On those dreary occasions when one really must know what an idiot thinks about the burning issues of the moment, Dick Armey's the man to ask. Behold the airtight logic with which he dismisses Social Security:
"If it is such a great deal, why does the government have to make it mandatory," he said.A good question, and I'm going to take a stab at answering it. It's mandatory because the government recognizes that people are not always wise or provident, and that accidents happen whether people expect them or not, and that an elderly or disabled person who can't pay rent or buy food is a burden on society, as well as a reproach to its sense of decency. It's mandatory because America's wealth is created by workers, and the mere fact of that work entitles people to a basic standard of living when they retire, or if they're injured, regardless of what some dead-eyed Republican hypocrite thinks about the matter. It's mandatory because it's a safety net and an insurance policy, not an investment program or a pyramid scheme or some bureaucratized game of roulette.
Those who imagine - in defiance of history, religion, and common sense - that fantastic wealth will make them better people are free to pursue that empty goal to their hearts' content, Social Security notwithstanding. But people who don't labor under that delusion - or who didn't get the hundred-mile headstart that an intellectual and emotional cripple like George W. Bush received as an accident of birth - should be able to earn a guaranteed pension, adjusted for inflation, without having to worry that their life savings will be stolen by the glorified three-card monte dealers on Wall Street.
That's astonishingly little to ask from the land of one's birth, it seems to me. But the GOP - which relies for its living on public stupidity and greed and confusion and innumeracy - doesn't like this sort of mandatory protection any more than a flock of vampires would like mandatory garlic necklaces. It's turned itself into the party of three-card monte dealers; its rhetoric appeals primarily to hapless people who believe they can win a rigged game. And oddly enough, they very often turn out to be the people who need Social Security most.