McCain still pushing to privatize Social Security

Advocates for senior citizens and disabled people denounced Republican Presidential nominee John McCain for repeating his call for a Wall Street takeover of Social Security in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

They cited an interview on CNBC in which McCain reiterated support for President Bush’s privatization scheme, in which workers would put part of their Social Security withholding in private “individual retirement accounts.” McCain told CNBC, “I still believe that young Americans ought to…put some of their money into accounts with their name on it.” He made the comment even though workers with private 401(k) plans are now watching as their retirement nest eggs go up in smoke.

The critics, speaking at an emergency Sept. 19 telephone news conference sponsored by Americans United for Change (AUC), pointed out that tens of millions of seniors and disabled people who depend on monthly Social Security checks would be facing poverty if Bush and the Republican leadership, had succeeded in privatizing the system.

AUC Spokesman, Jeremy Funk, told the World, “It is truly amazing that following one of the worst weeks on Wall Street since the Great Depression, that John McCain would unapologetically renew his call for Social Security privatization. The Bush-McCain plan would turn Social Security from a guarantee into a Wall Street gamble. It shows us just how out of touch he is.”

McCain, the 8th richest lawmaker on Capitol Hill, owns nine houses and 13 cars and wears $500 loafers, Funk pointed out. “It doesn’t matter to McCain whether he wins or loses his Social Security benefit. He can afford it. But what about the tens of millions of seniors and people with disabilities? They can’t afford to lose their houses, let alone their monthly Social Security benefit.”

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research, said the current “turbulence” on Wall Street underlines the importance of Social Security’s ironclad guarantees. “This illustrates the risk” of “relying on private accounts,” Baker said. “Furthermore, the collapse of the housing bubble has destroyed much of the wealth of middle class baby boomers, making them even more dependent than ever on Social Security.”

Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute said, “After the events of this week, to not recognize the folly of privatizing Social Security suggests an imperviousness to evidence that is really quite scary in someone who wants to be president.”

Earlier, George Kourpias, president of the AFL-CIO-affiliated Alliance of Retired Americans said, “Don’t be fooled. John McCain is, was and always will be a privatizer. While he fancies himself a maverick, he has long championed the Bush plan to gamble away Social Security on the roulette wheel of the stock market. In a Bush-McCain world, seniors’ risk would be Wall Street’s reward.” He pointed out that without Social Security, one half the nation’s senior citizens would live in poverty. Privatization would cut Social Security benefits by as much as 50 percent and the average retiree would lose $134,000 in benefit payments over 20 years.

Funk said AUC’s “Bush Legacy” bus, now half-way through its nationwide tour, focuses on the Bush-McCain drive to privatize Social Security. During the 2006 election AUC, which spearheaded the fightback against Social Security privatization, initiated the “Golden Promise Pledge to Protect Social Security and Oppose Privatization.” It was presented to every House and Senate candidate with the demand that they swear they will not support Bush’s drive to destroy Social Security. “The Bush Legacy bus just arrived at the offices of Republican Congressman, Tim Walberg in Battle Creek, Michigan, to ask him to sign the pledge,” Funk said. “Democrats are 100 percent unified in opposition to privatization. The Republicans like to play word games. We’re uncertain where they stand so we are going to confront them: Do you or don’t you support the Bush-McCain privatization scheme?”

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign began airing a TV ad in which Obama says, “Social Security has never been so important but John McCain voted three times in favor of privatizing Social Security.” Both Sen. Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, have been staunch and consistent opponents of any scheme to privatize Social Security.