Dear Mr. President:
Tonight, I took great comfort from the fact that you did not describe Social Security as “a grave and gathering danger.” True, your promise that privatization will allow Social Security accounts to “grow at a faster rate” than the current Trust Fund was faith-based but I am so happy that the Frantz Luntz (I presume) focus groups have convinced you to drop the words “crisis” and “privatization” in favor of “problem” and “personal retirement accounts.”
And I am also thrilled that you are dipping into your reserves of political capital because some say your reserves of credibility seem to have dried up. Yes, I have heard with shocked admiration the familiar echo that the French, Germans, the UN and, damn it, even Bill Clinton agreed with you about the WMDs. Frankly, I think it is admirable when an individual doesn’t allow one lie to stop a cover-up lie. Your single-minded or should I say “single-celled” ability never to take responsibility for mistakes sets you apart from run-of-the-mill politicians. You have been apotheosized and ascended to the Pantheon of Richard Nixon and Warren Harding.
I must also admit that I love it when you talk like a Populist and not like a member of the ownership class. “Freedom” is a great word and it sounded great in the Inaugural and “ownership” also sounds just super.
However, if you don’t mind a suggestion. There are naysayers out there who question your real dedication to promoting an ownership society. Strange but true. Apparently, they come from the small number that did not help you attain your overwhelming mandate. Not to nitpick, but some of those 59+ million complain and whine that:
1) The minimum wage of $5.15 has remained frozen since 1997. If, by the way, the minimum wage kept up with CEO salaries since just 1993, they say it would now be $15.71 an hour. Where they get the nerve to compare peasants to kings just floors me.
2) They quote America’s greatest investor,Warren Buffett, as saying: “If there is class warfare in this country, my class has won.” Evidently, he was pointing to the fact that he will pay a smaller share of his income in taxes than his secretary if the tax cuts become permanent. And she is not worth $43 billion. The reality is that if the tax cuts are made permanent he would be paying about 17.8% while his secretary’s rate would be paying about 18%. The people saying this obviously want to penalize those who create the jobs. The rich lead frantic lives trying at every moment to make others rich. Such labors should not go unrewarded. Why punish the rich?
3) The $11.6 trillion price tag of keeping the tax cuts permanent dwarfs the Congressional Budget Office’s forecast of the Social Security shortfall of $2 billion and $3.7 billion by the Social Security Administration. They say that just cutting the permanent tax cuts for those in the top bracket who earn, on average, $1.2 million a year would plug the shortfall. In fact, they insist that just raising the salary cap on wages that must pay Social Security from $90,000 to $110,000 would solve the problem as the CBO sees it. Clearly, these “soak the rich” liberals just don’t get it.
4) The top 13,400 households in the U.S. have the same yearly income as the bottom 96 million. This figure is taken from David Cay Johnston’s book: “Perfectly Legal.” But then again he is a New York Times writer! His book and “Wealth and Democracy” by Kevin Phillips seem to indicate that our ownership society is one in which fewer and fewer people own more and more. And I say, “Why shouldn’t they? They’re smarter, work harder and MAKE JOBS for the great unwashed who, clearly, are not as grateful as they should be.
5) The top 1% of Americans have the same wealth as the bottom 95% and the top 15% of Americans own virtually all financial assets. God, when will these people put down the weapons of class warfare. How uncivilized!
6) Over the last 50 years corporate taxes as a percentage of federal tax receipts have fallen from 34% to 7% while taxes on workers as a percentage have increased. And they think this is wrong!
7) The average salary of American workers have increased only about a nickel an hour for the last two decades and during what the administration calls a “recovery” have increased more slowly than in any modern economic recovery. Americans who want real raises should do real work. Enough said.
8) Lastly, some people say that Health Care is in a crisis in this country because so many have little or no coverage and rates are skyrocketing for others. Read my lips. People with jobs get health care; those without don’t deserve it. And these liberals say they believe in Darwin. Funny, they don’t seem to want to live it.
Of course, I say to hell with all of them. If God wanted everyone to be wealthy he would make rich women far more fertile. I think with help from Frank and other spinmeisters we can keep the minds of young workers focused on how we should divvy up their meager Social Security contributions – not on their overall deteriorating financial health. We certainly don’t want them to think of how much more of the tax burden they bear than they should or how their wages are stagnant and savings nonexistent. Let’s keep them focused on how they can give up their life, disability and old age insurance in exchange for a random walk down Wall Street.
Young people love roller coasters. It’s a fact. I also know from watching the X-treme Games that young people love walking a tightrope without a net and we are going to provide them that opportunity.
A couple of last suggestions. A lot of people grouse about the “Transition costs” of perhaps $16 trillion and the fact that the Social Security forecasts on the economy are inconsistent with the necessary robust growth of stocks that privateers tout. Ignore them. Yes, price –earning multiples of 100 may seem excessive but I intend to sell when they reach 99. If Ari and Scott have taught me anything it’s that after you refuse to answer a question several times, the press will accommodate you and stop asking it.
Another suggestion: Do not let the Social Security actuaries or those of the Congressional Budget Office testify in front of Congress. Actuaries typically don’t understand politics. Some say that actuaries are accountants without the charisma but that is just not true. I have met numerous actuaries who have looked at my shoes rather than their own! But they are dangerous because they just say stuff without thinking of how it will sell to the American public.
Perhaps you could have former CMS head, Tom Scully, return to the government. Now, that’s a man who knows how to handle actuaries! When the chief Medicare actuary, Richard Foster, determined that the actual cost of the Medicare Drug Bill was 25 to 50% higher than the public statements, Scully knew just what to do. He told the upstart to keep the information to himself or he would kill him. Actually, he didn’t have the guts to say that but he should have. He was a voice of moderation. He only said he would fire him if he gave the information to those evil Democrats. Mission Accomplished.
The Drug Bill passed, the Drug companies got their $140 billion in guaranteed profits and Medicare was put on the chopping block. What’s not to admire?
Lastly, while it is not their area, I think Condi Rice and Alberto Gonzales could help. Americans were awestruck when they didn’t answer whether drowning another human is torture. With their help we can define poverty as only major organ failure and cut Social Security benefits to where they should be: bare sustenance level. I also like the John Ashcroft suggestion that paupers, those receiving Social Security, be forced to wear a “P” on their chest as they did in Colonial Days. Never encourage dependency. While Ashcroft has not made his plan public I am certain he will after he finishes his legal paper on the efficacy of Judge Hawthorne’s decisions at Salem.
Women also deserve your tough love. Turning Social Security into a defined contribution plan will finally help level the life expectancies of men and women. Because women earn less, have fewer years of earnings and live longer, a defined contribution plan absolutely guarantees that they will receive less per month than men – even men that earn the same wages! By cutting their caloric intake and the BTUs in their homes, I know that we can finally have women and men expire at the same ages. What could be more compassionate than aiding spouses of the same age to expire together?
Most of all you need to mobilize your core supporters. Those who believe the world is 6,000 years old despite all the evidence to the contrary. Get these people out on the talk show circuit because evidence never confuses them. They know what to believe and they stick with it. While you already have Rush, Michael, Sean and Bill, they seem embarrassed to ever raise the issue of intelligent design, so they need help from more junior high graduates.
Thanks for listening. Did you finish the book on Joe DiMaggio? Class guy that Yankee Clipper and you, sir, are also in a class of your own!
Your devoted fan,
PDA Senior Policy Advisor
Chair of the Subcommittee on Social Security