Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where have all the dollars gone...

Yeah, we're gonna have to privatize Social Security. It's just not working. It can't be fixed.

Never mind that it's one of the few government programs that does work. Granted, its constant and steady single-digit return on investment is far from stellar, but the program works as it should - to provide a retirement safety net.

See, the idea is that if you keep repeating that it's a failing program, people will believe it.

Why not? It worked when the administration wanted to march into Iraq. Where are those weapons of mass destruction? Here? No, maybe over here?

It's an oft-repeated strategy of repetition.

Republicans have been pushing this message so long and hard that most of America's young people and many of her old ones believe it too be true. Are you in your 20s or 30s? Do you think you'll be collecting Social Security? Neither did I.

Lucky me though. I did some research and found that the latest projections show that if left untouched, Social Security will continue paying out for about 34 years. Yippee. That puts me in my 70s, so I'll be getting some of mine.

That's assuming two things of course.

First, that the Republicans don't continue to try and squeeze it out of existence. And second, that a bi-partisan group of legislators actually sits down, does their job and finds ways to ensure that the popular program remains viable.

But Republicans really want to end this program. It's a reminder of all the social reforms they despise at the very core.

They don't see it as a successful program paid into by millions of hard-working Americans. They see it as an extension of welfare and food stamps. If you were successful and wise, you would have a comfortable retirement set up. Social Security is a wobbly crutch that encourages Americans to be less successful. To admit it has benefited millions of Americans would be to admit that perhaps their faith in the cult of big business was ill placed.

Therefore, the endless push to dismantle Social Security and hand it over to big business - privatization.

The problem is that most Americans don't want that. That's why you don't hear many Republicans utter the word privatization in the same paragraph - much less same sentence - as Social Security. What you will hear are terms like 'choice' and 'self direction'. It's all about distracting people with things that sound appealing until they become comfortable with them and thus slowly move toward the ultimate goal of handing over a functioning multi-billion dollar pention plan to big business.

That's not the only way for Republicans to attack Social Security though.

The second prong in the march to privatization is creating a fiscal crunch. It's one reason you don't hear much in the way of concern over neither the irresponsible deficit spending of the current administration nor the unwarranted tax kickbacks President Bush has championed since taking office.

See, there's a little secret that Republicans aren't letting you in on. They don't really mind big government - as long as it's their big government. They've been fertilizing and watering this one, that's for sure.

Who would have guessed that it would be the Republican guard that squandered the wealth of hard-working Americans? Well, a lot of Democrats it turns out. But that's a story for another day.

Today's story is about how Republicans are planning on stealing your retirement and giving away your grandchildren's security.

Eventually, all this spending has to be paid for. Even Republicans have to pay their tab sometime. And when the tab comes due, it's going to hurt the average Joe who will bear the brunt of footing the bill. If the bill is high enough, there will be no choice but to drastically cut government spending. Republicans are hoping that by then they'll have you convinced that it's Social Security - a program already funded - that's bleeding the country dry, not the massive bureaucracy building campaign they've been busy funding.

Thus, the tale of the two-pronged Republican assault on Social Security nears it's end. Only you should decide the final chapter...


Kate said...

"To admit it has benefited millions of Americans would be to admit that perhaps their faith in the cult of big business was ill placed." - A very astute statement.

The Republican distraction scheme is so predictable. Somehow Middle America's masses have fallen for it again & again.

When will it end? Sheesh.

Laura said...

At its core, social security exemplifies the belief some of us hold that governments are responsible for the welfare of their citizens - not just for upholding their civil and political rights, but also their social, cultural and economic rights - as put forth in many, many International human rights documents. The RIGHT to fair and living wages. The RIGHT to medical care.
The RIGHT to a social saftey net.

This is opposite conservative viewpoints that see government as only providing liberties FROM government as opposed to rights guaranteed BY the government.

Miranda said...
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Miranda said...

My argument against social security is not that it hasn't benefitted many Americans. It most
certainly has, but that does not make it a good system. Just like a pyramid scheme isn’t really a
good plan because it makes a good number of people rich.

