Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The social security crisis: it's political, not fiscal

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Inventing a Crisis
... But since the politics of privatization depend on convincing the public that there is a Social Security crisis, the privatizers have done their best to invent one.

My favorite example of their three-card-monte logic goes like this: first, they insist that the Social Security system's current surplus and the trust fund it has been accumulating with that surplus are meaningless. Social Security, they say, isn't really an independent entity - it's just part of the federal government.

If the trust fund is meaningless, by the way, that Greenspan-sponsored tax increase in the 1980's was nothing but an exercise in class warfare: taxes on working-class Americans went up, taxes on the affluent went down, and the workers have nothing to show for their sacrifice.

But never mind: the same people who claim that Social Security isn't an independent entity when it runs surpluses also insist that late next decade, when the benefit payments start to exceed the payroll tax receipts, this will represent a crisis - you see, Social Security has its own dedicated financing, and therefore must stand on its own.

There's no honest way anyone can hold both these positions, but very little about the privatizers' position is honest. They come to bury Social Security, not to save it. They aren't sincerely concerned about the possibility that the system will someday fail; they're disturbed by the system's historic success.

For Social Security is a government program that works, a demonstration that a modest amount of taxing and spending can make people's lives better and more secure. And that's why the right wants to destroy it.

Social security is ground zero in a debate about the role of government in american life. This is not a fight about financing social security, it's a fight about the role of government.

Since we Democrats lie bloodied and defeated on the field of battle, while our enemies wax triumphant about us, we might as well speak honestly. Krugman does a fine job here. All we can do is speak clearly and do our best to ensure that Americans know what's going to happen to them, and why it's going to happen. Unfortunately, this message will not be carried on Republican TV/radio/newspapers, etc.

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