Bush is Sowing Confusion About Social Security.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
President Bush is using the 'Cato strategy' in his disinformation campaign to promote his Social Security plan, say Greens, who call for public discussion of caps, means testing, and other steps to prevent a shortfall.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Green Party leaders accused President Bush of using deceptive and unsupportable claims in his campaign to promote his Social Security privatization plan.
"Democrats won't say it, reporters won't say it, so Greens will: President Bush is deceiving the American people to sell his Social Security privatization scheme," said Pat Driscoll, California Green candidate in a special election for Congress (5th Congressional District) <http://www.driscollforcongress.org>.
"The chief criticism of the Democrats has been that the President isn't specific enough about the plan, and most of the media has covered it as a question of whether Mr. Bush will succeed in enacting his plan, rather than investigating the plan's background and details," added Mr. Driscoll. "Have none of them learned the lessons of President Bush's 2003 State of the Union, when he sold the American people an invasion of Iraq based on equally false information about WMDs, collusion with al-Qaeda, nuclear weapons materials, and an 'imminent threat' to the U.S.?"
Greens listed several falsehoods and distortions in Mr. Bush's promotion of his plan:
-- Mr. Bush claimed that, under his plan, younger Americans would be able to divert some of their Social Security payments into private accounts "so you can build a nest egg for your own future" -- but didn't mention that their Social Security benefit checks would thus be smaller.
-- Mr. Bush claimed that investments in privatized retirement accounts are guaranteed to increase, promising "Your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver." The stock market is a risk, and Wall Street investments are neither guaranteed to increase nor insured against losses.
-- The Bush plan doesn't transfer 'ownership' from the U.S. government to private citizens, but to Wall Street -- i.e., to whichever brokerage the citizen is investing through, with all the related fees and risks.
-- Mr. Bush is repeating his baseless claim that the current Social Security system will go broke by 2042. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that, unless the economy tanks, the current system will be able to pay 73% of benefits in 2042 and remain solvent until 2052. Social Security actuaries forecast that, without any changes, the system will remain in the black and providing full benefits through 2042. After 2042, its liabilities will amount to less than 1% of the national income.
Many Greens believe that the Bush Administration's intention is neither to fix nor save Social Security but to destroy it. The plan is motivated by ideology and by the greed of Wall Street firms who will make billions off privatization of Social Security. These lobbies, allied with think tanks with enormous influence in the Bush White House, especially the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and American Enterprise Institute, have made no secret of their desire to dismantle Social Security.
In 1983, Cato published an article ("Achieving
a Leninist Strategy"), urging destruction of Social Security, but,
since Social Security enjoyed both solvency and popularity, this would
require telling the American people that the program would soon break
down and that the only solution is privatization. The article emphasizes
how this scheme will benefit financial corporations.
The same long-time goal was acknowledged in a
January 5, 2005 memo from White House political aide Peter Wehner, who
wrote, "For the first time in six decades, the social security
battle is one we can win." The administration, said Wehner, must
"establish an important premise: the current system is heading
toward an iceberg. We need to establish in the public mind a key fiscal
fact: right now we are on an unsustainable course.". Wehner claimed
that private accounts would act as a wedge for future benefit cuts.
"President Bush is adhering to the Cato plan in order to promote his plan," said Peggy Lewis, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States.
"His rhetoric about an 'ownership society' means ownership, control, and profits for corporations, and an assault on the security and democratic power of working people."
According to the GAO projections, American taxpayers face a financial deficit of close to $43 trillion over the next 75 years, including $3.7 trillion from Social Security and $27 trillion from Medicare. Greens urge a more vigorous public debate about solutions to these shortfalls such as:
-- lifting the current cap on Social Security, which right now only taxes the first $90,000 of wages.
-- means testing, one of the least examined solutions, according to which those who have a retirement income above a certain level would not be eligible for Social Security. Lowering payments to the rich, say Greens, is consistent with Social Security's role as insurance for the elderly and other people in need.
-- by ending the federal government's removal of cash from the Social Security fund and replacing it with treasury notes, which will force the next generation to cover the cost when the notes become due. See "Show Me the Money" by Mark Weisbrot (AlterNet, February 19, 2005 http://www.alternet.org/story/21302/) on the fine-print expenses of President Bush's Social Security privatization plan.
The Green Party of the United States