• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Throwing Granny from the Gravy Train

For going on 2 decades now the great right wing/business class project of repealing the 20th century has been steadily advanced. It’s now become a bipartisan undertaking, barely missing a beat regardless of which party dominates Washington.

Between 1932 and 1972, working people held some measure of political power, and that translated into a relatively broad-based economic prosperity (by American standards). Taxes on the wealthy and corporations were nearly triple their current rates. The money went to things that generally benefited the public.

In the 30s a social insurance plan called Social Security was established over the strenuous objections of the Republican party. Its funding was savagely regressive, paid for by a tax on earned wages but not on capital or so-called “unearned income” like stock options or capital gains. Yet, in the brute scheme that is America it was and remains the crown jewel of New Deal attainment. It was long considered the “third rail of American politics: Touch it and die.”

In the 60s, with Democrats overwhelmingly controlling congress again, Medicare became law and health care for seniors became a right. That’s as far as we got. Vietnam and the Republicans’ race-based “Southern Strategy” splintered the Democratic party.

A decade later the senescing Ronald Reagan and the “conservative” wrecking crew that surrounded him held the Capitol and the roll-back began in earnest. They knew what they wanted: More money in rich people’s pockets and a bigger military. And they knew what stood in the way.

Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman was clear that “sweeping curtailment of middle class entitlements” would be necessary. Though it would be prudent to keep that part of the plan “shrouded in mystery, at least temporarily,” the Reagan Revolutionary was clear that “huge tax cuts and a big defense increase,” would require “storming the twin citadels of the welfare state—-Social Security and Medicare.” (see Stockman, The Triumph of Politics, 1986)

Early in Reagan’s administration, when Social Security was only months away from running out of money (as it had been several times before), changes were made based on recommendations of the “Greenspan Commission.” Payroll taxes were raised, and with the baby boom retirees in mind, the system became “advance funded.” Historically the structure had been a simple generational transfer, with current workers’ FICA taxes paying benefits to current retirees.

Under the new regime, trillions of dollars would accumulate in the trust fund awaiting Boomer and other 21st century retirements. That money would be invested at interest in US Treasury bonds. Under all but the darkest future scenarios, the trustees pronounced the problem solved. And so, quite frankly, it was.

In even the grimmest of times, with decades of glacial economic growth, retirees’ checks would be funded by FICA withholding and, if needed, the accumulated interest from the T-bills. If palsied growth should continue, finally the treasury notes themselves would be cashed out.

But as the trust fund swelled, its lure became irresistible to Wall Street and other business interests. They began funding propaganda offensives and political campaigns focused on creating the utterly false and pernicious idea that Social Security—though awash in cash and commitments from the federal treasury—was or would soon be “bankrupt.”

“It’s only prudent to leave this sinking ship while we can,” cooed the financiers. Better to haul that pile out of the federal treasury and entrust it to say, Enron pyramid schemers or the wiz-kids at Bear Stearns.

With “markets” tanking, the privatization argument isn’t being pushed too hard currently. But the gloom and doom cover story, (“crisis,” “fiscal train wreck,” “demographic tidal wave,” “looming insolvency,” etc.) continues unabated. Despite its palpable dishonesty the media system generally reports it as unalterable fact.

Thus AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger’s story on the issuance of the annual Social Security Trustees’ Report (3/25/08) was all about “enormous challenges.” There was the usual gnashing of teeth about the year 2017 when (under the trustees’ favored endless recession scenario), the program “begins paying out more in benefits than [it] collect[s] in payroll taxes.” The fact that tapping the interest and perhaps the principal of the advance funded system is simply proper and expected functioning of the 80s era reform is nowhere mentioned.

Inconvenient facts are easily swept aside in conventional journalism. All that matters is what government officials or their business class funders say. The same people that used the demonstrably phony hobgoblin of Iraqi WMD as pretext for nearly 2 decades of sanctions, pitiless genocide and now an illegal war of aggression, rolled out, at the same time, the poisonous whopper that Social Security faced an inevitable funding crisis. A credulous and corporate media served as designated strumpet/cheerleader in both fraudulent campaigns. As Crutsinger’s gruesomely one-sided and infuriatingly typical piece demonstrates, trying to discover something approaching the truth and reporting it to the population is apparently becoming increasingly difficult/ impossible for conventional domestic news organizations.

As satirist Stephen Colbert noted a while back, “getting both sides of the story” now means getting “the president’s side AND the vice president’s side.”

While some Democratic congressional leaders have lately dismissed the need for “saving” (i.e. cutting) Social Security, front-runner Obama has insisted on using Republican talking points, warning of a “funding shortfall” and a looming “crisis” for the program. He’s a smart guy. He knows better.

But he’s part of the bipartisan Washington consensus that favors more Pentagon spending and lower taxes on the wealthy. Somebody has to pay for the bigger military, Iraq occupation, increased terror bombing of Afghanistan mud-huts, Iran invasion, weapons in space, etc.

The money waits inside the twin citadels of Social Security and Medicare.

Each Trustee Report is a weapon of mass deception—another propaganda mortar shell in the relentless siege.

The walls, you see, must come down.

RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine whose place is just north of the Kennebunkport town line. Since 1990, Rhames has been the chair of the Biddeford Democratic City Committee, an organization charged with “promoting the ideals of the Party.” He can be reached at: rrhames@xpressamerica.net

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

RICHARD RHAMES is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: rrhames@xpressamerica.net

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Coco Das
#OUTNOW
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail