Friday, November 21, 2003

Bid to Change Social Security Is Back
Bush Aides Resurrect Plan for Personal Retirement Accounts

The Democrats are chomping at the bit for Bush to try and revive his 2000 campaign plan to privitize social security as a reelection platform. I'd be wary if I were them. On one hand it is a terrible idea. Bush wants to divert individual social security contributions into private investment. The infamous instability of recent markets and the newly uncovered corruption of the mutual fund industry doesn't really lend this idea much credibility. But we're dealing with the Bush White House-They spin an issue like rumplestiltskin spinning straw into gold-and they will do whatever thay can to make this reform not just palettable, but appealling-From the post-

'Bush aides said he will make the longtime conservative goal more palatable by discussing changes to Social Security as part of a set of plans encouraging what he calls an "ownership society" in which minorities receive help buying homes, seniors have a choice of health care, and employees control part of their retirement savings.'

This is all a bunch of crap-first he's lumping a bunch of appealing ideas like health care and home ownership under the umbrella of social security. (What he's actually saying is "You can take your social security money and buy private health insurance or a house with it") these issues are separate. But they do look good to someone having social security taken out of their check while having trouble paying immediate bills. Also, alot of younger people don't worry about their retirement yet-and the republicans are going to exploit that-

'The public groundwork for Bush's new campaign on the issue began this week. After consulting the White House and the Social Security Administration, Graham on Tuesday proposed a Social Security Solvency and Modernization Act that would keep people 55 and older in Social Security with no changes but would allow workers 54 and younger to contribute as much as 4 percent of their payroll taxes, up to $1,300 a year, into a personal account they would own and control.'

So they're offering the younger generation the chance to get more money now. Money they can use in the immediate. But remember-it's invested money-far from a stable or steadfast way to plan for the future. It's also easily accessible. With this plan if someone wanted to take their social security and buy lotto tickets with it they could easily do just that. The point of social security is just what it says-a social program to guarentee citizens future security once their earning power is gone. Not a superfund to give people a little money when they need it right now-a truly progressive government would address these issues elsewhere-like raising minimum wage, or lowering middle class taxes.

This is designed to appeal to two mindsets that could easily support it-The first is this guy, "I don't know why I gotta pay into social security when it's not even gonna exist when I retire" That is a widely held belief among the younger generation-(so you know-I'm not a geezer looking down on gen x-I'm 28) Alot of us think the fund will be empty when we hit retirement-guess what -it will if we vote for programs like this. A program of fiscal responsibility and social security protection, like Al Gore's famous "lock box" would insure it was still there when we need it so calm down.

The second mind set this new plan will appeal to is the "college fund" syndrome. When I was growing up I thought that my parents had a college fund for me. They had been putting money into it since I was a baby and it was accruing interest, waiting for me to go off to college. Alot of my friends thought they had these-guess what-it never existed-What did exist was a ton of Stafford and other loans. That's the reality. But I never had any doubt that as far as college went, I was covered, no problem. I was covered-but not by a magic security blanket-by a government program of college loans. Social Security produces a similar mindset-it's always there. Everyone knows someday they get to retire and relax after a life of toil. Studies have already shown that companies offering retirement plans are dwindling, so without a stable, funded system of Social Security the options become eat cat food or work yourself into the grave. Fun golden years huh?

The Democrats have to remember these schools of thought-they have to counter this BS plan for Social Security with the truth in plain language, coupled with plans to raise the minimum wage and offer universal healthcare (that last one especially since rising medical insurance costs take a way bigger chunk of the paycheck than social security does). But don't take it for granted as an obvious failure as a platform. Karl Rove thinks it's a great idea to run on-that alone should tell you not to blow it off-they have a plan to sell it. The dems just have to pay attention and make damn sure nobody's buying.

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