The Looters of Social Security

They’re at it again.

An administration that can’t be bothered to look two days ahead to plan for the landfall of a hurricane in New Orleans, that can’t be bothered to look three months ahead to plan for the eventuality of conquering and having to run a country, that isn’t worried about the inevitable crisis that will be caused for the dollar by running up huge fiscal deficits, that refuses to take steps to curb US fuel consumption despite the clear knowledge that the price of imported oil will only be going up-this almost congenitally unprepared and unforward-looking group of national leaders–is pushing the same tired old scare story again about Social Security funds “running out” in 2040.

The new alarm makes the scary claim that the funds are even worse than we wer told a year ago, and instead of running out in 2041, will run out in 2040. Worse yet, they say, the Medicare fund will be bankrupt in 2018, instead of 2020!

Woe are us! What will we do!

Does anyone really take this gang seriously?

2040 is 34 years from now. As a Baby Boomer-one of that demographic cohort that is routinely blamed for causing the Social Security crisis by being too many, by being the pig in the python-I look at this and think, well, in 34 years, I’ll be 91, if I’m lucky. If I’m not lucky, and I’m not around, so much the better for the Social Security fund.

The point is, this is so far in the future, anything could happen. Thirty-four years ago, Nixon was running for re-election and bugging the Watergate Hotel, the war in Vietnam looked like it would never end, Russia seemed like an implacable enemy and we still had all the Beetles. Who would have thought we’d be where we are today?

In fact, there are much bigger things to worry about than how well the Trust Fund will hold up over that length of time. Hell, the whole eastern seaboard may be underwater by then. My house north of Philadelphia could be ocean-front property, which would be great for my heirs.

You certainly don’t hear Bush and Cheney, and the Republican scaremongers in the Congress, calling for drastic action to deal with the global warming threat, which will be manifesting itself in a big way by 2040. No, they’re worried about Social Security.

If this were a government that was into dealing with future crises, and with planning ahead, these same people wouldn’t be bankrupting the country by blowing hundreds of billions of dollars blowing things up in Iraq while cutting trillions of dollars in taxes for the rich.

What, after all, is the point in worrying about the fiscal health of the Social Security Trust Fund when you’re bankrupting the whole damned country? It’s a little like parents who take out a balloon mortgage to buy a McMansion for half a million bucks and then complain that they don’t have the money to send their kid to college.

And of course, we have to think about another point. Social Security is basically a program that takes care of the working poor. It isn’t a program for the well off, for whom those monthly checks are just chump change anyhow. And when else, besides this Social Security thing, have you heard Republicans acting concerned about a welfare program, except to complain that it’s too wasteful?

So what’s up here? Why all the words of “concern”?

The answer is that the Republicans’ paymasters-the business leaders-don’t like Social Security. They absolutely loath paying that 7.5 percent matching contribution every month into to their employees’ Social Security accounts. And the way they can get out of that annoying bill is to get people so worried about the future of Social Security that they start calling for an end to the program, in favor of privatized investing.

Of course, they also are listening to another special interest group-the banking industry and the investment banking industry-which want to get their hands on trillions of dollars of Social Security money by having the public switch out of a government program and into private accounts, which they would “handle” ­for a fee of course.

Me, I don’t worry about Social Security. I start getting my checks in eight years, and I’m not the slightest bit worried about whether the money will be there. The reason for my confidence is numbers, but not financial numbers. Population numbers. My fellow Boomers and I are going to be the most powerful damned senior lobby you’ve ever seen. We’ll way outnumber today’s grayhairs, and look at their political clout already.

We’re going to get what we need out of Congress, even if it means getting money out of the general treasury.

It’s appropriate that the administration should come out with this latest scare-mongering story about Social Security on May 1. After all, May 1 is coming to be symbolic of all that’s wrong and fraudulent about Bush the Lesser’s whole presidency. It’s the day he pretended to be a Top Gun pilot, and pretended that his splendid little war was over, in 2003. It’s also the day his whole war-mongering fraud was exposed by the Downing Street memo, revealed by the Times in London in 2005.

Now it’s also the day he tried to revive his campaign to end Social Security by scaring the public into thinking that the system was going bankrupt.




CounterPunch contributor DAVE LINDORFF is a producer along with MARK MITTEN on a forthcoming feature-length documentary film on the life of Ted Hall and his wife of 51 years, Joan Hall. A Participant Film, “A Compassionate Spy” is directed by STEVE JAMES and will be released in theaters this coming summer. Lindorff has finished a book on Ted Hall titled “A Spy for No Country,” to be published this Fall by Prometheus Press.