mercredi, février 09, 2005

False Witness

I have heard three justifications for why the President wants to overhaul Social Security.

First, I’ve heard that it is in line with his overall philosophy of self sufficiency. The government should not support the individual, the individual should support herself. The government should promote self-sufficiency and discourage reliance on handouts and government aid. Social Security, in the President’s eyes, is not self-sufficiency – it’s more like aid, even though most Americans pay into it.

Second, and here comes the really cynical justifications, the President wants to create a boon for Wall Street. All this money, privately invested, will mean more management fees for all those Republicans who are brokers and financial advisors and fund managers and the like – all his buddies from Harvard and Yale. The Street will make a killing on this deal. They will make money hand over fist, all the President has to do is convince the public that Social Security is in dire straits AND THAT HIS SOLUTION WILL FIX IT (lies both).

Third, I’ve heard that if the President gives people perceived control over their retirement security, they will feel like investors. People who feel like investors act like investors, and investors (for the most part – your humble author excepted) vote Republican. So, if we change social security, remove the safety net inherent in spreading the risk through the community (if we stop supporting each other and stand on our own), then we will feel more vested in the outcome, we will favor conservative policies that promote the growth of our retirement fund, and we will vote for Republicans at every level.

Many readers (as if I have many readers, ha!) will note that I’ve been a little dishonest in my justifications here. I gave very short shrift to the primary justification (I didn’t even count it as one of the three), that Social Security needs to be fixed and the President’s proposal will fix it.

Our President, our charismatic-Christian President (who lacks charisma), this man who talks to God on a regular basis. Our President is a big old liar. He’s lying and he can’t stop lying.

He knew all along that Iraq was not a credible or immediate threat to the U.S.

He knew all along that they had no Weapons of Mass Destruction.

He knew all along that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and therefore no link between Saddam and the terror attacks of 9/11.

He was planning to attack Iraq as he was running for office, and everyone who can read knows it.

He lied about that too.

And he’s lying about Social Security now. This is what the President knows (this is why he’s lying again – same song second term):

There is no imminent crisis facing Social Security.

The Social Security system is in its best fiscal shape since its inception.

Social Security can pay full benefits until 2052.

After 2052, Social Security can pay 80% of its benefits even if no changes are made.

Most importantly, please everyone note, that privatization of social security will not address its supposed problems (and the President knows this).

In fact, privatization will make it worse (diverting payroll taxes into privatized accounts leaves enormous shortfalls in the Social Security trust funds), and the President knows this.

Look at your President-

1st Term: Iraq is a credible and immediate threat to the U.S.
2nd Term: Social Security is in crisis.

1st Term: Preemptive military action is the only answer.
2nd Term: Privatization is the only answer.

1st Term: War for big oil (rich get richer).
2nd Term: Privatization proposed for the Street (rich get richer).

1st Term: No WMD, no link to Al Qaeda, no credible threat, but Saddam bad man.
2nd Term: Social Security not in crisis, but privatization good anyway.

1st Term: Preemptive strike has led to thousands of casualties (things are worse)
2nd Term: Privatization will increase number of poor elderly (things are worse)

1st Term: The President lied with no consequences.
2nd Term: The President is lying…

I have a theory. Lying is like any other addiction. Once you start, it is hard to stop. This is especially true if you never reach rock bottom (and the President hasn’t – in fact, he gets positive reinforcement for his lies – Ten Commandments – eh!). You drink and nothing happens; you keep drinking. You lie and nothing happens; you keep lying.

So, what should we do to ensure Social Security viability past 2052?

Step one: Don’t panic.

Step two: Don’t believe the hype (a.k.a. the lies).

Step three: Finally look at the real justifications for our Liar’s actions; don’t let him fool us twice.

Step four: Increase the amount of wages that can be taxed for Social Security beyond the current $90,000 limit to $140,000.

Step five: Increase the age at which one becomes eligible for Social Security to be more in line with current life expectancy data. We’re paying longer because folks are living longer.

Step six: Consider investments outside of the Treasury Bonds (safest investment in the world), but don’t get carried away. Emphasis on consider.

Step seven: Hold the liar accountable for lying; stop the liar from lying; don't lie still while the liar lies. Wash the liar's lying mouth out with lye based soap.

Our Social Security system guarantees a decent, monthly benefit to all, one that increases every year with inflation, no matter how long you live, where you worked, how much you made, or how savvy an investor you are.

The stock market offers no such guarantees. Believe me when I tell you that it is possible (in fact easy) to lose money in the market.

The President seeks to move away from a system that is based in a philosophy we use all the time - spreading the risk (think of insurance, think of FEMA, etc.). Toward one where individuals rise or fall based on their own performance or guile. If you are good, then your retirement will be good. If you are not, well then…well…well?

Social Security has kept 90% of retired Americans out of poverty. It is one of the most successful government programs ever. It's operating expenses are 1% of its overall budget. Why change it?

Ask yourself why.

It’s not broken, and even if it was, the proposed fix would not fix it. The proposed fixer knows this.

Ask yourself why. I can think of three possible reasons.

Ask yourself why.