Crabby Old Lady is pleased to see that a couple of people on the “Older Bloggers” list have taken up the privatization of Social Security issue. Be sure to read Cop Car about the effect on women, and check out Elaine at Kalilily Time for her colorful rants.
Republican Support Waning?
Equally terrific to Crabby is news that a growing number of important Republican legislators have reservations about President Bush’s misleading campaign for privatization. Of course, politicians change their minds every day, but Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine said last Sunday on CNN saying she is not convinced Social Security is in crisis, as Mr. Bush insists.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Bill Thomas, a Republican from California, told Meet the Press, also on Sunday, that he wants to investigate other ways of financing Social Security, throwing out one idea about a value-added tax - a consumption tax - for Congress to consider.
Do not take these Republican misgivings as a reason to slack off. 60 Senate votes are required to pass any Social Security legislation and there are 55 Republicans. In case some misguided Democrats think privatization is a good idea, some Republican votes in opposition will be needed.
AARP released a major survey this week of 1500 adults age 30 and over. 66 percent of respondents would prefer to strengthen Social Security with as few changes as possible. Only 18 percent support privatization if it means borrowing $1 trillion or more in transition costs. [Transitions costs are the money needed to meet current benefits payments if two percent of millions of accounts are diverted to private accounts.]
On the other hand, a poll from the Tarrance Group and Public Opinion Strategies, which is being presented to House Republicans today, is said to report that 55 percent of voters older than 55 believe “major changes” [read: privatization] to Social Security are needed.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush continues in his single-minded pursuit of privatization, which he prefers to reference as “personal accounts.” And keep your eye on the media in the verbiage war; already The New York Times and NBC have adopted the president's phrase instead of privatization or "private accounts." The coin of persuasion is language, so pay attention.
In his news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Bush again used the scare words “bust” and “bankrupt” to describe Social Security. And he reiterated his refusal to consider raising the payroll tax although he did not mention, pro or con, raising the salary cap, currently at $90,000, which could be one of the painless fixes to help ensure Social Security benefits long term.
Several times in the past week, the president disingenuously tried to make the public believe that former President Clinton is a supporter of privatization. Don’t you believe it. Although Mr. Clinton said, during his administration, that the “…fiscal crisis in Social Security affects every generation,” he never suggested it needs radical surgery nor advocated Bush’s style of privatization. More importantly, he urged making use of the budget surplus accumulated on his watch:
“Before we spend a penny on new programs or tax cuts, we should save Social Security first. I think it should be the driving principle…Do not have a tax cut. Do not have a spending program that deals with that surplus. Save Social Security first.”
But, of course, President Bush has spent all that surplus and then some. Even though it is traditional for former presidents never to critizice sitting presidents, Crabby will be disappointed if Mr. Clinton does not soon speak out on Mr. Bush's misleading interpretation of his words.
Additionally, Mr. Bush repeatedly stated in the past week that benefits for people age 55 and older will be not be affected or reduced by privatization. That may or may not be true if whatever legislation is approved includes shifting benefits calculations from the current wage index to the inflation index. If that shift is applied to all retirees, benefits for people older than 55 will be reduced.
This repeated statement is an attempt by the president to remove seniors from the privatization debate. Don’t let that happen. Social Security seems so far in their future to younger people that many do not pay close attention. Crabby reminds you to let the president and your Washington legislators know what you want. You can do that at this website. Do it today and do it often. Keep telling them until they believe it.
Next Wednesday, 2 February, President Bush will deliver his State of the Union Address. He said in the press conference two days ago that he will reveal details of his Social Security proposal in that speech and then barnstorm five states to promote it. You can guess what Crabby Old Lady will be writing about next Friday.
...to be continued...
Social Security Privatization Series Index