Untrue colors: Social Security in black and white
By Seth Sandronsky
Journal Contributing Writer
Mar 26, 2005, 22:30
Can you fool all of the people all of the time? The politics
of Social Security suggest not in 2005.
Despite the Bush White House�s many calls of doom and gloom
for the popular program, the fact that it is not broken now or in danger of
breaking soon is becoming stronger in the public mind, bombarded with the
administration�s sales pitches to fix what is fine. Ordinary Americans are
increasingly rejecting the GOP�s message, according to recent public opinion
polls. But as a famous philosopher once said, it ain�t over until it�s over.
Case in point is the White House targeting African Americans as a group who
stand to benefit from changing Social Security from a program of social
insurance to one of private investments in the stock market.
A New York Times article on March 20 details the GOP�s
strategy to build blacks' support for fixing Social Security with
private accounts. Presumably, this is the road to social equality where all
folks have a chance to make it if they really try. Supposedly, such market
opportunity is a natural way to expand American democracy.
GOP strategists say with a straight face that blacks are
getting shortchanged by Social Security. A little truth is a dangerous thing
here. Consider the case of black males. On average, they live six years less
than white males. GOPsters see this as an opening to argue their case against
Social Security. It is at fault, you see, by giving blacks retirement benefits
for a shorter time period versus whites. Fixing the program with private
accounts would reverse such inequity. Welcome to another solution from the
stock market. Insanity, you say? No, just another example of the market
mentality for the virus of social inequity. And it is a virus.
Why black males have shorter lifespans than whites cries out
for discussion. And then sustained progressive action. After all, there are
very real reasons why this social disparity exists in the world�s lone
superpower. In brief, one group of males lives on average six year shorter than
another group of males due to the lack of equity built into the national
economy. By that I mean roughly how the American people earn their income to
buy clothes, food, health care, shelter and transit.
Black males are twice as likely as their white counterparts
to be jobless, the Labor Department regularly finds in its surveys of
businesses and households. To be unemployed is to be more at-risk from death
and disease. This is no secret. Crucially, the White House seeks to adapt its
social policy to such inequity rather than eliminate it. Behold Bush�s vision
of an �ownership society.�
The less employers hire black workers, the worse will be
their lives. They will become throwaway folks. They will have less access to
health care and other services available with income in a market economy. You
need not be an economist to grasp this concept. It is a lived experience for
millions of African Americans, and not an urban legend like the
administration�s case for the looming bankruptcy of Social Security,
financially sound through mid-century, say the system�s trustees and the
Congressional Budget Office.
Social Security provides recipients of all skin colors with
lifetime retirement income. Private accounts do not. When you run short of cash
in your private account, that is the end of your retirement income. Period. By
contrast, Social Security is a source of income for retirees for as long as
they live. There is no end of the income line until you draw your last breath.
The GOP�s solution of establishing private accounts for
African Americans who receive Social Security sidesteps why they actually
collect it for a shorter period than whites. Blaming the program for
shortchanging blacks is a little like defendants charged with killing their
parents asking for judicial mercy as orphans. Chutzpah.
In the meantime, the stock market remains overvalued since
its downturn five years ago. This is no rosy scenario for private accounts held
by American workers of all hues in the future. One more thing is clear. The
White House is not in a hurry to improve blacks� life chances, nor preserve
Social Security as we know it.
Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and co-editor of Because
People Matter, Sacramento�s progressive paper. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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