President Obama and his Republican partners in austerity have choreographed a kind of bi-partisan ballet, in which the dancers reach out to each other in slow motion, their fingers almost touching, teasing the audience. These cheap and transparent theatrics are designed to transmit a soap opera-like sense of drama: “Can the two parties come to a compromise for the sake of the country?” But, the fact is, Obama and the Republicans reached most of their grand bargain more than a year ago, when they slashed $1.7 trillion out of domestic spending over a decade. As liberal Obamite Robert Kuttner, of Demos, points out, there’s very little left to cut except Medicare and Social Security.
Social Security has always been Obama’s Great White Whale; he’s conspired with Republicans and right-wing Democrats to harpoon the mother of all New Deal programs since the very start of his presidency. But Social Security is not an easy mark. George Bush found that out in his second term, when he suffered his worst domestic defeat in attempting to privatize the program.
It would take a Black Democrat, fresh from a near-landslide election, to put Social Security on the chopping block, as Obama did in January of 2009. But before he could move in for the kill, Obama and his allies had to convince the public that Social Security is a major contributor to the federal budget deficit – which is a lie. Social Security runs on its own stream of revenues that go into the Social Security Trust Fund, totally separate from general taxation and debt. However, by endless repetition of the Big Lie – that Social Security adds to the federal deficit – Obama and other corporate Democrats and Republicans succeeded in maneuvering the program into the austerity debate, where it does not belong.
At this point it must be said that Obama’s insistence on making Social Security a budget deficit issue shows that he has always intended to make drastic cuts to the program. One of the reasons Social Security has long been thought of as “untouchable” is because President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal Democrats purposely insulated it from the conventional budget process. However, President Obama has largely neutered Social Security’s traditional congressional defenders, who know perfectly well what their president is up to, but will not directly oppose him. That’s why we at Black Agenda Report call Obama “the more effective evil”; he can accomplish what Republicans only dream about.
Obama’s scheme to cripple Social Security is to change the way inflation is measured, resulting in a drastic scale-back in cost-of-living increases in recipients. According to Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the cuts would amount to 3 percent over 10 years, 6 percent over 20 years, and 9 percent over 30 years. In dollar terms, Black Minneapolis Congressman Keith Ellison says retirees would lose $6,000 in the first 15 years of cuts and $16,000 over 25 years.
And that’s just the beginning. Once the untouchability of Social Security has been breached, it becomes just another social program to be carved up on austerity chopping blocks. President Obama’s true legacy will be to have begun the destruction of the crown jewel of what’s left of the nation’s social safety net.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Obama and GOP Play Tag Team on Entitlements (alethonews.wordpress.com)
I gave my daughter a tip on being a media critic: “If you see a newspaper article with the words ‘Social Security’ in the title,” I told her, “it’s probably bad.”
Sure enough, the article we were looking at–”Fixing Social Security,” by Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan (4/29/12)–was pretty terrible.
Sloan’s argument is that cuts in Social Security benefits are “inevitable” because of “projections that Social Security’s cash expenses will exceed its cash income as far as the eye can see.” Note the important qualifier: “cash income.” That means excluding Social Security’s investment income. Including that income, Social Security is in the black for the next 21 years, according to the Social Security Trustees’ projections.
Why exclude that investment income? Sloan explains:
We will skip all that stuff about the Social Security trust fund (which has accounting and political significance but no economic significance) and go straight to the number that matters.
To wit: Last year, the Treasury had to borrow $160 billion to give to Social Security so that its checks (okay, its electronic deposits) wouldn’t bounce.
Let’s not skip the part about the Social Security trust fund–it’s important. It’s got $2.5 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds in it–I’d say that’s rather significant, economically speaking.
Why does the Social Security trust fund have so many Treasury bonds? Because back in the 1980s, the federal government decided to “save” Social Security by raising the payroll tax (and cutting benefits as well). The idea was that Social Security would take in more than it needed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, loan that money to the Treasury, and then in the mid-21st century, the Treasury would pay it back, thus helping to pay for the Baby Boomers’ retirement.
The loaning money to Treasury part worked as planned. Now that it’s time for the paying back part–suddenly the trust fund has “no economic significance.”
Look at the word game Sloan’s playing: “The Treasury had to borrow $160 billion to give to Social Security….” Paying one’s debts isn’t a gift–it’s a legal requirement.
It’s true that Congress could rewrite the laws so that Social Security would forgive those debts–but why should it do that? It would implicate Congress in the grandest of all larcenies–diverting money from the paychecks of working Americans with a promise that it will be used to help pay for their retirements, and then refusing to make good on that promise on the grounds that it has “no economic significance.”
