January 18, 2005

Radosh.net: Come for the Lohanboobies, stay for the Social Security debates

Chris Suellentrop picks at the threads of the administration's Social Security arguments in an attempt to separate the philosophical/ideological from the pragmatic/mathematical. I've been thinking similarly along these lines and wondering if the the best tactic would be not to challenge Bush's ideological premise, but to ask why, if it's so important to him -- "the philosophical argument of the age" -- he doesn't even come close to fully embracing it.

You know the gist: privatizing SS means giving you more control of your money. Why should the government force you to invest in T-bonds when you can do better investing in stocks?

If you accept Bush's terms of the debate, it's hard to challenge. I certainly don't want the government telling me the best way to invest my money.

But saying that Bush's plan gives you "more control" only disguises the fact that it basically offers you two choices rather than one (or really it offers one and half choices, since you'll only be able to invest a portion of your SS taxes in stocks). If we accept Bush's premise on its philosophical level, how is the right to put a percentage of my money into stocks much improvement? What if I'd rather invest in real estate, gold, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, or hookers and beer? It's my money, right?

Except it's NOT, and Bush isn't saying it should be. We're still talking about taxes being paid into the Social Security. And the purpose of the Social Security system is not to help individuals make the most money possible for their retirement, but to ensure that there is a safety net for society as a whole.

Taken at face value, Bush's philosophical argument of the age is an argument in favor of doing away with Social Security altogether. If it's my money, why is the government forcing me to pay it in taxes so that I can save for my retirement? What if my priority is living fast and dying young?

But Bush isn't saying we should eliminate Social Security. Indeed, he's claiming that we need to SAVE it. That means its important -- and the vast majority of Americans agree. As a socity, we WANT to sacrifice a certain chance for individual gain in order to guarantee that grandma and grandpa aren't thrown onto the streets.

As long as Bush & co. are continuing to embrace the idea of paying taxes into Social Security at all, the grand philosophy of an ownership society is red herring. Of course, it's not unlikely that Bush DOES want to eliminate SS, but knows it would be politically untenable. Which is all the more reason to force him to say what he means and mean what he says, and if he doesn't, tell him to stop talking about the "philosophical argument of the age."

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I think it is a grander example of doublespeak than the war in Iraq. There the 'causes' and results are lied about but the central point, Invade Iraq, was always stated clearly. Here they have gone, for about the 1,000th time, through the looking glass (no doubt to avoid self-inspection). Now they are not only lying about 'causes' and crises but about their actual goal as well; they do _not_ want to save SocSec.

They want to get rid of social security because of a fundamental misunderstanding of human society. It was the argument of the age 70 years ago and was decided in favor of civility and security. NeoCons (like many ex-cons) believe that human life is a constant struggle against one's fellow man and are prepared to commit any act of violence (physical or fiscal) against their fellow man to prove it. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that. As with the coming Armageddon they actually want what is worse for the country and civilization itself.

I am not convinced that the Bush administration
really cares one way or the other about the
overall stability of Social Security. What
this privatization effort really amounts to
is a huge payout to the financial industry.
The Federal Gubmen will need to borrow
unthinkable sums to finance the shift to
privatization. So, yet again, Bush is running
up the credit card tab to pay off political
cronies. Pigs at the trough, and all that.

The ideological smokescreens Bush is sending
out covers his ass from both sides of the
aisle. To the right wing ideologues (who have
never been comfortable with the semi-socialist
SS), he's saying "Don't
worry, I'll dismantle SS." To the so-called
moderates, he's saying "I'll save SS."

The real problems facing SS stem from the
treasury borrowing billions. There is no
inherent crisis, as any (honest) bean counter
would tell you. And even with this borrowing,
SS could be better funded if they (1) did
away with the regressive income cap to make
higher income people pay in too, (2) started
taxing wealth in addition to/instead of income.

I don't see any reason to any longer credit the Administration with 'normal' political goals like covering their asses and appeasing supporters. We may be reluctant to seem like Chicken Little but then an asteroid pokes your eye out. They are ruthless thieves operating under an ideology which defines rapacity and callousness as graces. They are using public institutions to funnel money from the poor to the rich and benefit from the transparency of the crime because it discredits public institutions. The more fiscally irresponsible they are, it goes without saying, the more they can claim government itself is irresponsible. When government erodes sufficiently they can resume taking the money directly without the medium of government. When their 'fix' does more damage they can say 'well, we tried to save it but I guess we have to just let it go.'

I hate to seem paranoid but Karl Rove thinks in longer waves than one or two terms. He's an incredibly cagey fellow who studied his Lenin well and has remarkably saddled Bolshevist methodology to a Nativist Conservative ideology. This is not 'four more years' but a permanent struggle by resentful and fearful conservatives against the very idea of collective human existence.

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