In Washington the Social Security narrative has been captured by the political classes and stood directly on its head, the better to tear it to shreds. So powerfully has this been done that even the word "entitlement" has been transformed to mean not something deserved but something somehow undeserved, a handout, an unfair demand by the grubby "takers" on the unappreciated "makers."
Rarely do you find retorts like that of sociologist/author James Petras who sets the record straight.
The “entitlement” rhetoric claims that the lifetime contributions are
insufficient and that several regressive ‘reforms’ are necessary to
“save the systems” – at the expense of the beneficiaries. The so-called
“Grand Compromise” proposed by President Obama and the “Fiscal Reforms”
proposed by the Congressional Republicans are all aimed at robbing
working class contributors of their pension savings through various
specific regressive changes.
...only a small fraction of Social Security contributions
are used to pay recipients, the bulk is transferred into the general
treasury to pay for current expenditures – mostly hundreds of billions
of dollars in war spending, payments on bonds and T-notes; subsidies to
agro-business, bailouts to Wall Street speculative investment banks and
other elite economic interests. Over the decades the Treasury robbed
several trillions in SS funds, exchanging them for IOUs (never
reimbursed) in order to provide a kind of “social insurance” for the
military-industrial-Wall Street-police state power elite. If the
accumulated payments to SS had remained in a special account instead of
being siphoned off to cover the deficits incurred by military spending
and overseas wars, SS finance would be in sound condition at least till
the end of the 21st century. The Social Security Administration (SSA)
would be able to adjust payments upward to real rates of inflation
(about double the rate of adjustment now jiggered by the Government).
The SSA could begin full payments at age 62 for most and at a lower age
for those citizens working in hazardous occupations.
Even if we take account of the past Treasury heist, the SS fund could
be fully replenished if the cap was eliminated on incomes above
$110,000 and if the SS tax was made progressive. As is well known,
self-employed billionaires and millionaires pay an average of $11,450 a
year to the SS fund. If the cap was lifted, those earning a billion
would pay a minimum of $100 million a year at the current rate, the
millionaires $100 thousand a year. If a moderately progressive rate was
in place, payments would double, pretty much ending the threat to SS.
There is no “entitlement crises” today. There is a crisis in the
regressive payments and tax systems which finance the social insurance
programs. The problem is elite tax evasion not the ‘aging of the
population’. The problem is the use of SS payments to fund the power
elite-robbing Peter (SS) to pay Paul (imperial wars).
Imagine what might follow if America's working classes started thinking, like Petras, that they have been cheated by Washington out of the security benefits they paid for and deserved, their money stolen and squandered on misadventures and those who they serve?
Recall when George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security, telling the American public that their contributions had been turned into a filing cabinet full of IOU's, hinting they were essentially worthless. He lied. The United States government could no more default on those debts than it could the bonds held by its major foreign creditors without disastrously shattering its credit rating at home and abroad. And some noticed when Bush went from peddling that horrible lie to appear at a white tie and tails affair where he greeted the attendees as "my base - the haves and the have mores."
That Obama has chosen to perpetuate this situation rather than addressing it head-on is perplexing. Is he a sell-out? Is he as bad as the guy he succeeded? Or does he believe the situation has gone so far that to redress it would be to risk anarchy or at least shatter the confidence of America's essential lenders without whom the country could not function?
Yet the idea itself lives on. It is grounded in fact. It is fueled by public discontent. The Great Lie that Washington clings to is by no means certain to hold. If it fails it could trigger revolutionary change. The American people have been cheated out of what is theirs and those who have done it need to fear them.