- More Falsehoods About Social Security And Medicare (duanegraham.wordpress.com)
April 30, 2012 Posted by aletho | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | Allan Sloan, Jim Naureckas, Social Security, Social Security Trust Fund, Trust law, United States Treasury security, Washington Post | Leave a Comment
By Paul Craig Roberts | February 18, 2010
Hank Paulson, the Gold Sacks bankster/US Treasury Secretary, who deregulated the financial system, caused a world crisis that wrecked the prospects of foreign banks and governments, caused millions of Americans to lose retirement savings, homes, and jobs, and left taxpayers burdened with multi-trillions of dollars of new US debt, is still not in jail. He is writing in the New York Times urging that the mess he caused be fixed by taking away from working Americans the Social Security and Medicare for which they have paid in earmarked taxes all their working lives.
Wall Street’s approach to the poor has always been to drive them deeper into the ground.
As there is no money to be made from the poor, Wall Street fleeces them by yanking away their entitlements. It has always been thus. During the Reagan administration, Wall Street decided to boost the values of its bond and stock portfolios by using Social Security revenues to lower budget deficits. Wall Street figured that lower deficits would mean lower interest rates and higher bond and stock prices.
Two Wall Street henchmen, Alan Greenspan and David Stockman, set up the Social Security raid in this way: The Carter administration had put Social Security in the black for the foreseeable future by establishing a schedule for future Social Security payroll tax increases. Greenspan and Stockman conspired to phase in the payroll tax increases earlier than was needed in order to gain surplus Social Security revenues that could be used to finance other government spending, thus reducing the budget deficit. They sold it to President Reagan as “putting Social Security on a sound basis.”
Along the way Americans were told that the surplus revenues were going into a special Social Security trust fund at the U.S. Treasury. But what is in the fund is Treasury IOUs for the spent revenues. When the “trust funds” are needed to pay Social Security benefits, the Treasury will have to sell more debt in order to redeem the IOUs.
Social Security was mugged again during the Clinton administration when the Boskin Commission jimmied the Consumer Price Index in order to reduce the inflation adjustments that Social Security recipients receive, thus diverting money from Social Security retirees to other uses.
We constantly hear from Wall Street gangsters and from Republicans and an occasional Democrat that Social Security and Medicare are a form of welfare that we can’t afford; an “unfunded liability.” This is a lie. Social Security is funded with an earmarked tax. People pay for Social Security and Medicare all their working lives. It is a pay-as-you-go system in which the taxes paid by those working fund those who are retired.
Currently these systems are not in deficit. The problem is that government is using earmarked revenues for other purposes. Indeed, since the 1980s Social Security revenues have been used to fund general government. Today Social Security revenues are being used to fund trillion dollar bailouts for Wall Street and to fund the Bush/Obama wars of aggression against Muslims.
Having diverted Social Security revenues to war and Wall Street, Paulson says there is no alternative but to take the promised benefits away from those who have paid for them.
Republicans have extraordinary animosity toward the poor. In an effort to talk retirees out of their support systems, Republicans frequently describe Social Security as a Ponzi scheme and “unsustainable.” They ought to know. The phony trust fund, which they set up to hide the fact that Wall Street and the Pentagon are running off with Social Security revenues, is a Ponzi scheme. Social Security itself has been with us since the 1930s and has yet to wreck our lives and budget. But it only took Hank Paulson’s derivative Ponzi scheme and its bailout a few years to inflict irreparable damage on our lives and budget.
Years ago with stagflation defeated and a rising stock market, I favored privatizing Social Security as a way of creating a funded retirement system and producing greater savings and larger incomes for retirees. At that time Wall Street was interested, not for my reasons, but in order to collect the fees from managing the funds.
Had Social Security been privatized, I doubt that Wall Street would have been permitted to deregulate the financial system. Too much would have been at stake.
After the latest crisis brought on by Wall Street’s dishonesty and greed, trusting Wall Street to manage anyone’s old age pension requires a leap of faith that no intelligent person can make.
Wall Street has got away with its raid on the public treasury. Now, pockets full, it wants to pay for the heist by curtailing Social Security and Medicare. Having deprived the working population of homes, jobs, and health care, Wall Street is now after the elderly’s old age security.
Social Security, formerly an untouchable “third rail of politics,” is now “unsustainable,” while the real unsustainables–a pre-1929 unregulated financial system and open-ended multi-trillion dollar Global War Against Terror–are the new untouchables. This transformation signals the complete capture of American democracy by an oligarchy of special interests.
- Austerity, Obama-Style (alethonews.wordpress.com)
February 19, 2010 Posted by aletho | Deception, Economics, Supremacism, Social Darwinism | Alan Greenspan, David Stockman, Medicare, New York Times, PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, Social Security, Social Security Trust Fund, United States, Wall Street | Leave a Comment
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