The Wall Street TARP Gang Wants to Take Away Your Social Security

Just over two years ago, the Wall Streeters were running around
Congress and the media saying that if they don't immediately get $700
billion the world will end. Since they own large chunks of both, they
quickly got their money.

Even more important than the hundreds of billions of loans issued
through the TARP was the trillions of dollars of loans and guarantees
from the Fed and the FDIC. This money came with virtually no strings
attached. It kept Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of
America and many others from collapsing. As a result, folks like Goldman
CEO Lloyd Blankfein are again pocketing tens of millions a year in
wages and bonuses, instead of walking the unemployment lines. Instead,
15 million ordinary workers are being told to just get used to being
unemployed; it's the "new normal."

But wait, it gets worse. The thing about Wall Streeters is that no
matter how much money you give them, they always want more. Now they are
using their political power and control over the media to attack Social

This effort is being led by billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson. Mr. Peterson has personally profited to
the tune of tens of millions of dollars from the "fund managers' tax
subsidy," an obscure provision of the tax code that allows billionaires
to pay a lower tax rate than schoolteachers and firefighters. However,
Peterson believes in giving back. He has committed $1 billion to an
effort that is intended to take away the Social Security benefits that
people have worked and paid for.

As part of this effort, Peterson set up a whole new foundation, the
Peter G. Peterson Foundation. He and/or his foundation created a "news
service," the Fiscal Times, which is intended to promote the view that
we have no choice but to cut Social Security. The Fiscal Times has
entered into agreements with the Washington Post and other credible newspapers to provide material.

Peterson is also funding the creation of a high school curriculum
which is intended to tell our children that the in the future the
country will be too poor to finance Social Security.
He funded a silly exercise called "America Speaks," which was supposed
to convince an assembly of selected participants that we must cut Social
Security after a daylong immersion in Peterson-style propaganda. (The people didn't buy it.)
And now his crew is spending $20 million on an ad campaign to convince
people the world will end if we don't cut Social Security.

Attacks on Social Security have been fended off in the past and it is
possible that this one will be too. It is an incredibly popular and
successful program. It does exactly what it was supposed to do. It
provides a modest income to the retired and disabled, and their
families, to ensure that people who have spent their lives working will
not fall into poverty. It is also extremely efficient, with
administrative costs that are less than 1/20th as large as the costs of
private insurers.

It also has very little fraud. We know this because earlier this year the Washington Post made a big point of hyping mistaken payments to federal employees
than involved less than 0.01 percent of Social Security spending. If
substantial fraud did exist, the Washington Post wouldn't have to hype
small change to try to discredit the program.

The really incredible part of this story is that we should be talking
about increasing Social Security benefits. Benefits are quite low by
international standards. The portion of wage income replaced by Social
Security is considerably lower than the retirement benefit provided by the systems in Australia, Canada, Germany and most other wealthy countries.

As a result, many of the retirees who are dependent almost entirely
on Social Security have incomes that are only slightly above the poverty
line. A modest increase in benefits could make a big difference in
these people's standard of living.

In addition, the near retirees, the people directly in the gun sights
of the Wall Street TARPers, have just seen most of their wealth
destroyed by the collapse of the housing bubble. The Wall Streeters now
want to kick them yet again, by taking away Social Security benefits
that they have already paid for.

If Congress and the media worked for the public, we would be debating
Wall Street speculation taxes right now. Insofar as we need to do
something about the deficit in the longer term, taxing Wall Street
speculation is a far more economic desirable route than taking away the
Social Security benefits that ordinary workers have already paid for. We
could easily raise more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade with a broadly based speculation tax than would have almost no impact on anyone except the Wall Street crew.

Even the IMF is now pushing higher taxes on the Wall Street types,
recognizing the enormous waste and rents in the financial sector. But
the media and Congress do not respond to economic reality, they respond
to money. And Peter Peterson and the Wall Street crew are not paying for
an honest discussion of the country's fiscal and economic problems.
They are financing a rigged debate that is intended to result to even
more money flowing to Wall Street and less to those who work for a

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.