At Bush's so-called economic summit, which was more like a valley, he did what he does best: instill fear about a false threat.
And he made clear who his constituency is: the financial markets.
Even before the gathering of rightwing economists began, Bush set the tone in his weekend radio address when he said, "The system is headed toward bankruptcy down the road. If we do not act soon, Social Security will not be there for our children and grandchildren."
This is the worst kind of hype.
The Social Security trust fund is solvent until the year 2042, according to its trustees, or the year 2052, according to the General Accounting Office. After that, there still will be enough money to pay everyone 75 percent of their benefits. And with a modest reform here or there, those benefits could be covered at 100 percent.
One such possibility is to raise the ceiling on payroll taxes. Right now, Social Security taxes are taken out of only the first $87,900 of income. So Bill Gates pays the exact same amount in Social Security taxes as a middle manager making $87,900. Let Gates and his cohorts kick in all the way, and the Social Security shortfall four decades from now virtually vanishes.
But Bush doesn't want to do that. He wants us all to be afraid, very afraid. So afraid that we don't bother to think, and we just let him get away with his privatization scheme, which is going to bust the bank on Social Security.
It would withdraw $2 trillion over the next ten years from Social Security, and that money is supposed to be paying the benefits of the elderly and the disabled already in the system.
As a result, Bush would either have to borrow more money or cut benefits, or both. And he definitely plans on cutting benefits for younger people. "The benefits now scheduled for future generations under current law are not sustainable," said N. Gregory Mankiw, Bush's head of the Council of Economic Advisers recently. He called the benefits "empty promises."
Meanwhile, Wall Street would make out like bandits, hauling away about $75 billion a year in investment fees.
Bush has it exactly backwards.
Social Security is not going bust any time soon, and under his plan, Social Security won't be there for your children or your grandchildren.
© 2004 the Progressive