How Bush Plans to Ruin Social Security

Do you ever feel like you’re surrounded by Chicken Littles?

Our erstwhile barnyard protagonist was enjoying himself until an acorn struck him on the head. Afraid the sky was falling, he preached doomsday to anyone who would listen, almost leading his friends to their deaths at the hands of a hungry predator.

As an American, I routinely see well-intentioned men and women walking through life unaware of the world around them until a bit of misinformation strikes them. Panicked, their newfound zealotry not only marks them with naiveté, it also propagates a dangerous lie.

In recent times, falsehoods masquerading as dire predictions have all but run policy in the United States. From the war in Iraq fought over non-existent weapons and vague ideologies to “protecting the sanctity of marriage” by excluding gays from the right to a civil union, foreign and domestic lawmaking is pushed by the frantic notion that the world is in danger, regardless of the veracity of the claim.

Such is the case with the Bush Administration’s desire to overhaul Social Security. In the past month the program’s shortcomings have become the president’s pet project; according to high-ranking Republicans, the only way to “fix” its associated “problems” is to privatize the whole affair. I emphasize “fix” and “problems” because, frankly, the only problem that will be fixed under the current proposal is the sagging profits of Wall Street hucksters.

The President is gearing up to spend between $50-100 million to convince susceptible Americans that the sky is indeed falling, and that if Social Security isn’t changed to suit his whims the economy is hosed.

Social Security is simple: pay in while you work and you get that amount back, plus interest, when you retire. It keeps wealth inside our borders, helps people save money (let’s face it, Americans are staggeringly bad when it comes to long-term financial savings) and provides a generational assistance — today’s youth support their elderly.

Its administrative costs are less than one percent of the overall amount of money the trust maintains every year, and depending on who you talk to, Social Security can stay in the black for another half-century.

Does that sound like a money pit to you?

The Bush Administration would have you think so, and that is why it is so keen on questioning its solvency. Let’s take a moment to analyze how the benefits structure would change under the new plan.

Social Security payments are currently calculated on the rate of the increase in wages, a fairly accurate gauge of the rise in the cost of living. It helps ensure that the money you’re given in 30-40 years will have the same amount of purchasing power that it does today — it’s also a safe amount of inflation that still allows the government to judiciously use the money in the interim without loss (it doesn’t, but that’s another story).

Bush’s plan would instead tie Social Security to an inflation index. Sounds benign, right? Wrong. Inflation is not an indicator of economic growth or prosperity (it weakens the buying power of the dollar), and the mercurial nature of a percentage index is tied to things outside the control of normal interest accruement. Tie it into a system like the stock market, which is equally unstable, and you might begin to see a problem.

It gets worse. As the Washington Post has cited, the Office of the Chief Actuary of the SSA has admitted “[t]he negative effect is extraordinary. For example, a middle-class worker retiring in 2022 would see guaranteed benefits cut by 9.9 percent. Those who earned average wages throughout his or her career and retired in 2042 would see their benefits cut by 26 percent. And, a worker who retires in 2075, would receive monthly Social Security benefits 46 percent lower than under the current structure.”

Are you prepared to sacrifice half of your grandchildren’s Social Security benefits because the Bush Administration says so? With something this important looming in the public consciousness, is it not the responsibility of the people to look at the acorn that just fell on their head and realize it’s not a chunk of sky?

Of course it is, and if we lived in a country where mainstream media reported on issues the public should know about, Bush’s plan would fail before it even started gathering momentum.Unfortunately, we live in the United States.

In the past two days, President Bush has warned a group of young Texans of their grim future (are they about to be shipped off to fight in Iraq, too?) and scolded people for warning the elderly of benefits lapses. He’s right on both counts — but only if you apply his skewed logic towards his own plan.

Bush’s people understand that they face an uphill battle in convincing millions of people that his plan is best for Americans because it isn’t. Privatizing would raise administrative costs alone by 10 to 30 times for less benefits. It’s not a salve on the deep gash currently sliced across the American economy. It’s a trap, a swindle, a con, and in the end it will only hurt the American people.

This is an administration that has botched Medicare to the tune of $6 trillion by seeking to rework its benefits packages (over 300,000 men and women were dropped from expanded Medicaid programs this month in Tennessee alone thanks to budget shortfalls created by Bush) and has eliminated the possibility of allowing the importation of cheap prescription medication from Canada. They are incapable of thinking of responsible financial measures that would help resolves the growing economical crisis here.

But who cares, right? Bush’s rich financial friends want to reap profits off of the almost assuredly complex privatization of each person’s SS account, and that’s all that matters. Will the propaganda work? That’s up to you. Bush is hedging his bets that the same ignorant morass of humanity that “re-elected” him and still advocate Saddam Hussein’s role in 9/11 will believe he’s being honest. He’s not. Prove him wrong, educate yourself on the issue and you’ll find that the heavens are still above your head, that there’s no need to hide in the lair of the hungry fox and that all your frantic belief in a lie is just chicken scratch.