Social Security
Bush bounces back for more on Social Security
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Jun 29, 2006, 00:48

For my last birthday, somebody gave me an inflatable Bush punching bag (I wonder why). I used a foot pump to make his shape and image unfold with his game face and large boxing shorts and gloves. And then, when the feeling came over me, whomp, I could deal a left hook or right cross to that blank expression and watch him bounce back in my face. Yet I thought the thrill of a good one-two, three-four or even a workout around the house was fleeting. In fact, even if you invited the neighbors over, left it on the deck for the deliverymen to whack away at, it always popped back.

So, too, with his looting policies on Social Security: the only way to really put Bush down is just to open the air valve, sit on the windbag till it flattens like a vinyl pancake again. Then fold it up and mail it to a friend with instructions. So, here goes . . .

His new chief of staff, Josh Bolten, has been telling the pressthe commander in chief�s got more ideas about private accounts, Social Security and Medicare. But he needs some help from the Dems across the aisle. Hmmm, is he trying to put the fix in? He calls it a �keen appreciation� to count on more than Repuglican votes to do damage to both programs.

Several new promoters popped up, like Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., ready to rumble with a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce. McCrery, chairman of the House Social Security Subcommittee, told the pro-privatization cheering section, excuse me, Chamber that the Repuglican camp, White House and Congress, lack the political clout to take on health care and tax reform, but that Social Security �is easy to solve� and is ready to go back to �square one� next year.

The question is why isn�t McCrery trying to fix New Orleans and the billions of dollars of aid-waste due to the Repuglican no-policy policy, instead of fixing Social Security, which, no thanks to him, is alive, well and kicking in America, its oldest and most venerable retirement program.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who leads the critics, notes that McCrery �spilled the beans� on the Repuglican fight plan after the elections (?) in 2006, the likelihood of a fix is in on the latter for sure. Three more Repuglican handlers popped out of the Washington think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, shadow boxing for an audience of heavyweight bobble-dolls.

The three were former Bush hand-holder Andrew Samwick, former Clinton adviser Jeffrey Liebman and former McCain budget aficionado Maya MacGuineas. The fight plan was called LMS for its authors last names, real clever. They agreed (but do we?) that Social Security will only be solvent enough to pay 75 cents on every buck in promised benefits under the current system (of looting). All solutions, they claim, involve raising taxes or cutting benefits on the old-timers or both.

The three stooges, excuse me advisers, �spread the pain� this way . . .

Guaranteed Social Security benefits that Democrats want would stay as the heart of the program, but would be trimmed by changing the payout formula, meaning less money for the retirees one way or the other.

Private accounts that Repuglicans (and Wall Street) would love would require workers to set aside 1.5 percent of their pay in addition to 1.5 percent for Social Security payroll taxes. But the accounts would rest on basic Social Security benefits. You�d have to buy an annuity upon retiring with what (little) money that account had earned. And shell out fees to Wall Street, one way or the other.

The retirement age for full benefits, weighing in now at 66 for folks retiring today, rising to 67 for those born after 1959, would gradually increase to 68. (I�m sure if skipper had his way, the retirement age would be 86). The age for reduced benefits, now 62, would increase to 65. So they�re nibbling, nibbling away once again, one way or the other, at what Americans worked all their liives for, like the mice, like the rats they are.

In fact, payroll tax rates would stay the same, but taxes would rise for high-wage workers (creating a little bit of class warfare or at least resentment). The current 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax rate, which comes half from workers' paychecks, half from employers, would stay the same. How decent of them.

Ah, but the old cap on taxable wages, set by Reagan & Company�s 1983 Social Security bailout law, would go back to 90 percent of earnings. No payroll tax is owed on the amount by which paychecks are more than $90,000, or 83 percent of top-earning Americans� pay. At 90 percent, payroll tax would be owed on just the first $171,000 of paychecks. That means if you�re knocking down the really big bucks, somebody just gave you a big break, and grandpa�s having cornflakes for dinner.

This Liebman feels should make it � . . . possible to get a deal done.� See, we�re getting deals done, like on Wall Street again, not saying, hey, let�s give the retirees the straight-up plan they worked for. Complaining about it like this, he calls �political grandstanding.� I hope someone makes an inflatable punching bag of him.

Nevertheless, in a second think tank (it is really hard to think underwater), Repuglicans started swinging at Democrats, saying they won�t face up to the fact Social Security has a problem. Yeah, them, the looters, the Wall Street boosters, who�d love to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on private accounts� brokerage fees. Fortunately, AARP�s David Certner countered with a punch to floor any plans that redirect Social Security tax to investment accounts. Call him the Rocky of the day, somebody fighting for the little guy, up out of the ranks.

The thing is that even having a think tank (more aptly called a drunk tank) about messing with Social Security after the clobbering it took in the last sessions of Congress, is an affront. And like the inflatable punching bag, somebody should pull the valve out, sit on it till its airless, pancake flat, fold it and mail it to the moon. I hope I�m clear about that.

Even Josh Bolten got the picture that in today�s atmosphere of class anger, given the trillions spent on tax cuts for the rich for yesterday, today, and tomorrow, his boss and handlers should keep their hands off Social Security. I�m sure their plan for Medicaid would be equally malicious, aimed straight at hurting the health plans for the aging, the poor, and infirm. They�ve done enough of that to last a lifetime. So fellas, airbags, gasbags, lay down and stay down, before the people of this country walk right over you one more time. They�re halfway there as we speak.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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