Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Social Security

I wrote this letter to my local paper after a letter appeared criticizing our local Congressman for sending out a postcard outlining his position on Social Security:

So John Ryan (“Price is misleading on Social Security,” March 30, 2005) is concerned that David Price used his perfectly legal franking privileges to send a message to his constituents outlining his position on Social Security, eh? I wonder how he feels about President Bush using who knows how many taxpayer dollars to mount a series of invitation-only events all across the country (otherwise known as Bamboozlepalooza) to sell his position on the same topic.

To make matters worse, there are numerous documented cases of tax-paying citizens being denied entrance or of being kicked out of these events because they had opinions that differ from the president’s position on Social Security. That is outrageous (and terrifying), but typical for this administration.

As to Social Security itself, Mr. Ryan hits all the Bush talking points, but unfortunately most of them are far from the truth. The problems faced by Social Security are fixable, especially if the government would honor the plan laid out by the Greenspan commission in 1983. Under that plan, working class folks have been paying higher payroll taxes for more than 20 years. The next step is for taxes to be raised on higher income earners to pay for the bonds Social Security will begin selling back to the government starting in 2018. It’s pretty obvious Bush wants to avoid raising taxes on high income earners. That’s a breach of faith, and negates an implicit promise that high earners will keep their part of the bargain to support Social Security.

But, let’s face it: The argument about Social Security isn't about rival views on how to secure the program's future. What is really going on here is a debate about the kind of country America wants to be. Fortunately, most of the public doesn’t agree with the president that it’s a good idea to put middle class families in a position to experience even more financial risk than they already do. Or as economist Paul Krugman put it: “Do you believe that we should replace America's most successful government program with a system in which workers engage in speculation that no financial adviser would recommend?”

The president’s plan does nothing to help Social Security’s finances (even the administration admits this). And his incredible abuse of taxpayers’ dollars to stage Bamboozlepalooza to spread false and misleading information is an outrage with which every citizen should be deeply concerned.


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