's Social Security Plan Inspired by National Lampoon?
by The Angry Liberal
My friends, the current Social Security battle is the most important domestic issue facing us. And in their traditional style, the Democrats are missing the real issue. During the last campaign, John Kerry criticized the Iraq War, not because it is illegal, immoral, and unnecessary, but because Bush isn't executing it properly. I understand that Democrats are floating a resolution that would criticize our detention personnel in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay for serving instant coffee to detainees. And not offering decaf at all. Oh, the humanity.
In case the Democrats would like a real talking point on Social Security, allow me to offer the following: George W. Bush's assault on Social Security has nothing to do with the solvency of the system. It has nothing to do with his concern with the quality of life for retirees or the disabled. The true motivation for forcing the Social Security program into private hands was apparently inspired by National Lampoon magazine.
First, let's talk briefly about Bush's bogus arguments for implementing his capitalist poison pill, a.k.a. Social Security reform. Dubya likes to talk about the Social Security program going "bankrupt" by 2042. This is ridiculous. First, what actually happens in 2042 is that Social Security would start paying out more than it takes in. By this standard of "bankruptcy," the federal government has been bankrupt since the day it was formed, paying out more than it took in almost every year of its existence. Moreover, George W. Bush has made the government's "bankrupt" condition much worse, adding over $2 trillion to the federal debt since he took office. Bush's governmental "bankruptcy" wasn't imposed on America because we had a Civil War to fight or a Great Depression to get out of. It was done because Bush and the Republicans in Congress simply refused to collect tax revenues to match their expenditures. "Bankrupting" Social Security by the same standard would at least occur for a noble cause: The care of our nation's elderly and disabled. "Bankrupting" the United States Government in order to excuse our richest citizens from most or all of their tax liability doesn't even pass the giggle test. Or the nausea test, for that matter.
Next, if Bush is really concerned about the fiscal state of Social Security, why does he keep spending its trust fund? In 2000, Al Gore made moving the Social Security trust fund off budget a central theme of his presidential campaign. Remember Gore's "Lock Box" idea that Republicans used to make fun of? Well, nobody is laughing now. For the last four years George W. Bush has spent every penny of the Social Security trust fund - over $151 billion last year alone, and about $629 billion since he took office - to offset the giant hole in the federal budget created by his refusal to collect sufficient tax revenue. Although other presidents have done the same thing with the trust fund, this action by a man who claims to be worried about the financial health of Social Security, is staggeringly hypocritical. Friends, this is money paid into the system by people earning the minimum wage. It is the most regressive tax we have, being assessed on the first penny you make and ending at the $90,000 income level. That's right, somebody who earned a million dollars in income last year paid no more total Social Security tax than somebody who earned $90,000. And that millionaire paid that tax at the same rate as his maid. To throw that hard-earned money into the general fund in order to offset taxes avoided by corporations and the super-rich is, quite simply, a crime against the American taxpayer. Why the nation's poor and middle class workers aren't grabbing their torches and pitchforks and marching toward the White House over this issue is beyond me.
But this is all information you should be familiar with already (and shame on you if you weren't). Let's talk about the real motivations behind Bush's and the Republicans' desperate attempt to destroy Social Security. You know, the reasons that the Democrats seem unable to either grasp or articulate.
Bush's proposal to privatize Social Security has nothing to do with saving the system. Upon close examination, the basic concept is unbelievably stupid. Instead of collecting taxes from rich people and corporations, the government borrows those same dollars. Then it gives the borrowed dollars right back to the very people they borrowed them from in exchange for some of their stock certificates. At the end of this transaction, the rich investors have a guaranteed income from their investment in government debt, while the disabled and retired have a pile of paper, formerly owned by the rich investors and corporations, that is worth whatever those same investors feel like paying for it. Since the value of the private investments will be set by these investors, Enron-style corporate manipulation of this system will abound. Honestly, is there anybody in America who really thinks that Enron stock wouldn't have been part of private portfolios if these dumb retirement accounts had existed ten years ago? With Republicans controlling both Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street, regulators could use the retirement accounts as financial dumping grounds, sending all kinds of artificially overvalued stocks into our portfolios in exchange for campaign contributions. Instead of seeing a bunch of Enron employees crying about the demise of that corporation a few years ago, we could have seen disabled and senior citizens across America crawling through dumpsters as their privatized Social Security income dried up.
This brings us to the real reason for Bush's obsession with this program. A few years ago, much was made of the "cowardice" of Saddam Hussein during the runup to the war. He was accused of using Iraqis as human shields, placing large numbers of citizens around military targets and moving the military targets to civilian areas. Only a miserable coward, it was said, would endanger the lives of his nation's citizens in order to protect himself.
Folks, the privatization of Social Security would use America's most vulnerable as human shields for Corporate America. By forcing the very survival of retirees to depend on corporate profits, Bush and the Republicans would force future generations to guarantee those corporate profits. Any time legislation would be considered that could negatively impact an industry's profits, Republicans would drag out Granny, who would tearfully testify to Congress that she would starve if either of her two shares of Engulf & Devour, Inc. paid smaller dividends. The fat cats who make millions from stock ownership would quietly use Granny as a human shield, knowing that Americans would never stand still while her meager retirement income was cut. And since Granny and the fat cats would get their income from the same stream, the income of the fat cats would never be cut, either. Would you like to breathe cleaner air? Forget it. The investment required by factories would cut profits and force Uncle Ted to give up meat on Wednesdays. How about increasing the fuel efficiency of automobiles? Not a chance. GM is too heavily dependant on SUV profits, and a slump in those sales would mean that Aunt Frieda would have to switch from canned cat food to dry cat food. And she doesn't even own a cat. Grandpa can't afford to raise the minimum wage. The old lady across the street can't afford to install new equipment to prevent repetitive motion injuries. That quiet neighbor kid whose father was killed in Bush's war can't afford a cut in old-growth logging. And nobody at the old folks' home could possibly survive a military downsizing. Ladies and gentlemen, the driving force behind Social Security privatization is loosely based on the famous National Lampoon Magazine cover: If you don't buy the corporate line, we'll kill this old lady. That is the real motivation behind the Republicans' desperate attempt to sell this program to America. And the Democrats aren't even talking about it
An old Smith Barney ad used to use this slogan: "We make money the old-fashioned way: We earn it." If Bush and the Republicans are allowed to force retired Americans to depend on corporate profits for their very survival, making money by earning it will seem old-fashioned, indeed.
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