Sunday, January 23, 2005
In his inaugural address Thursday, Bush said he wants to "build an ownership society" in America, and he has made clear that a key to that would be partial privatization of Social Security.
But he had launched his campaign for partial privatization of Social Security earlier this month with a fear-mongering speech that told young workers, "If you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s, and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act now."
Vice President Dick Cheney followed this up by predicting "fiscal collapse" by 2042, leaving the government no option "other than to suddenly and dramatically reduce benefit payments by over 25 percent, or to impose a massive, economically ruinous tax increase on all American workers."
These two statements, by the two highest officers in the land, are not even remotely true. Here are the facts:
Social Security began in 1935 and has gone a long way toward eliminating poverty among America's elderly. That rate is about 8 percent today, down from 35 percent in 1960.
The payback is not lavish: The typical annual pension for a retired couple amounts to less than $17,000. Better-off retirees supplement it with private investments, but two-thirds of older Americans rely on it for the majority of their income. For most of the elderly, it's insurance, and it works. In an era when most private pensions are tied to the value of an employer's stock, this guarantee is more important than ever.
I don't think they're going to get away with this one.