Thursday, January 13, 2005

Breaking My Social Security Silence

Just a reminder that I'm neck-deep in special project work this week and next, but will be back fulltime on January 24. Until then, I will present items of urgency and interest for your digestion.
I've been silent lately on the whole Social Security story, partly because Josh Marshall, Matt Yglesias and others are doing a bang-up job of covering it. I will, indeed, write my own analysis in weeks to come of this unnecessary attempt on George Bush's part to put trillions into the pockets of investment bankers, to undo the last vestiges of FDR's New Deal, and to deliberately cut the benefits of American retirees.

The following today from Slacktivist is a "must read," however. Here's an excerpt. Please go read its entirety....

"George W. Bush lied yesterday....

It wasn't a misstatement. It wasn't mere exaggeration. It wasn't a matter of his naively accepting bad intelligence from the CIA or the British. The president conducted a public forum on Social Security and he deliberately, intentionally lied about that subject.

Here's what he said, as quoted in The New York Times, the local Salt Lake Tribune and just about every other newspaper in the country. The quote here is cut and pasted from

'As a matter of fact, by the time today's workers who are in their mid-20s begin to retire, the system will be bankrupt. So if you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s, and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act now. And that's what we're here to talk about, a system that will be bankrupt.'

That's not true.

Not according to the most recent report from the trustees of the Social Security Administration. That report does not suggest that "the system will be bankrupt ... flat bust, bankrupt ... bankrupt" even in 2042, when it says the program's trust fund may be exhausted....

What the trustees' report says is that a few years after the baby boomers begin to retire, around 15 years from now, the program will begin tapping into its trust fund in order to pay benefits to the retirees of this, the largest-ever American generation.

Where did this trust fund come from? From the same demographic bubble that it will go to pay for -- from the surplus created over the past several decades while this largest-ever generation is part of the work force, paying into the system.

President Bush rightly notes that people are living longer these days, and the boomers are likely to outlive the trust fund they created -- that's the problem looming in 2042 (or 2052, if you use the CBO's numbers). That is when the system will begin running deficits. Those 37- or 47-years-hence shortfalls are nowhere near large enough to be described as 'bankrupt, bankrupt, bankrupt.'

George W. Bush lied. And George W. Bush doesn't care that he lied. And he doesn't care that you know he lied because he knows that more people will believe his lies than not, which was what yesterday's forum on Social Security was all about.

Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly asks an appropriate question:

What should a responsible press do when faced with a president who baldly lies over and over about stuff like this in a blatant attempt to scare the hell out of people? Somebody needs to figure it out, because people like George Bush have no incentive to stop lying if the press lets them get away with it. "

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