Monday, May 09, 2005

The Bush Agenda

Paul Krugman, a professor of economics at Princeton, has this to say on Monday's NY Times op-ed page (discussing Bush's social security plan):
Let's consider the Bush tax cuts and the Bush benefit cuts [to Social Security] as a package. Who gains? Who loses?

Suppose you're a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn't get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won't cut your Social Security benefits.

Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

Suppose, finally, that you're making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year. We have a winner!

I'm not being unfair. In fact, I've weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush's favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush's tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefit cuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change.

The point is that the privatizers consider four years of policies that relentlessly favored the wealthy a fait accompli, not subject to reconsideration. Now that tax cuts have busted the budget, they want us to accept large cuts in Social Security benefits as inevitable. But they demand that we praise Mr. Bush's sense of social justice, because he proposes bigger benefit cuts for the middle class than for the poor.

Sorry, but no. Mr. Bush likes to play dress-up, but his Robin Hood costume just doesn't fit.

Don't be fooled America! The Bush administration's agenda (as orchestrated by anti-government ideologues) isn't to help sustain the poor nor our beloved system of Social Security. If they wanted to do that, all they would have to go is roll back their tax cuts to the non-economy stiflying levels of the Clinton administration (with $8 trillion in change). By suggesting that S.S. benefit cuts are inevitable, Bush takes an Orwellian (think Ministry of Truth from 1984) approach to curtailing all government benefit programs, telling the public that we have no other options and that if we fail to act we are hurting the poor.

Wake up America. George Bush isn't about defending marriage, the unborn or the poor.

Call me Wiston Smith, and point me towards the fight.


At 12:13 AM, Blogger Infission said...

Infission, J., Concurring:

I agree that Social Security benefit cuts are not inevitable. I also agree that Bush epitomizes hypocrisy to now potray himself as the champion of the poor.

That being said, on principle I'm still in favor of means testing social security. Consider: what if a Democratic President proposed to (1) roll back the Bush tax cuts, (2) eliminate Social Security benefit for everyone who has a net wealth of $100,000 per year, and (3) invest all of that savings in inner city education.

Would that be such a bad idea?

On principle, why should I support wealthy seniors getting a check from the government while programs for the poor starve? Mr. Krugman's fear that turning Social Security into a welfare program would leave it vulnerable (see his op-ed last week) seem misplaced. It's easy for the Right to oppose "welfare" for working-aged people. They should be working just like everyone else, right? Nevermind, the natural unemployment that a capitalist economy produces, but it does make for good rhetoric for the uncritical.

But that rhetoric doesn't apply to seniors and the disabled. By definition, these people AREN'T supposed to be working. This is the age-old (usually erroneous) distinction between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor. It would be political suicide for Republicans to let elderly folk starve. Social Security benefits to the poor would be safe for that reason.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger 42 said...

I agree 100% with my illustrious cohort.

My only fear is that if it is turned into a welfare type program, it will be easier for future generations to do away with, given that the middle class (i.e. lots of voters) would no longer have much of a stake in the program.

That said, no one that over say $150,000 should be receiving retirement money from Uncle Sam, regardless of whether or not they paid into it


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