Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

In his latest commentary, Mark Hyman acknowledges that rumors about special treatment for members of Congress when it comes to Social Security are nonsense.

What would be even more refreshing, however, would be for Hyman to address the equally baseless rumors about the Social Security “crisis.” Such rumors provide the fertile ground for paranoid fantasies of politicians creating their own financial parachutes while the average person goes without.

But as has been pointed out by numerous experts, Social Security will not go broke. It’s good to go for nearly a half century, and only minor tweaking will allow it to continue beyond that with no problem.

So why does the Bush administration keep insisting that we’re on the edge of Social Security Armageddon? Because doing so will allow them to scare people into accepting needless cuts in benefits and allowing a huge and unproductive payoff to financial and banking interests in the form of privatizing a portion of Social Security.

The mistake many people make when examining the Bush proposal for Social Security is to assume that the administration’s goals are to make Social Security healthier. Skeptics argue that the Bush plan is not the best way to keep Social Security solvent and expect conservatives will argue the issue with that solvency being the shared goal of all involved. But it’s not. Those on the far right want to strangle Social Security. As they so often say, they don’t like government programs. We shouldn’t assume they make an exception for Social Security.

But like many points of conservative dogma, this one can’t be argued in good faith with any chance of it will win widespread political or popular support. Hence, a plan to cause Social Security to wither on the vine is packaged as way of rescuing the program from a non-existent crisis.

Were he here today, George Orwell would take a grim satisfaction in his ability to anticipate just such rhetorical contortions.

For an excellent, short primer on what the facts are on Social Security, see this page from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

And that's The Counterpoint.


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