The Great White Hope
Tonight we will witness another attempt at "success," George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech. The cynical among us are no doubt wondering if he will be wearing an earpiece to help him say what he means to say. But the real deception to be concerned about is his plan to privatize Social Security.
Supposedly a wasteful, insolvent government program, Social Security has been a lifesaver for many millions of Americans since its inception in 1935. Estimates are that under its current funding the Social Security Trust Fund will be solvent until 2042. Under the privatization plan, by investing in stocks, it is imagined, American workers will earn big money. As Paul Krugman notes in The New York Times, the presumed 6.5 to 7 percent annual return from the stock market would also generate enough payroll tax revenue to keep Social Security solvent. Of course, the presumption of high growth, to say nothing of continued growth, is what economists call a "heroic assumption."
How about taxing the rich? Somehow Social Security worked well in the past, but now supposedly is defunct, a loser, highway robbery. If the fund is dwindling, it can easily be replenished by adding more to it, and having the burden fall on those who can most easily afford it.
Why, we should be asking, is Social Security being targeted? The reasons, I believe, are threefold. One is that it will be a windfall to the Wall Street brokerage houses and other investment firms that have been major donors to the Bush election campaign.
Another reason is that the endowed class in this country, which can also be called the corporate class or the ruling elite, likes to have a lower class that is dependent to the point of desperation. With a decent retirement to look forward to, workers don’t feel so hostage to any one employer, and don’t feel the need to work until they die.
But the biggest reason for privatizing Social Security is that it is a credible government program, and that threatens the ideology of "conservatism."
It’s an interesting thing, "conservatism." As I have written before, I don’t see it as so much a philosophy, but as outward evidence of a mental condition. On the basis of "conservatives" I have known and observed, the faux philosophy of "conservatism" is really cover for a neurotic need to feel "better" than other people, to dominate other people, to have more than other people, and to be callous about, if not take pleasure in, the suffering of other people. In other words, it is a phony philosophy, and masks varying degrees of sociopathy.
What government programs like Social Security, the Veterans Administration, Medicare, Medicaid, and the National Park Service represent is the movement of resources to sectors of the population that would not otherwise have the benefits that they receive. That these sectors receive benefits at all, and that the endowed classes do not have absolute control over the allocation of benefits, decreases the sense of well-being of the endowed. What’s the fun in being rich and powerful if the masses can enjoy life too?
Which brings us back to the State of the Union speech, the latest attempt by the Bush crime family to be the Great White Hope. By again snookering the American public, it is hoped, all that is good and meaningful for the elite of this country will be safe for posterity.
Fat chance. For a number of reasons, the grand scheme will fail. One reason is that Bush is getting tiresome. He’s not much of a human being, and he’s been President for four years now. If there was such a thing as "Clinton fatigue," then "Bush fatigue" is setting in sooner, and is much more widespread and intense.
Another reason is that the Bush Administration, a fundamentally criminal operation, has no real answers to any problem, and the problems on Planet Earth are getting more critical every day. Eventually, they will have to come up with real solutions to real problems, but they can’t, because they are criminals. They can only come up with criminal solutions.
Still another reason is the limited appeal of privatization. The hook that is supposed to lure people into believing in the privatization scheme is that it will generate pie-in-the-sky, riches for everyone, free money, the "ownership society." It’s like the sales pitches for state lotteries, pyramid schemes, and chain letters - all you have to do is put your money down, and the riches start coming in.
But the biggest reason for failure of the Social Security scheme lies in the updated wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. The Bush gang is counting on fooling enough of the people, that the people are gullible enough to be convinced of anything. I don’t think the Bush crime family can succeed this time. It’s one thing to whip up fear and anger about fictitious weapons of mass destruction in a country far away. It’s quite another to create a frenzy over the one retirement plan that gives at least a minimal level of relief for Americans when they are no longer able to work.
The coming days will be very interesting. The convergence of real world problems with the criminality of the Bush regime will be the defining conflict of the modern era. As history has shown, falsehood tends not to prevail. Or, as Gandhiji put it, "All through history, there have been tyrants, murderers and despots, and for a time they can seem invincible...but eventually they always fall. I have always believed that the way of truth and love will win."
(Update: For a good history of the long quest to eliminate the Social Security system, read Steven Thomma's article in Knight Ridder.)