Eskimo Retirement Party
The White House's Social Security lies are swarming as thick as locusts. Hell, David Corn or Al Franken could do a new "Lies" book just on the privatization push. So its kind of easy to miss a particular lie amidst the swarm. But here's one that I think is kind of significant. I see people swatting around it, but not directly at it, at least not in my readings. Its a statement Bush has made many times since veering off onto his Social Security phase-out crusade the day after the election.
He made the same statement in this year's SOTU speech, so I'll quote him dirctly from the whitehouse website:
"I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you; for you, the Social Security system will not change in any way. (Applause.)"
Actually, according to his own plan, at least any sketch of it he has allowed the public to see, this statement is a lie. For retired or nearly retired Americans, the Social Security system will change in a fundamental and drastic way. Its going to lose it's sole source of funding: payroll taxes. According to the commonly circulated but-not-quite-official White House proposal, as much as a third of payroll taxes (for starters) will be diverted into individual accounts. That money is currently used to fund retirees' benefits. Now, the missing funding, in order to keep the president's promise, will have to be made up somehow from the general budget. Either taxes will have to be raised (snort!) or, let's be serious, the money will have to be borrowed.
I hear alot of buzz about the extra borrowing, but not alot about the fact that the "grandfathered in" traditional Social Security beneficiaries will basically be standing in the same line as everyone else for their benefits. Gone will be the dedicated funding stream. And I guarantee that once the Republicans are finished cutting taxes on unearned wealth as close to zero as they can manage, they will magically metamorphize back into budget hawks. There will be nothing keeping them from cutting those benefits except a promise. Look at all the other programs Bush has promised money to, how are those programs doing?
And just as importantly, the younger generations will no longer have a stake in propping up the old system. It will essentially be an old-age welfare program.
The president is obviously trying to sell the new program to younger workers using scare stories about insolvency. On the other hand he's trying to soothe the older folks into signing off on the new program by claiming that it won't affect them, so there's nothing to be worried about. Do not believe him. I would say the older generation actually has more to worry about. At least the younger workers are ... well, young. Even if the new private accounts turn out badly, they will have plenty of time to make other arrangements. The elderly, on the other hand, will be stuck.
And once all younger workers have been peeled off into private accounts land, then we will start to hear the stories about the "Social Security queens" squandering their benefit checks (our tax dollars) at the casinos. Their benefits will be cut. I'm sure of it. Just watch.