'Searching for Social Security in all the Wrong Places'- and other Bush hits!

George Bush is, yet again, slapping on a different shade of lipstick on his Social Security "reform" plan and hoping that it will make his latest version of "K" Street pork an easier sell to the public.

This time he's presented a form of "means testing" which, when one looks behind the curtain, is another way of ensuring that Social Security will eventually be viewed as a welfare entitlement rather than what it is- a proven, effective social contract.

Privatization proponents are gambling that, in the long run, Social Security is seen as a premium or tax which productive members of society pay and non-productive members receive. This, they hope, will result in opening it up to further revisions of catastrophic proportions through a simple divide and conquer campaign by demagogues carrying out the goal of freeing the wealthy from paying back what they've borrowed from the fund.

One need not dig too deeply to see why being the poster boy for this campaign comes naturally for George Bush. For those that didn't read the "Bush Unfiltered" post (3/23/05) now contained in the archives, the following are a few memorable quotes directly relating to Social Security and other 'safety net' programs from Bush during various stages of his life. Consider them while watching him feign concern and shed crocodile tears for those who rely on Social Security:

"People are poor because they're lazy."

Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was "socialism".

Opposed to Social Security, Medicare, Environmental Protection, Public Schools, and Labor Unions.

Those quotes and ideas were presented to his Harvard Business School instructor(s).

"I hope I'm not here to have to deal with it".

Quoted on the 2000 campaign trail responding to reports from Texas about uncertainties in the state budget and deficiencies in state services that took a backseat to Bush's $1.7 billion tax cut.

"I don't understand how poor people think..."

Post 2000 election comment to Reverand Jim Wallis, leader of the Call to Renewal, a network of churches that fight poverty.

"You can fool some of the people all of the time and those are the ones you want to concentrate on".

Part of his presentation at the Gridiron Club Dinner.

While the last quote has been used by others, rarely has it been so fully embraced as by the current Administration.

As mentioned in the original post, his contempt for a social safety net dates back to his days at Harvard and continues to this day. Furthermore, his disconnect with the poor and middle class (public schools, unions, EPA, Social Security, Medicare) certainly seems to have survived his religious conversion fully intact despite the teachings of the Bible he professes to adhere to.

Those who remain unconvinced by the man's own words as an indicator of how he feels about the subject need look no further to see the underlying lies behind the faux concern over Social Security than Michael Hiltzik's April 7th column in the L.A. Times entitled, "The Rich Are Behind Trust Fund Myth" (simple registration may be required).

Hiltzik's argument is not to be confused with a gratuitous attack on Bush. Rather, his article is directed against the flippant, cavalier, and adolescent manner with which extremely important issues are dealt with on today's political stage.

In the case of Social Security, Bush happens to be caught in the crossfire as he is the star of this particular and peculiar show with an invisible supporting cast of many located in various think tanks that are backed by the deep pockets of wealthy benefactors.

Hiltzik pens a masterpiece of understated rage at the sham currently being touted as a "debate" over the future of Social Security. He begins by observing that, "One can reliably conclude that a political policy is failing when the stage business used to promote it gets more elaborate".

To illustrate his point Hiltzik highlights Bush's recent visit to a Parkersburg facility which houses the Social Security Trust Fund Bond Certificates and his use of a filing cabinet in a "show and tell" exercise that would not be worthy of a remedial first grade classroom (if such a designation existed).

The point of the exercise, apparently, was for Bush to show the public that the only thing the file cabinet contained were certificates and that, therefore, meant that the trust fund did not exist. The logic applied, translated into a simple mathematical fomula, apparently produces: file cabinet + certificates = IOU (with IOU having a value of "0" when used in conjuction with "Social Security Trust Fund").

For anyone still unclear on the concept used by proponents of privatization, Bush later clarified his statement by describing the Trust Fund Bond Certificates as "worthless IOU's"- a description which raised more than a few eyebrows in worldwide financial institutions.

Hiltzik dismisses Bush's stage play by applying Bush's logic to the Bush family's own finances. He states, "I suspect that the brokerage statements, oil leases and government securities that represent the Bush dynasty's wealth are stored in file cabinets very much like this one".

From there Hiltzik lays out a clear history of Social Security funding, points to the surplus that's been collected and shows how the wealthy have maintained a low tax rate or enjoyed tax cuts through successive presidential terms by a non-stop looting of the trust fund to make up for general fund revenue shortages. In effect, what has transpired over a lengthy period of time is a subsidy given to the rich by the government from the pockets of the poor and middle- class.

Hiltzik's analysis correctly shows that the looting or "borrowing" from the trust fund by the wealthy is unsustainable. The time frame for this fact to surface is, not coincidentally, the same as the one defined by Bush as when the system will be "bankrupt". At that point additional revenue will have to be raised to replace the funds which were appropriated due to artificial "surpluses" created by the inclusion of social security revenue into the general fund. Not surprisingly, any correction to the tax code, more likely than not would and should, be directed at those who have benefitted most from the raiding of the trust fund, namely, the wealthy.

That is why they and their minions in the Administration and in Congress are so quick to yell that there is no trust fund (therefore no debt owed to it by them) and to audaciously accuse anyone who disagrees of being incapable of performing simple math or of engaging in "class warfare". It's also why their solution rests primarily with calling for a reduction in benefits or a privatization of the system. Those particular remedies cut the outstanding debt of the wealthy to the trust fund substantially- if not altogether. Hiltzik describes the proposed scheme as one that "really boils down to a refusal by the rich to pay decades of loans from the middle and lower classes."

For those interested, Hiltzik's article also provides a useful template for the evaluation of other Administration "reform" measures. Caution should be exercised as the evaluation may lead to a mind-numbing consistency in results.

For instance, just taking 2 of the "reforms", Tort and Bankruptcy, simply replacing "Social Security" with either of them before the word "reform", and plugging in the applicable, verifiable facts surrounding the issue chosen invariably leads to the same conclusion: only one definable group consistently benefits- the wealthy few (individual and/or corporate).

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