A New Year’s Day story in the Washington Post reported that President Bush’s allies in corporate trade associations, the financial and securities industries and Fortune 500 companies are raising millions of dollars for an election-style campaign to convince Americans–and skeptical lawmakers–that social security is in crisis, and that the proper remedy is to establish private social security accounts.
Bush’s privatization scheme–he calls it his #1 domestic priority–has clear winners and losers. The winners: the financial industry which is lusting after the hundreds of billions in fees and commissions it stands to earn if it can hold Social Security funds in individual accounts. The losers: tens of millions of retirees and surviving spouses and children, plus some ten million disabled workers and their families, who will lose the dignity of a guaranteed income and the financial security that the system currently provides.
Bush’s scam is clear: sell out to Wall Street and destroy America’s most successful social insurance and anti-poverty program. (Social Security is the difference between a decent life and poverty for half of all Americans over 65.)
In the coming months, we’re going to hear a lot of flimflam about how social security is in crisis and privatization is, as Bush has said, a “plan for the people.” Don’t believe a word of it. Check out the expert testimony of America’s most eminent economists (including Nobel laureates) who gathered at the end of 2004 to rigorously debunk the Administration’s fear-mongering. (Click here to go to the Campaign for America’s Future website to read their full statements.)
“In reality,” as Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker wrote in the pages of The Nation last month, “For more than two decades, [the Right has]spread stories about the baby boomers bankrupting the system and multi-trillion debts left to our children and grandchildren. In reality, the program can pay all scheduled benefits long past the boomers’ retirement. According to the Social Security trustees report, it can payfull benefits through the year 2042 with no changes whatsoever. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office puts the date at 2052. And even after those dates, Social Security will always be able to pay a higher benefit (adjusted for inflation) that what retirees receive today. Those scary multi-trillion dollar debts translate into a deficit equal to 0.7percent of future income–presented in very precise form in the Social Security trustees report for those who care to look.”
If you need more evidence that privatizing Social Security is a lousy idea, think back to the Enron scandal. Remember what we learned: Greedy Enron executives sold stock for millions while the company was still riding high and then gave themselves big bonuses as bankruptcy loomed. Meanwhile, they lied to employees and stockholders about the company’s finances and then didn’t allow workers to bail out of 401(k) retirement plans that held Enron stock. Thousands of people not only lost their jobs but their lifetime savings.
After Enron’s collapse, the largest corporate bankruptcy in US history, you’d have to be pretty dense to fall for the Bush Administration’s callous scheme to encourage workers to take risks with their pension and retirement benefits.
Bush and his cronies have worked hard to ignore the lessons of Enron–continuing to fight against serious regulation of corporate misbehaviour and abuses. Don’t let them ignore Enron’s lessons when it comes to replacing a successful government guaranteed program for a greed-ridden privatization scam.
Maybe we need a new slogan: Ken Lay would love social security privatization.
(ACTIVIST LINK: Click here to send a letter to your elected reps urging them to oppose the President’s plan for privatization.)