Social Security is a program that works well if younger generations are larger than the older
generations receiving social security. It does not work well if there are fewer young workers than
there are retirees. The fact that there are going to be more retirees than workers is not, in my
estimation, the fault of Republicans. If liberals have any one group blame for the program failing, it is their own. At the same time they pushed for a program that needed more and more younger workers, they also pushed for more "choice" and "self determination." They pushed abortion and birth control on Americans like crazy. And whether that was right or wrong (everyone knows what I think already), it meant that fewer babies were born. And having fewer babies means
having fewer workers later. Which means Social Security has a serious problem.

Another reason Social Security doesn't work right is because it became something it wasn't
designed to be. It was never supposed to be someone's full retirement plan. It was supposed
to be a supplement for those in need. But because people could rely on aid from social security,
they stopped planning for their own retirement. Those who DID plan, now take cruises because of
the money they get. And younger workers pay for that. If people took only what they needed, the
system might have a better chance of staying.

You can blame Republicans if you like. And maybe they’ve done things with the system they
shouldn’t have. But the fact is, it wouldn’t work even if they hadn’t. It's a system that WILL fail without larger generations.

I don't doubt that many Republicans want to take the money out to do other things with it. I don't doubt that Democrats do either. Who it's hard not to want to take the treasure off a sinking ship.

That said, I'm not convinced that "privatization" is salvation. It's still not letting people do what they want/need with the money they earn. And I suspect that the president's alternative is another plan destined to fail.

I'd like to see people help out and support their families like they used to before everyone relied
on social security to do it. And I'd like to see more non-government programs for seniors. But those things can't be forced by a legislature. So something else will have to be done. Maybe
Republicans will have to give up funding for some of their pet projects. Maybe Democrats will
have to give up funding for some of theirs. But neither group will do it willingly.

I think the people ought to be able to vote on it. My votes are for cutting NEA funding (and that's
not just because it's liberal. Bush DID request an $18 Million Budget increase for it) and getting
rid of NCLB. Cutting those funds, of course, is only a temporary fix. A long-term solution is to
let more babies be born, but I don’t think that’s a particularly popular idea.

Sadie Lou said...

I think both parties are responsible. Democrats refuse even to join a bipartisan commission to look at the options for reform. Reformation of Social Security is a calling card issue for Democrats but when push comes to shove, they are just as inactive as Republicans.
I just don't think anyone cares that the program has promised more money then they can pay out--in the Trillions upon trillions and this won't be a problem for them--but for us and our grandkids.

greatwhitebear said...

actually, SS would be solvent as far into the future as one could see if congress would quit borrowing all the trust fund money to pay for wars and military adventures. I the government ever payed back all the money it ahs "borrowed" from the ss trust fund, non e of us would ever have to pay a dime in SS tax again.

Shawn said...

Sadly, the real pyramid scheme is being run by the Republicon party. A relative few have convinced millions to buy into their scheme and some have gotten much richer from it. Those not sitting in the boardrooms of big business might do well to ask where their piece of pie is.

Anyone elected on a no-big-government ticket should have no problem trimming enough fat in three days of looking at the bloated Republican budget to fund Social Security and still have plenty to build the largest embassy in the world like the one we have planned for Iraq.

Ten minutes with the Justice Department budget and I came up with a quick 'not less than $4,000,000 for the investigation and prosecution of
denaturalization and deportation cases involving alleged Nazi war criminals'.

A drop in the bucket? Sure, but I'm just some guy wondering why we're paying at least $4 million to investigate and deport Nazi war criminals. Shouldn't a 'no-big-government' Republican professional? Just wondering...

Why are we assigning over 5 billion dollars to federal corrections facilities? Well, because we're wasting $1.7 billion by giving it to the Drug Enforcement Agency to fight a pseudo war on drugs.

Who, but a Republican politician could pretend that we need $21 million to pay for the stuff we're confiscating from criminals? We will take their ill-gotten gains to pay for law enforcement...but it might cost us more than we make.

