In the back of our minds we always know it’s true. We try not to think too hard about it, or pretend that we can’t be sure. If nothing else, blame all the suspicions on “conspiracy theory” insanity so that even if the truth slaps us in the face like a fresh mackerel we can still deny it and not feel too stupid – no matter how uncomfortable we get.
We watched Ronald Reagan totter through eight painful years of figurehead “leadership” all the while fooling ourselves that he was more than just an actor reading the script for the best paid, longest running stage show he’d ever been able to charm his way into. He was so very charming, you know? Old ladies all over the country swooned every time he was on TV no matter how stupid and contradictory the words spewing out of his mouth were. Besides, he actually did come up with his own stuff once in a while. Who can ever forget, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” After all, nuclear war with what was at the time the nearly as insane USSR would have been such a blast!
We can only guess who told George II he needed to talk the dumb American plebes into privatizing Social Security. Actually, we wouldn’t have to guess too hard to get their scent – Wall Street and the ilk that fraternize with it break into cold sweats just thinking of all those “wasted” trillions in the Social Security fund doing nothing more than guaranteeing a bunch of old losers that they won’t have to live in shelters, eat out of trashcans, or just do the world the favor of dying so good aristocrats don’t have to support them.
George II failed in part because he was even dumber than the plebes he was supposed to convince. Not to press the criticism too hard, we have a George II quote from a “Town Hall Meeting” in Tampa, Florida on 04 February 2005. He had been asked to explain how privatization would help avoid what he was trying to sell as the imminent collapse of Social Security. He responded:
“Because the – all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There’s a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those – changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be – or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It’s kind of muddled. Look, there’s a series of things that cause the – like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate – the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those – if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.”
George had definitely been up all night working on that explanation, don’t you think? (If you think at all, you’re way ahead of George.)
Social Security works. It may not work as well as it could, but it has done an invaluable job so far, and despite the fear and uncertainty injected into the discussion during the past ten years, sane, rational minds with real information regularly assure us that the fund is doing fine. Not only that, but it will continue to do fine for a lot longer unless we decide to let the top wage earners and corporations fleece us even worse than they do already by giving them more tax breaks – and then take it out on Social Security.
Indirectly, the primary threat to Social Security is from the effects of inflation and the air in the system needed to inflate equity bubbles. Factors like that give some tangential substance to claims that Social Security is the hugest Ponzi scheme ever. Then again, we don’t have to let it be that way. We have the ability to destroy the “boom and bust” cycle that powers our capitalist economic system. We just have to seriously consider ditching capitalism and putting the crooks that own the system where they can’t hurt anyone anymore. That process could start by looking hard at why our audaciously hopeful president, Barack Obama, hasn’t put a lid on his advisors who claim that Social Security is in such trouble that we should, for instance, raise the retirement age to 70. But that would take having a president without masters we all but refuse to believe exist.