Friday, August 11, 2006

POLITICS - Quack, Quack - GOP Lame-Duck Tries to Walk Again

It is well known that the GOP has never liked Social Security. That is why they've tried to scuttle this successful program ever since its inception. Well, they're at it again.

"Back From The Dead: Privatization" by Roger Hickey and Jeff Cruz, TomPaine

It is hard to believe, but the idea of privatizing Social Security, which most observers thought had been killed and buried, could return, Dracula-like, from the dead after the 2006 elections.

You won’t hear many candidates for Congress talking about their support for diverting Social Security taxes to fund private accounts—certainly not before the election if they can help it. But most Republicans quietly remain true believers. President Bush, his leading cabinet figures and key Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have been very clear about their plans to again push privatization—despite what the public backlash against Bush’s “big idea” did to them in 2005.

George W. Bush went from triumphantly re-elected president to lame duck status in perhaps the shortest time of any modern American president. It was not because of Iraq, which is currently dragging him down, but Social Security. Bush boldly declared in December 2004, even before his inauguration, that he would make the privatization of Social Security the “number one domestic priority” of his second term. He vowed to use all his “political capital” to pass this long-time plan of the right-wing movement to cut retirement benefits and channel a portion of Social Security taxes to individual retirement accounts invested in Wall Street.

Now, perhaps because of his lame-duck status, which gives him the freedom to do unpopular things, the president is vowing to try again. In a June 27 speech at the Manhattan Institute think tank, Bush promised to reintroduce privatization, saying, “If we can't get it done this year, I'm going to try next year. And if we can't get it done next year, I'm going to try the year after that because it is the right thing to do.”

He has backed up his words with actions, such as sending to Congress a budget request for $721 billion over the next 10 years to begin private accounts (unintentionally demonstrating the tremendous costs, estimated at $2 trillion in total, to our government to privatize the system).

The House leadership has similarly promised to bring Social Security privatization up in 2007. In July House Republican Majority leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, pledged to resume the push, saying “If I'm around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about this.” In June, the current chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee and likely future chair of the full House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La, told reporters that he intended to put Social Security back on the legislative agenda in 2007.

All this is because the GOP sees Social Security as a socialized giveaway program. They believe that Americans should be self-reliant (aka "You're on your own") when it comes to retirement.

They forget, or do not believe, why the Social Security program came into being. So here's my history lesson:

  • Before Social Security, Americans were "self-reliant" for their retirement mostly through savings in banks. Then came the crash and their savings were gone, no money for retirement. Even the rich lost big-time. It was realized the government policy had a very big effect on the welfare of our citizens, and that government had a responsibility to ensure that citizens were not left destitute when policy failed to protect them.

Social Security is a safety-net. Privatizing Social Security puts American's retirement savings at risk again. Wall Street is not to be relied on, just look at the market at any given moment. For those who have relatively new 401k or IRA retirement plans, is your total investment in-the-black? My experience, and those of acquaintances, these plans are in-the-red for years. The GOP is just plain wrong on this issue, but the blind will not see.

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