George W. Bush is attempting to con folks into viewing Social Security as an investment account. On this misinformational basis, he then rails: you can get a higher rate from gambling your Social Security fund as a private investment account on Wall Street!
Bush II, however, is knocking his head against the stubborn fact that Social Security is not an investment account, but a social insurance that workers pay into during their working years. It is a guaranteed benefit they have earned; a democratic gain they have won through united mass political action, a crowning achievement of the New Deal, enacted in 1935.
Bush II’s fallback strategy is to then charge that Social Security is in crisis and that (axe in hand) he will “reform” (translation: privatize) it.
Again Bush II knocks his head against the stubborn fact that the Social Security trust fund and the Congressional Budget Office both attest to the financial soundness of the program. Both express confidence that Social Security will continue to make payments, as it has unfailingly for the past 70 years to retired workers, survivors of deceased workers, and disabled workers. This reality led Michael Harding in the April Harper’s magazine to say bluntly that Bush’s claim that Social Security is in crisis can be “easily dismissed.”
Plainly, facts don’t bother Bush. If mere facts don’t support his preconceived, extremist, pro-corporate stance — too bad for the facts. He lops them off like a sculptor cutting off clay. With Bush, truth is opposite to truth, and privatized investment spells security and riches for all.
This is vintage Bush II doublespeak to becloud the inherent insecurity of the stock market and its crisis-prone capitalist foundation.
The history of U.S. and world capitalism rebukes Bush’s doublespeak. Such convulsions as the stock market crash of 1929 — stemming from the inner contradictions of capitalism and the open-throttle stock market speculations of the “roaring 1920s” — and the ensuing Big Depression of the 1930s and 1940s show that capitalism, not Social Security, is the problem. Social Security is a substantive measure to deal partially with the built-in instability of this for-profit social and economic system.
In the run-up to the Big Depression, then-president Herbert Hoover resorted to demagoguery that only Bush II can best. Hoover falsely promised, “Prosperity is just around the corner.” In reality, shaky and shaken capitalism was taking its toll on working-class families, small farmers and large sections of the middle class.
Industrial production was reduced by half. One-third of the workforce was unemployed and starving. Millions lost their savings, homes and farms. Racially oppressed people were even further oppressed.
The working class, both employed and unemployed, responded en masse to the call issued by the Communists, “Don’t starve, fight!”
On March 6, 1930, some 1,125,000 unemployed demonstrated in many cities. Hunger marches mushroomed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal responded swiftly to the mass demonstrations, to save capitalism.
The working class made important gains, including Social Security. African American workers made gains from the New Deal along with the entire working class, but still suffered discrimination.
It is well documented that the Bush/Wall Street cabal’s drive to privatize Social Security, at bottom, is bare-knuckled pro-corporate thievery, opposed by a majority of the American people.
Not content with only documenting this assault, working people, their unions and allies are fighting and uniting to uphold and expand Social Security and to move forward.
A special note to youth:
This glimpse into the shakiness of capitalism will hopefully help you see through and reject Bush’s demagogic promises of untold wealth if you will gamble on private Wall Street investment accounts in lieu of guaranteed-benefit Social Security.
George Fishman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a retired public school teacher living in New Haven, Conn.