Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Last Word on Social Security (Maybe)

I did say that I would do some research about the Social Security issue, didn’t I? I went to the AARP website and read their take on it. I learned two things:1.)Under "privatization," system reserves would be exhausted a full 20 years sooner than if the system was left completely alone. 2.) The "transition" costs—the costs of setting up this system of private accounts—are estimated to be $2 to $3 trillion dollars. So not only would Bush’s "solution" speed Social Security toward insolvency, it will add trillions to the insane deficit that Mr. Bush doesn’t seem to feel is a problem, despite warnings from numerous economic authorities—most notably Alan Greenspan.

This is not the most extensive research I have ever done on a subject...then again, we're generally not dealing with actual facts. "Experts" are attempting to make predicitons based on numbers fifty years out that are little more than best guesses, and the outcome can be slanted in whatever direction a particular expert wishes to push public opinion.  But I think I’ll throw in my lot with the AARP. Their suggestion:

"We can strengthen Social Security by making small adjustments, just as we've done in the past. These include raising the cap on wages subject to Social Security (currently you're taxed on income up to $90,000) and investing part of the Social Security surplus in other vehicles that pay higher interest than Treasury bonds do."

Some good news has been erupting about this whole Social Security debacle. It seems that Mr. Bush is failing miserably in his attempt to trump up the "crisis" in the system, and his solution is not exactly winning hordes of converts. In fact, as the President tours the country trying to stir up fervor for his plan, it is losing ground in the polls. It seems that the more people learn about Mr. Bush’s plan the less they like it. Well, let’s be honest; they’re not actually learning about it from him. His town hall meetings, staged, as always, in front of carefully chosen crowds of Bush supporters, are more like pep rallies than informational sessions. We don’t, in fact, know what Mr. Bush’s actual plan is. We only know he’s travelling from state to state hopping up and down and trying to get his crowds whipped up into a frenzy about how broken Social Security is. To the immense credit of the American people, they are not buying it. And, as the polls show exactly how much they are not buying it, Congressional Republicans are starting to sweat.

I am of two minds about the Social Security hype. It could be that Mr. Bush is really trying to make "fixing the system" his legacy, now that he doesn’t have to worry about re-election. He might truly believe that his exalted status as "War President," with the added bonus of a Republican Congress, gives him the carte blanche to ram through any program he desires. Or, it could be that the Republican master-minds, knowing that Americans would immediately focus on any attempt to monkey with Social Security, chose this hot-button topic for the president in order to deflect attention away from the mess he has created in Iraq.  And possibly more nefarious dealings in the waning years of the Oil Baron President. Which is more likely?  Or more frightening? 


  1. Isn't it a pity, and revealing about the character of Americans, that we can focus our attention on Bush's hand in our pocket (the Social Security privatization fiasco) but we never looked closely at the Iraq war?  We went to war against Iraq because the President lied to us about WMD that didn't exist.  Either he lied or he is incompetent -- take your choice -- either way, we didn't impeach him, we re-elected him!

    We are indifferent to the genocide in Darfur, we are indifferent to the scandal of Abu Ghraib, we are indifferent to so many things -- but try to screw us out of our Social Security and we wake up.

    In Iraq, we count the American war dead, and seem to be okay with the numbers -- I think we are oddly okay with 1500 dead soldiers and marines.  We rarely think about 10,000 seriously injured Americans.  And we don't count the Iraqi's -- although estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths range between 15,000 and 100,000. An Italian killed at a checkpoint gets global attention -- how many Iraqi's have been killed in the same manner?  Does anyone know?  Does anyone care?

    Sure, we responded to the tsunami -- an attention-riveting event of biblical proportions.  We could hardly ignore it, but credit must be given.  Too bad the genocide victims of Darfur are so far from shore -- they need a big wave to get some attention.

    I'm glad that Bush has been pushed back on Social Security, but I think Americans should be ashamed for supporting the Bush agenda, and for being so complacent and apathetic.

    As citizens of the great superpower, we ought to be more globally minded.  As citizens of the wealthiest nation on the planet, we ought to be more compassionate, more concerned, more aware of our less-fortunate neighbors.

    Americans need to open their eyes to see beyond the edge of their own pockets -- we have proved that we can resist Bush when we are awake and aware, now we need to apply that powe

  2. The Rolling Stone had a great article a month or so ago that hit some highlights on why this is not going to work. Also, they commented on the amount of commissions that the industry would make if this is put into action!  ALso, I agree with you, it is deflecting the focus from the war.

  3. The LA Times ran an op ed peice a few days ago that posited the idea that Bush and the Neocons simply hate government programs in principle, no matter whom they benefit.  

    Unless, of course, they are "faith based" or, more accurately, religious programs; then it's "by all means, fund 'em!"  Otherwise, it's all about private, corporate institutions taking over the reins and reaping the reward.

  4. The support for privatization in the face of monster deficits reminds me more of religious faith than reasoned decisions. It's the old I've made up my mind don't bother me with the facts routine.

    The person who has really earned my contempt is Greenspan. He came out for the tax cuts because the surplus was too high and he doesn't have the guts to say he was wrong and come out against Bush's programs which wil push the deficits even further into the stratosphere. :-( @#$****%%^$#


  5. Great essay on Social Security at

    The privatization of social security is really quite simple. People who pay into their own retirement systems get to keep their principle to hand down to their heirs, while collecting the interest as their 'social security'.

    And if social security is so good, why don't government employees pay into the system? They have their own system.

    Think about that.

    Also, the AARP slants a little to the left of the middle.

    I don't believe people under 30 think this is an issue. I believe Bush underestimated those in their 70s and 80s (and 90s). Even though they won't be affected, they are crying the loudest for fear of their children and grandchildren. I'm the 'child' of an 86-year old. For the life of me, I can't explain to him the principles of savings, mutual funds, IRA's, etc., compound interest, and principle and interest. Perhaps financial security needs to be taught in schools, along with with the three R's and spelling.

    Two sides to every issue. is another great website....a little to the right of the middle. Okay, maybe a lot to the right.

    Remember: Balance AOL/CNN with FOX Cable News. Look at all sides carefully and with an open mind.

  6. I had one other comment. I like your journal, but as a person who is coming to grips with middle-age, I find it extremely hard to read your journal because the colors make it seems two dimensional, which would have been a nice 'trip' thirty years ago, but my eyesight ain't taking so kindly to it today.


  7. There's great information on the SSI website itself.

    The Q&A's are straightforward.  If the SSI says there's going to be a problem in the future, I'm rather inclined to believe there might be a problem.

  8. I'm a so relieved to see that this isn't getting pushed through like he hoped. It's my understanding that many Republicans in the Senate aren't exactly backing it either. He might not be worried about winning another term, but they are.
    :-) ---Robbie