This is all from one page of a 675 page budget for one Department.

The Republican party has managed to increase annual government spending half a trillion dollars in four years. When Clinton left office, the budget was $1.8 trillion and there was a $412 billion surplus. In 2004, the Bush Administration spent $2.3 trillion and had turned the surplus into a $412 billion deficit.

Call the program what you will, but the issue with Social Security isn't money and never has been. The problem is that it doesn't fit into the Republican world view.

They don't know how to run a government, and they don't want to leave any vestiges of a successful government to mock their incompetence.

This sinking ship is being captained by Republicans and they're too busy tossing the treasure to their big-business drinking buddies to bother guiding it through the shoals.

Shawn said...

Phew...time out for a second...

Thanks to everyone for joining in all the political talk. It's important to at least realize that we all have a stake in the direction our country goes and we all have a say at the election booth.

Kate - Thanks, I've been practicing in front of a mirror. I've been working hard to get from ass toot to astute!

L - You are such a traditional Liberal! You must be one of them elitist college snobs or sumthin...

Well, you might want to save the shipping box from your new couch. It might be your safety net if the Republicans keep mismanaging America.

M - I still like you even though on this one, you're very wrong.

Sadie L - What needs to happen is an honest attempt at a bi-partisan solution. In the mean time, the Republican party needs to stop their runaway spending spree. They're supposed to be running a functional government, not a corporate welfare machine.

GWB - It's a house of cards and this administration seems intent on pulling all the cards out at once.

Okay...everyone carry on again.


Laura said...

Why "Elitist College Snob" is my job title Shawn! Actually the college I work at is mostly non-traditional students (part-time and/or adults returning after an absence, pretty non-selective academically, large % first generation and minority)... to call it elite is a REAL stretch. But yes, all us Liberals are all the same...

I try not to post about work too much, but one of these days I'll simply have to reveal where it is and give a short history - because it's truly astounding the way it was founded. True liberty and democracy at its core... but I don't value those things.

Slade said...

Well said! I am so glad that I can count on your blog to always have some sort of liberal politics at work!

I am amazed that you and Miranda are still buds...I love to watch you 2 go back and forth and in the end still like each other! I think it's awesome.

Miranda said...

Long before President Bush said there was a problem with Social Security, former president Clinton said that there was a "looming fiscal crisis" for it.

Bush may have recognized a problem with the system, but he certainly wasn't the one who fabricated the crisis. If you don't remember Clinton's 1999 State of the Union address (I had to look it up, it wasn't particularly memorable to me), this old CNN article has a few telling quotes.

Clinton ignores impeachment, calls for Social Security reform

Vowing first to protect Social Security with trillions in expected budget surpluses, President Bill Clinton unveiled on Tuesday a variety of initiatives in his seventh State of the Union address to Congress.

Clinton proposed committing 60 percent of the budget surplus for the next 15 years -- an estimated $2.7 trillion -- to Social Security, investing a small portion in the private sector, just as any private or state government pension would do. "This will earn a higher return and keep Social Security sound for 55 years," he said.

His third main item was creating a new pension initiative for retirement security in the 21st century. He suggested using 11 percent of the surplus to establish universal savings accounts, or USA accounts. They would give U.S. citizens the means to save as they chose, he said.

Sounds suspiciously like the Bush plan, doesn't it?

Miranda said...

Slade: I'm amazed too. I think it's because we bribe each other with milk and cookies. ;)

That and the fact that Shawn is as reasonable as I am stubborn.

Sadie Lou said...

I fully agree. The spending is out of control right now. For the record--I'm pretty sure I'm not voting Republican in '08.
(and I'm pushing for a more balanced Congress this Nov.)

Shawn said...

L - Actually the college I work at is mostly non-traditional students

I'm glad you clarified on this part. For a second I was worried you were working at some woo woo, crazy California-type, massage school or somethin'.

Slade - Glad to put a little a skip in your step. It's hard to believe that a teacher, of all things, would have some Liberal leanings. Weird. Whoooodathunkit?

