A Washington Post reporter has a problem with Social Security. She wrote that “the rising costs of Social Security and government health-care programs” are on tap as subject for debate in future talks between the GOP and Democrats in Congress.
Medicare and Medicaid are at-risk financially. In brief, the reason for the financial fragility of Medicare and Medicaid is the affordability crisis of the U.S. health-care system.
Against this backdrop of the national health-care crisis, Social Security is the most successful insurance program going. The key to its success is the social pooling of risk. Social Security is not an investment.
Individual savings accounts are not insurance coverage. President George W. Bush has tried to partially privatize Social Security, proposing individual investment accounts for younger workers. They remain the rhetorical target as potential members of the president’s “ownership society.”
Now increasingly, these younger workers face being paid lower wages as new hires. Add their student fees for higher education that are rising with a grim constancy. The White House is well aware of the social conditions that this demographic is living, which can make it desperate and therefore at-risk to scare tactics.
One example is the oft-repeated claim that Social Security will be gone when young workers retire. Thus there is a need to change the program now. The go-to guy for such Social Security reform is Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.
As the Bush presidency faces low polling numbers for its foreign and domestic policies, he needs political allies for yet another go at building support to reform Social Security. So we see an olive branch of sorts being extended to the Democratic-majority Congress to discuss Social Security.
The problem with the administration’s plan to privatize Social Security remains what it has been. The program’s finances are sound, on rock-solid ground for the next 40 years with no change at all, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports.
Presumably, the Post reporter is ignorant of this fact. It is not arguable. Maybe that explains the editorializing in her reporting, combining the finances of Social Security with Medicare and Medicaid.
SETH SANDRONSKY is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper www.bpmnews.org/. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.