Monday, November 29, 2010

Social Security Scapegoat

It’s time for the American public to blow a big hole in the proposals now being seriously considered to “solve the budget crisis.” As noted in my last blog, the onus, as always, is meant to fall on the poorest among us. We have been hearing ad nauseam the mantra that the Social Security system is driving the nation into insolvency. Therefore, recent proposals to “solve” the debt crisis—brought on, it should be remembered, by two unpaid-for and unnecessary wars, the Reagan-Bush-Bush reductions in tax income on the wealthy, and of course the outright thievery of Wall Street financiers that produced the housing bubble, and crash—always target Social Security. ‘We’ll all have to make sacrifices,’ is the song line. Which means, you, you poor gullible assholes, will have to sacrifice as usual.

Unless, that is, everyone remembers some simple facts, the first of which is: Social Security is NOT responsible in any way for the current deficits. Indeed, Social Security right now runs surpluses—that is, the money paid in, by workers themselves—outstrips the money paid out. And remember, it’s your money you’ve been paying in for a lifetime. You may recall, in fact, the campaign promises of our presidential candidates a few years ago, who promised that Social Security funds would be “put in a lock box.” What that referred to is the fact that right now, according to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare ( ), there is a “$2.6 trillion dollar trust fund built up by American workers over decades.” That’s $2.6 trillion folks. Except for the fact that the federal government, to disguise the deficits it runs each time we have a war, borrows from the SS trust fund, and is thereby obligated to pay it back, with interest. This raiding of the Trust Fund started in 1968 when Pres. Lyndon Johnson got legislation passed—he was building up American involvement in the Vietnam War, and of course wanted to tout “both guns and butter” (their guns, our butter)—started the game. The Trust Fund was allowed to be mixed with the General Fund, and off we went.

Bottom line: not only does Social Security run a surplus, the Federal Government owes the Social Security Trust Fund a ton of money, which it has to pay back with interest. It is in this sense only that Social Security could be said—by a blatant liar—to be contributing to the deficit. A more honest assessment would admit that, in fact, Social Security has contributed to the government’s solvency by supplying it with unused SS funds (the surplus) to disguise its deficits. Is the government grateful? Are the fiscal hawks grateful? Au contraire, mon ami. These bastards resent having to pay all that money back. It will break us! they whine. So let’s kill the goose that lays the golden eggs!

Sounds unbelievable, but that is the proposal coming out of such august bodies as the President’s Commission on Reducing the Deficit, and the Domenici/Rivlin plan referred to in a previous post. Let’s raise the retirement age, cut the COLAs (cost of living adjustments), force seniors to pay more for prescription drugs, and find other ways to cut benefits to the poorest among us. The key thing is to help business! Domenici/Rivlin, in fact, propose giving businesses a one-year Social Security tax “holiday” (we all love holidays, right?) that would reduce government income by $650 billion. It’s not enough that the money-grubbing swine who drove us into this ditch have all been bailed out—with government funds, some of which no doubt came from that SS Trust Fund. Now we have to give them another “holiday” while cutting the pathetic benefits given to the old folks. I tell you, if the American people fall for this one, they deserve to be rooting around in garbage bins to survive.

Fortunately, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has organized a day of protest. The Committee is calling on all interested parties (and if there’s someone who plans on not getting older, I’d like to hear from him/her) to take part in a day (Tuesday, Nov. 30) of calling Congress and making two demands: 1) NO cuts to Social Security for deficit reduction, and 2) a $250 payment this year to SS beneficiaries in lieu of no cost-of-living increases (COLAs) the past two years. Here’s the number of a hot line that will connect you to your Congressperson’s office: 800-998-0180. CALL, because you can be sure the other side will be shouting their ears off.

While you’re at it, you might want to cast a vote of support for Representative Jan Schakowsky’s plan for deficit reduction. Shakowsky is the only people’s representative on the Deficit Commission, and her plan amounts to getting some budget reductions by such unheard-of expedients as “$144.6 billion in tax increases, $110.7 billion in defense cuts and $17.2 billion in healthcare savings through a public option.” And definitely no cuts in Social Security. As the Huffington Post quoted Shakowsky re: the Bowles-Simpson proposal to cut SS benefits: Using Social Security to address the deficit “is like attacking Iraq to retaliate for the September 11 attacks.”

Of course there are legions of benighted souls in America who would respond: what’s wrong with that? But perhaps there are other legions who get the point. Let us hope so; because as it stands now, the greatest push seems to be coming from the yahoos, who clearly see the current series of shocks (remember the Shock Doctrine?) as their best opportunity to, once and for all, get rid of the most hated of Roosevelt’s “giveaways”: Social Security.

Lawrence DiStasi

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