Commentary from The Laura Flanders Show , February 5, 2005
Oh really. How dumb does George really think we are? Does the President really think we'll fall for it a second time?
Here's what I want you to do: for every time W says the words "social security" I want you to say to yourself "weapons of mass destruction." Social Security=WMD. Aluminum tubes=trust fund bankruptcy.
The Bush team are rolling the same product out again only this time it's not Yellow Cake in Niger that they're using to lie to the American people, it's the wackiest possible sometime-a-hundred years from now estimates of the Social Security Trust fund's solvency.
There's that magic word again: security. "This is just a better deal," says W. "The goal is greater retirement security."
Well, the Iraq invasion plan was all about security too - and there's been only one great undisputed beneficiary - or maybe two: First, those shadowy terrorist networks Bush promised to fight. Second, Iran. Iraqis may finally seen some gains from the elections they foisted on their occupiers - but Iran's mullah's are the one's who've have managed to increase their influence at no price paid in blood. All Gain no Pain. How do you say in Farsi, "GW thank you very much."
The President's plan gives one set of folks security and those are the people at the financial services firms. Don't take it from me. Take it from the Wall Street Journal. "If only two percentage points of payroll tax were diverted into privatized accounts, this would mean $60 Billion a year could flow into mutual funds and other securities," as reported by the WSJ Feb 20 1996. And that's a low-end estimate.
The world's biggest 401k for someone to manage. Which fund wouldn't want that? No wonder the Wall St. middle men are marshalling millions to push Bush's dream-scheme. If they pull it off, we the taxpayers will pay them of course, out of our no-longer guaranteed "benefit." Look at Great Britain - over 40 % of the money accumulated in privatized accounts there is being spent on fund management fees. In Chile, it's over one third. No wonder those financial firms are marshalling millions to push W's program.
How would it work? W could tell you but he won't. People divert part of their payroll taxes into private accounts. That money would be their own, the President assured us last week: "the government can never take it away." Right. But the government will take a way a huge hunk of those separate social security checks, in exchange. In fact, they'll be cutting those checks by exactly the amount the private investor earns in the market, minus inflation (and those fees.) No matter whether you've chosen to participate in Bush's wacky scheme or not, everyone's benefits will be cut to cover what there is of an anticipated Trust Fund shortfall because Bush's plan doesn't even pretend to address that anymore. Now that's Congress's job. In fact Bush said in the State of the Union that he's "open to anyone who has a good idea." Now do you feel more secure?
Think you'll come out ahead? If you're lucky you'll come out even. If your private fund doesn't do so well, you'll come out worse than you had if you hadn't invested in a private account.
Meanwhile, what happened to State of the Union promises past? Where's that pledge to hunt Osama Bin Laden? The President seems to have hired the same guy to hunt Bin Laden that OJ hired to hunt the killers of his wife. That mission to Mars? We haven't heard about that lately. And oh yes, where's that much bally-hood clamp down on corporate crime?
It came out this week - on tape -- that yes, indeed, Enron execs okayed the shutting-down of certain California electricity plants to force up people's prices and the company's profits. While Martha Stewart's cutting deals from jail, Ken Lay is still on the streets.
This White House is hot to clamp down on crooks at the UN, but sad for them, Paul Volcker's report didn't turn up any really smoking guns. Meanwhile, there's $8.8 billion missing from Iraq's oil revenues since the US invaded. Occupation administrator Paul Bremer responded to his own auditors by complaining that the report "assumes that Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war." Well now that the US has "spread" democracy to Iraq, let's hope US accounting practices don't spread next.
And finally, of course, there's Halliburton. The Pentagon decided this week, to disregard their own accountants and continue paying, in full, our taxpayer money to those over-chargers in chief. And a federal appeals court has ruled that tobacco companies can keep their ill-gotten gains no matter the nature of their past crimes. It's great news for the mob. Come to think of it, Mob- White House; White House-Mob. It's getting harder and harder to keep them apart.
Clearly, the White House has reasons to keep the public distracted.
What's next? Will Condoleezza Rice go before Congress with a vial of scary-looking bankruptcy notices?
"All it would take for one or two of these to escape and future generations of retired people will be ruined, ruined……"
I can hardly wait.
I'm Laura Flanders and you're listening to Air America Radio
Laura Flanders is host of The Laura Flanders Show on Air America Radio.