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Crying wolf on Social Security

Editorial for Feb. 3, 2005

Crying wolf on Social Security

Listening to President Bush and Vice President Cheney describing how much of a crisis we're in with our Social Security system sure sounds familiar.

Hmmm, where have we heard this type of language before?

Oh, that's it. Iraq. Our Social Security program is as desperate a threat to our economic future as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were to our physical security. Now it makes sense.

The Bush administration says we can't let Social Security continue on as it has for the past 70 years, serving millions of senior citizens faithfully. Currently, 47 million Americans collect benefits from this program, which is widely considered to be the most successful economic and social program in our nation's history.

No, we can't have that. We need to have a drastic overhaul. If we let Social Security go forward without major changes in it, well, all of our hopes for a secure retirement may go up like a mushroom cloud! This is a real emergency and we have to act immediately. There's no time for silly debate in Congress, just do it. Hurry!

Disregard the claims from most economic experts that there is no threat of Social Security being in financial trouble for at least another 37 years. Those sunny reports are simply coming from disgruntled partisans with their own agendas. Forget the reality that the Social Security trustees -- who were appointed by President Bush -- reported in February 2004 that Social Security trust funds will not be exhausted until 2042 at the earliest, although the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office suggests that 2052 is more accurate.

Please also ignore the fact that as recently as June 2004, the Congressional Budget Office reported that Social Security will have a $4 trillion surplus by 2019, when benefit payments are expected to begin exceeding collections. Simply remember this mantra: This is a dire threat that we need to tackle right now.

Meanwhile, it will cost only between $1 trillion and $2 trillion to perform the radical privatization "fix" of this obviously failed Social Security program, so let's get started. A couple trillion dollars to switch it over to private plans? That's nothing much. We can add that extra debt on top of the historic and crushing debt levels we enjoy now, don't worry about it. We have a real emergency with Social Security, so everybody ante up, sign up for more debt to pass on to your grandchildren, right here on the dotted line. That's right, go ahead, and move quickly because danger is at hand!

If we don't all agree to roll over and let our personal government-backed retirement funds be handled by anonymous stock brokers, we may lose everything. Of course, with this plan we could lose our accumulated savings anyway, but never mind that. Odds are you'll do fairly well. Well, maybe you'll only lose seven or eight percent of what you otherwise would have had, but hey that's the chance you take in the stock market.

Don't worry, not many will lose everything, and even so that will probably be years from now, so let's not sweat the details. Just think of the many who may benefit. Isn't it worth gambling your Social Security money on that hope? Maybe you'll gain too. No guarantees, but take a chance. It's only money after all, and now it will be floating free in the stock market.

What a deal. We will all get the chance to replace a guaranteed benefit with an incredibly costly risk-oriented one. Where do we sign up?



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