For nearly 76 years Social Security has served Americans by providing a safe depository for retirement funds for all Americans. George W. Bush floated the idea of privatizing Social Security as a way to force Americans to hand their retirement savings to Wall Street. Now the economy is struggling and budget deficits are the concern of the day, so Republicans are promoting the notion that Social Security is a drag on the economy and privatization is the solution to the budget woes. There are several problems with the Republicans’ arguments and as usual, subterfuge, lies, and deceit are their tools to promote privatizing or eliminating Social Security.
Republicans have promoted the ridiculous notion that Social Security is an entitlement program and it is miraculous that any American supports that assessment. Workers pay in to Social Security throughout their working lives in the same manner as workers paying into a private retirement account like a 401K plan, and employers match the Social Security (FICA) contributions of the employee. The difference is Social Security is a trust fund that cannot be touched by greedy bankers or Republicans and that is what conservatives are furious over. They want to steal working Americans’ retirement savings and remove it from the Social Security trust fund so they can give the money to Wall Street; there is absolutely no other reason for privatization.
Republicans have linked the “Social Security is an entitlement” meme to the budget deficit and it has caught on with ignorant Americans who cannot make the simple connection between their paycheck deductions and their Social Security pension. In every discussion about the budget, Republicans never fail to bring up the “problem” of Social Security entitlement spending as an area that needs elimination or drastic cuts. However, Republicans know that the budget is not impacted one iota by Social Security spending because it is a well-funded trust that neither pays in to or takes away from the nation’s spending. The Social Security Trust has generated $2.6 trillion in surplus that was paid for by American workers and their employers and the funds cannot be used for any other purpose.
If Republicans are able to steal workers’ retirement savings and hand it to Wall Street investors, retirees risk losing their savings like private 401K plans did during the 2007 -2008 market crash. The average private retirement plan lost 45% of workers’ savings, but Social Security recipients lost absolutely zero dollars during the crash and the Trust still maintained and grew its surplus. Republicans are, in effect, proposing that American workers trade the guaranteed benefit of Social Security for a risky bet on the stock market. Wall Street investors and Republicans want the money because it is the only area that has not suffered from Republicans’ financial malfeasance. The solvency of the program and its guaranteed funds are so attractive to Wall Street that they are lobbying heavily for Republicans to eliminate the government program and replace it with a mandatory private plan like a 401K. In other words, Americans can have retirement plans as long as they invest in the stock market, and the only way Republicans can achieve their goal is to vilify Social Security by calling it an entitlement and claiming it contributes to the budget deficit.
House majority leader, Eric Cantor, is one of the proponents of eliminating Social Security although he speaks out of both sides of his mouth on the issue depending on his audience. For his constituents, Cantor says Social Security is necessary for retired workers, but in speeches to right-wing groups he reveals his true feelings. This past week Cantor said, “50% of beneficiaries under the Social Security program use those moneys as their sole source of income. So we’ve got to protect today’s seniors. But for the rest of us? Listen, we’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be.” Although Cantor acknowledges half of retirees subsist on their Social Security income alone, his grand plan for the future is to eliminate the only source of income for millions of Americans. The disturbing part of Cantor’s statement is that if Social Security is allowed to continue, America will not be the country Republicans want it to be.
The American people are discovering exactly the kind of country Republicans are working so diligently to create and some are beginning to react like the theft victims they are. It is bad enough Republicans give tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, destroy collective bargaining arrangements, and give subsidies to oil companies while they raise taxes on the poor and middle class, but now they are making plans to steal the retirement savings of working Americans. Make no mistake; Republicans will steal workers’ retirement benefits if they can convince enough Americans that Social Security is an entitlement that is creating the budget deficit the country is experiencing. After they steal workers’ hard-earned pensions and savings, they will hand it directly to the Wall Street investors who have been financing their campaigns.
In 2005 when George W. Bush proposed privatizing Social Security, voters soundly rejected the idea, but as conservatives are wont to do, they have resurrected the idea and are using the deceit and misdirection that fools many Americans. Republicans have been so successful at attaching the term entitlement to the Social Security Trust Fund that many Democratic legislators have begun referring to Social Security as an entitlement. Hopefully, American workers who believe that Social Security is an entitlement will stop and actually look at their paycheck (if they have one) and recognize that they are paying into Social Security. It is not an entitlement any more than withdrawing money from a savings account is an entitlement.
Republicans are already stealing tax dollars from working Americans to give subsidies to oil companies as well as tax breaks to corporations like GE and some of the nation’s largest banking interests, but that is not enough. Working Americans who slaved and saved forty years or more stand to have their entire retirement savings stolen under the guise of entitlement reform and deficit reduction. Regardless the label Republicans use to convince working-class Americans that entitlement reform must include Social Security, it is still theft.
Perhaps Americans are so used to having everything stolen by Republicans to give to corporations and the wealthy, that they will quietly allow the thieves to take their hard earned retirement income. It will be interesting how quiet they remain when they realize they gave the thieves the combination to the safe and passed them the money they saved their entire working lives. Based on the acquiescence of ignorant Americans who believe every utterance from lying Republicans’ lips, they will be as silent living on the street in their old age as they are living in abject poverty now. It is too sad that along the way, they will doom most of America’s elderly to the same fate thanks to the liars and thieves in the Republican Party.