Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Hightower on the SSI Swindle

Jim Hightower is a journalist from Texas. He bills himself as "America's No. 1 Populist" and I think he's at least in the top ten. He was the only liberal/progressive/lefty/realist radio commentator for a long time. Since he was usually squeezed in between hardly-ever-right-wing morons like Rush Oxylimbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why he's not still on the air.

Here's his article in AlterNet about the Social Security swindle. I think he sums the whole attempted robbery up quite nicely. Read.
When George W. says he's going to "fix" our Social Security system, I feel like a dog that's just been told, "We're taking you to the vet to get you fixed."

Next came the political road map, again from a little noticed document prepared under the auspices of Cato. Written in 1983 (my emphasis), it laid out a five-point strategy for creating a political environment that would give privatization a chance:

Maintain constant criticism of Social Security to influence the media and to undermine public confidence in the soundness of the program;

Build a network of influential supporters of private accounts, including Wall Street brokers who would profit from them;

Divide and conquer the opposition by assuring retirees and those nearing retirement that their benefits would be fully paid;

Enact laws creating 401(k)s and other private accounts so people learn to accept them; and

Have a privatization plan waiting in the wings when a president came along who was willing to claim that Social Security's trust fund faces a shortfall.

Cato's planners called for protracted "guerrilla warfare" against the system and its supporters. "We must be prepared for a long campaign," the Cato document declared. "It could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible." Then, amazingly, it cited a Communist as a political guru: "As Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform."

Looks like they found their fool, huh?
Alliance for Worker Retirement Security (AWRS): Beware of any advocacy group that has "worker" in its name ... but no workers in its group. This outfit, created by the National Association of Manufacturers in 1998 solely to lobby for privatizing the public retirement system, has about 40 members, including the American Bankers Association, Business Roundtable (the CEOs of America's 200 largest corporations), Paine Webber, Charles Schwab, Securities Industry Association (Wall Street's official lobbying group), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Wachovia Bank.

Surprise, George!

The ideologues, the corporations, the front groups, and the Bushites thought they had all of their ducks in a row to ram privatization into law, but they didn't count on one thing: You!

All across the country (and cutting across all party, racial, and age lines), people have risen up to give a resounding "No, uh-uh, forget it, go away" to this scheme. Especially bad for George is that he now has less support for privatization than he did before the White House's propaganda blitz. So far his campaign has included forcing the Social Security Administration to tout George's agenda, creating a Social Security "war room" in the Treasury Department, wheeling out the old political hack Alan Greenspan to shill for the plan, exploiting a few black Republicans as props for the false claim that Social Security is unfair to African Americans, and using the full bully pulpit of presidential PR tricks--but to no avail.

Folks are figuring out what George's proposal means: tossing out the guarantee of retirement security; slashing benefits and raising the retirement age; no spousal benefits or disability payments; promised stock gains that are iffy at best (check the decline in your own 401(k)); and Wall Street fees and fraud that will devour any gains. Many old folks recall that we tried privatized retirement in the past. It was called the Great Depression. And some folks already know what privatizing retirement means, because they've seen that future ... and recoiled from it.

Actually, the Bushites might have done us a favor by making this greedheaded and ideological lunge for our Social Security money. First, their audacious move has solidified and energized progressive forces to fight against it. Second, it rips away the "compassionate conservative" and "family values" masks that Bush has been wearing. Third, it opens up the big debate about what kind of country we want America to be. Will we be an I-got-mine, you're-on-your-own society, or a nation of people who continue striving for America's egalitarian ideal of the Common Good. This is more than a fight over our retirement (as big as that is). It's a fight for America's democratic soul. It's also a fight we can -- and must -- win.

Hear, hear. Those are some high spots. Go read the rest .

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