Thursday, December 23, 2004

Social Security Reform

After analyzing the policies Mr. Bush is adamant about pushing through to fruition, a couple of common themes surface. Those themes are profits for the rich and fear. He pushes fear like a dealer pushes drugs at an elementary school playground. He basically says if you don’t agree with him, something terrible is going to happen. He did it before the invasion in Iraq; if we don’t attack Iraq, they will use weapons of mass destruction on us. He did it again during the campaign; if you vote for Kerry, we will be attacked by terrorists. The war on Iraq turns out to be a windfall for corporations like Halliburton, with their no-bid, multimillion dollar contracts. The campaign is millions in profit for corporations that financed the Bush campaign by relaxing regulations or ignoring them altogether. A good example of this “payback” is the “Clean Air Initiative;” while allowing companies to pollute our environment, it puts millions in the pockets of corporate executives that don’t have to worry about environmental regulations and fines and the cost of upgrades that reduce the damage to our water and air and soil.

The president’s “stay-the-course” ideology is not just reserved for the war in Iraq. President Bush has shown time and again that he will stay the course to help the rich get richer while trying to fool the rest of us into thinking he is doing a good thing for us mere commoners.

Now Bush wants to privatize Social Security by letting people invest the money with private investment firms. The fearmonger is spewing the dangers of Social Security’s eminent crash and burn before 2012 and that his plan is the only one that will save the elderly and soon-to-retire babyboomers. That’s a load of misinformation (to put it nicely). These private investment firms, that charge a fee to handle your account, are basically stockbrokers and not necessarily looking out for your future. Remember the Enron fiasco? Hey, wasn’t Enron’s CEO one of ‘W’s pals?

In a report from Reuters, December 12, 2004, “Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine, of New Jersey, former head of the Wall Street investment firm Goldman Sachs, said personal accounts would undermine Social Security's long-standing role as a provider of stable guaranteed retirement benefits.

‘In any given 10- or 15-year period, you can have ups and downs in markets that could leave the retiring group of individuals at that point at great risk’” (Reuters).

Oh, and let’s not forget about the cost of privatization. It’s just a small sum (in Bush terms) of 1 to 2 trillion dollars. Where is that money going to come from? Bush will borrow it. What’s another 1 or 2 trillion on our astronomical national debt anyway? Besides, it’s the future generations that will have to worry about paying it off. We may as well begin calling them “Generation Debt.”

Even Republicans don’t want Bush to borrow the money. According to the Reuters, De-cember 12 report “U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham [R] of South Carolina said reliance on borrowing to finance [the] estimated $1 trillion to $2 trillion in transition costs would be irresponsible and could undermine Bush's tax- and deficit-cutting goals.

‘What I'm asking of the president, when it comes to the transition costs, be flexible,’ said Graham, who has proposed a temporary rise in payroll tax contributions to finance Social Security's shift to partial privatization.

‘I think it's irresponsible to borrow the whole trillion dollars,’ he told ‘Fox News Sunday.’

Bush, who has made Social Security reform a top priority of his second term, last week reiterated his opposition to an increase in payroll taxes to pay for reforms he says must include the creation of new personal investment accounts” (Reuters).

I say forget a program that is going to cost money when we can implement a plan that pays for itself from day one. Besides, there are 2 things Bush doesn’t want you to know about Social Security. First, Social Security will safely continue paying benefits through 2042. Second, there are other alternatives to revamping the system.

‘W’ says he wants to work with members from “both sides of the aisle,” yet he will not consider any plan to revise Social Security other than his own. Why? Because the other recommendations won’t put money in the pockets of the people who funded his campaign.

One alternative to privatization is raising the Social Security salary cap. Most people don’t realize that no one pays into social security after they reach $87,900 per year. So, if you make $100,000 or $1,000,000 or $100,000,000 per year, you only pay social security tax on the first $87,900. What a great deal for millionaires.

If we raise or get rid of the salary cap the increase in payments into the program would remove any fear of collapse. In fact, if the cap was removed, the income could not only save Social Security, it could pay for Medicare and wipe out the ridiculous national debt this administration has indiscriminately run up.

Instead of having a salary cap, put the cap on benefits. If a person’s pension and/or 401k and/or retirement income is more than, say, $150,000 per year, that person would not qualify for benefits.

Another reform should be that the Social Security Fund should not be used as a bank to fund other projects the budget didn’t call for. Any excess in funds could be put into U.S. Savings bonds that would safely collect interest.

I can hear the wealthy crying already if this plan were to become law, but boo-hoo, it’s about time they learned what it is like to be taken advantage of. Besides, the rich can afford it.

Finally, if you agree with these recommendations, write to your congressmen and sena-tors. Spread the word and get others talking about Social Security. Don’t let this administration take advantage of us any longer.

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