Monday, February 28, 2005

The View From Beneath the Dunce Cap

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.


robin andrea said...

I am utterly baffled by people who would even consider "private accounts" as an alternative to social security-- given that the biggest scandals of Wall Street happened in just the last few years. What do these people think Enron,, Global Crossing lost? It was stock pensions. Oh and the myth that everyone can be rich-- it's why most people don't want to see taxes raised on the wealthy. As if someday they're all going to be partying like Dennis Kozlowski.

Phila said...

I know, I know. I sometimes whether the only goal of BushCo's battle over SS is to drive a few more sane people around the bend.

I mean, all you have to do is look at SS vs. private plans. One's pegged to inflation, one's not. One has survivorship and other insurance benefits, one doesn't. One's based on pretty much the most secure and reliably profitable investment on earth, one's based on the ups and downs of Wall Street.

Seems like an easy choice to me...

robin andrea said...

Here's a personal story: My grandparents came to this country in the 1920s from Germany, due in part to the rise in anti-semitism, and in part to find a better life. My grandfather had a barbershop; my grandmother raised five children. When social security started, self-employed workers did not contribute and therefore did not receive benefits. So when my grandfather died, my grandmother had no means of support at all. Her five children supported her for the rest of her life, until 1976. Fortunately, her children had both the love and the means to provide. What this administration is asking is for us to return to the days when this scene is played out in families that may have neither to give.
Rexroth's Daughter

Aquaria said...

We really need to emphasize the insurance aspect of SS. People have gotten the idea in their head that SS is a pension plan, like a 401(k), when it's not. If you take the time, most people can wrap their minds around the idea that, like a health insurance plan, you might pay into something all your working life and never call on it (and I make sure to emphasize that collecting SS is an OPTION). But, if you do need it, it's there. They're willing to risk paying for health insurance to protect their finances, just in case. What's wrong with paying a bit of insurance to have a dependable income in your old age, just in case? I have yet to find anybody who can argue with that.

One of the interesting things that happens when I do get that idea into folks' head is that they usually say, "You know... Since it's an insurance plan, why do people who don't need it collect from it?" This is a consistent question I get. I shrug and say, "Some people always try to grab the last penny they can, even if they don't need it, because they're greedy."

That opens eyes, for some strange reason...

@whut said...

My father, an entrepeneur in his later years, liked to recite his all-time favorite put-down from a clueless proposal reader:
"If it's such a great idea, why hasn't anyone thought of it before?"

In the case of Bush's SS proposal, we should respond, "yes, it's an old idea, we call it social security"

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