Sadie L. - I like balance too. It seems to keep the extremists reined in and forces people to cross the aisle to get things done. When that happens, all of America gets some representation instead of a small group taking not just the whole pie but the ice cream too.

M - Cookies always work on me!

I've got no problem with overhaul, even the finest automobile needs one after a number of years. I'm also for encouraging retirement planning separate from Social Security.

If we still had that enormous surplus (the one we got without straining our wallet fingers at all), it would be great to use it to set Social Security up for continued success.

The difference is that the Clinton plan had a way of funding it because under his watch he erased the deficit and was running the government with a surplus. Any plan Bush comes up with - regardless of the merits - will always come with the disclaimer, 'Well, it would be great if we had the money...'

It's the difference between fiscal responsibility and the kind of fiscal negligence caused by tossing our money around like it's a joke.

gregg said...

It must be so gratifying to wake up every morning and have "the Republicans" to blame for all the worlds woes.
It's my understanding that I would be able to take a percentage(5-11%) of what I put into social security to invest as I see fit. That kind of personal ownership of my tax money is appealing. I believe that the influx of "new money" into stocks and bonds and other investments, would serve to fuel our economy at a significant rate, perhaps creating new businesses or strengthening existing entities. I don;t really see a downside to this stratagy at all, hell even silver certificates get a better return than s.s. does.

tshsmom said...

Absolutely correct, GWB!!
We would also all be able to have free health care AND a solvent SS, IF we collected all the back taxes the big corporations owe us.

Don't feel bad, Sadie. I don't think I'll be voting for a Rep OR a Dem in '08, unless a major miracle occurs and they run somebody with PRINCIPLES!

Miranda said...

Shawn: Good! I'm baking some to try out the house's oven!

Fair enough, although some credit for that is due to to the Republican Congress.

And it isn't at all fair to say that Republicans created a Social Security scare to distract people from what was going on in Iraq.

They didn't create it. They borrowed Clinton's idea.

You said this:
"Therefore, the endless push to dismantle Social Security and hand it over to big business - privatization. "

Your accusation wasn't merely that Bush had spent a lot of money and wasn't able to pay for his plan. It was that he'd created a Social Security Scare and was trying to dismantle the system.

But Bush's plan is pretty much the same as Clinton's. Was Clinton trying to dismantle Social Security and hand it over to big business?

When I was younger and Kids Voting came around, someone said that kids would never be allowed to vote, because they'd just vote the same way as their parents. To prove them wrong, I voted for Ross Perot. But the truth of the matter is I didn't really want the policies Perot pushed for enacted.
I didn't believe in what he stood for at all. And I think that by voting that way, I proved that some kids (kids like me), aren't ready to vote.

I won't vote for a Democrat just to "balance" things out. If a Democrat starts advocating things I believe in, and the Republican won't, then I'll vote for a Democrat. Vote for what and who you believe in. Balance or no balance. Unless, of course, a balanced government is your highest priority.

Laura said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laura said...

How do we really know what a politician advocates for or doesn't though? I suppose if we dug into individual voting records we could get a glimpse - but how much is true advocacy and belief in priciples and how much is posturing? Just take the wedge issues from '04 for instance... Everyone who "advocated" for the marriage ammendment seems to have shut up about that now that it served the purpose of getting the wingnuts out to vote in droves. They dropped it for a while, and now it's back - just in time for 2006. We'll also see an increase in terror alerts as well.

So, it's nice to say in theory, that I vote for someone because of what they stand for - but often times what they stand for isn't exactly clear. All the more reason we need a multi-party system - to have some real choices and not just have to choose between bad and worse.

Sadie Lou said...

I won't vote for a Democrat just to "balance" things out. If a Democrat starts advocating things I believe in, and the Republican won't, then I'll vote for a Democrat.

That theory hasn't been working so I'm going to try something new.
I have been voting in line with my convictions since I was 18 and I want to shake things down a bit.
The current situation we have now is not working.

Twba said...

Can you answer my question or are you stumped?

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