George W. Bush�s push to sell Social Security reform to a
wary U.S. public has shifted gears. The second leg of his sales effort has
begun with a repeated warning that the popular program faces a crisis, plus a
challenge to Democratic opponents to offer their alternative.
Bush, Vice President Cheney and Treasury Secretary Snow will
canvass the nation for 60 days in 29 states to spread the idea of revamping
Social Security. Team Bush�s main talking point is that the popular program
faces a grave future without benefit cuts and private accounts. Snow promised
�to hit this hard� before speaking in Louisiana.
It is an open secret that Team Bush�s case for reforming
Social Security has been floundering. In The New York Times of March 1, Sen.
Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, lamented
that despite 18 public meetings with Iowans last month, they remain unconvinced
that Social Security is at-risk. Folks in Montana had a similar response to
Bush�s proposed plan when he spoke there in February. The same dynamic was the
case in Sacramento, where Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) had a public
meeting late last month.
We are seeing a popular negation of the ruling party�s major
domestic policy initiative. Regular people in California, Iowa and Montana know
when they are being bamboozled. And they are speaking out against being fleeced
by Team Bush.
From the East Coast to the West
Coast, the general population is becoming more opposed to Social
Security reform the more the details of the benefit cuts and private accounts
see the light of day. Ordinary people are getting it that Team Bush�s plan for
the program will harm it and them. Recent public opinion polls by establishment
groups show this trend quite clearly. Polling by USA Today/CNN/Gallup and New
York Times/CBS News are two cases in point.
What exactly is Team Bush�s evidence of Social Security�s
looming insolvency? In a nutshell, smoke and mirrors, with much repetition, the
heart of their fear-mongering propaganda. The program is fully funded until
2042, according to the Social Security trustees. Four of the six trustees are
Bush�s political appointees. The Congressional Budget Office says that Social
Security can pay full benefits to recipients through 2052.
The program�s funding faces no crisis that requires the
solutions of Team Bush: benefit cuts and private accounts. For nearly every
decade of Social Security�s existence, there have been changes to the program
without privatizing it and making draconian cuts. The Social Security crisis
exists only in the minds and the mouths of Team Bush.
Government programs do not run short of funds. Ask yourself
when Team Bush faced a lack of funds for a military and security program. And
why? Political will determines government spending. Excuses for journalists
fail to ask Team Bush why Social Security faces insolvency, a fate not shared
by the Pentagon. Such scriveners are your basic stenographers to the powerful.
Syndicated columnist George Will is one example. For his backing of right-wing
extremism, he got a $250,000 stipend from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
on February 16.
With Team Bush cackling about Social Security�s funding
crisis, endless funds flow from Main Street�s pockets for military and security
spending. In the meantime, tax cuts for the well-heeled are draining taxable
revenue from the federal government. Team Bush�s political priorities
correspond to the financial interests of its patrons, chiefly the energy and
military sectors. Main Street�s material interests lie elsewhere. This
recognition is being revealed by the growing popular opposition to Team Bush�s
plan for Social Security. We see a rise in class consciousness from the
Team Bush�s propagandizing the U.S. public with crisis talk
about Social Security is nothing new, actually. The program has been under
attack in one form or another since being created in response to the militant
political actions of the working class during the Great Depression.
Team Bush�s sales effort to reform Social Security reflects
class relations in U.S. society. Social inequality is growing like a cancer on
the social fabric. Income has been redistributed upwards the past 25 years
under both political parties. Weakening New Deal and Great Society programs for
the working many has been a key part of this social change. At the same time, formal
politics has withered for the mass of the nation�s people. Politics has become
�the shadow cast on society by big business,� in the words of philosopher John
Dewey. Despite and because of these related trends in 2005, Main Street is
saying no to Team Bush�s Social Security reform. This is a victory for the
majority in its class struggle against a parasitic minority, expressed most
visibly by Team Bush�s attack on Social Security.
Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of
Because People Matter, Sacramento�s progressive paper. He can be
reached at: email@example.com.