Sunday, December 12, 2004

Social Security - Crisis? What Crisis?

do you feel lucky, Grandma? well, do you?

Bob Somerby and Kevin Drum both attack the phony story being spread by the Bush team and dutifully echoed by the press that Social Security is in "crisis." Somerby focuses on the disingenuous David Brooks, who repeats the spin point that in 1935 there were 42 workers for every retiree, and soon there will be only two to one. This is, as Bob points out, irrelevant (see talking points, below). Kevin quotes Rep. Robert Matsui as saying the administration's false alarmism is ideologically driven. There is another explanation besides just ideology, however. Investing massive amounts of income that has been set aside for retirement purposes will make a lot of Republican investors very, very wealthy. The Democrats need a coherent counter-argument, and fast.

Kevin hopes that the LA Times' coverage of the Matsui statement will begin the process of circulating a counter-meme to all the "Social Security in danger" stories being flogged by the press. Obviously the Democrats should not cross their fingers and wait for good luck, however. They need to push back on this topic hard before it's too late. Some points to emphasize:

1. "42-to-1" vs. "2-to-1" is a shell-game argument. Every one of those 42 workers has already paid for his or her benefits. It's in the bank. As long as the government doesn't raid that money to pay for their tax giveaways to the wealthy and make their campaign contributors richer, there's no problem. The "2" workers in 1935 were the recipients of government largesse, but for the 42? It's their money - your money.

2. The Administration is risking future benefits in order to prop up the stock market and further enrich their fat cat supporters. "Ownership society" is a coded way of saying their high-class cronies will own a lot more -- cars, boats, houses -- while everybody else pays the tab as usual.

3. They want to spend trillions of dollars on this get-rich-quick scheme for their Wall Street pals, adding to the huge Republican deficit that was created as part of their massive transfer of wealth back to the wealthy. The end result will place your chance to live securely in your old age in greater peril, by leaving you dependent on the ups and downs of the stock market. If it takes a tumble, you might not be able pay for food and housing. (And you might remind them that huge federal deficits are usually a drag on the stock market.)

4. They won't promise to keep their hands of the money already contributed into the system -- and remember, that's your money - while they're busy making boatloads of money of this privatization scam.

These are just my suggestions. Surely there are people out there who can come up with more and better talking points. Just as long as they are clear, direct, honest, and easy to understand. The battle to save Social Security is now official underway.

UPDATE: Jesse at Pandagon is on it, too.