Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Sept. 17, 18 or 19
Like exaggerated “threats” by Mexicans, same-sex marriage, gun seizures or less freedom to worship, Republican candidates embellish or falsify Social Security’s health, claiming Social Security is going bankrupt in spite of its $2.8 trillion; dismissing the trillions in its trust-fund balance as phony “IOUs” (but not government bonds or similar assets); or saying Social Security adds to the country’s deficit (even though it doesn’t, being self-financed).
Americans like Social Security, don’t want cuts, and support its expansion. The world’s foremost social-insurance program, its benefits are modest but critical and its administrative expenses far below private-sector investment costs. Nevertheless, Bush, Rubio, Paul, Walker and the GOP field (excepting Carson, Huckabee and Trump) want to raise the retirement age, cut benefits, and/or privatize the system.
First, it’s Right-wing ideology. “True believers” in killing government programs think weakening or eliminating Social Security would “get government out of Americans’ lives.” Again, however, Social Security’s funds don’t come from the federal budget’s general revenues, but from its own revenues (the payroll tax known as FICA shows it pays a PREMIUM – FICA stands for Federal INSURANCE Contributions Act).
Next, the 1% – the source for most campaign contributions – doesn’t like Social Security. They don’t need it (and don’t pay their fair share into it anyway). The maximum taxable earnings are now $118,500, a ridiculous ceiling that means all earnings above that level contribute nothing. So a millionaire pays the same as a small-business owner.
“That means that people who make twice the cap – $237,000 per year – pay the Social Security tax on only half of their earnings, so they no longer pay it after July 1st,” says a report for the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “Those who are fortunate enough to make over $1.2 million annually are finished paying their Social Security taxes for the year by February 6th. In other words, workers who earn $118,500 or less per year pay a higher Social Security payroll tax rate than those who make more.”
Lastly, Republicans who seek the White House hear Wall Street, which seems to salivate about the possibility of gambling with Social Security’s trillions.
“Greed is always in fashion on Wall Street. But working Americans see no reason to hand Social Security over to the banks, when its administrative costs amount to well under 1 percent of its revenues,” writes Joe Conson, author of “Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth.”
“They know that the financial geniuses who almost sank the world economy eight years ago would charge far more than 1 percent,” he continues, “– while imposing enormous risks on everyone but themselves.”
The deterioration of private pensions – mostly because of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 – makes Social Security even more vital. When retirement is at risk for an increasing number of workers, Social Security is a crucial part of the nation’s safety net.
“For those working for a better life, Social Security is an important family income and disability protection program and the cornerstone of our retirement security,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. “The program has worked efficiently for 80 years – even though opponents have tried to dismantle, cut, privatize or undermine the program since the day it was signed into law. They have created crises when none existed and demanded ‘reforms’ that make no sense.
“But Americans understand that Social Security is a solution, not a problem,” he continued, “and now is the time to strengthen and expand it for all generations of working families.”
A decade ago, President George W. Bush tried and failed to privatize Social Security. Now, it’s as if GOP candidates didn’t notice. Most Democratic presidential candidates realize Social Security’s place in people’s hearts and homes. All Democratic candidates except Hillary Clinton have proposed expanding benefits.
Protecting and improving Social Security wouldn’t be difficult. Congress could mimic Republican President Ronald Reagan, who raised the tax rate and added some government workers to Social Security. Or it could raise the payroll cap – say, to $1 million – so FICA contributions would increase, shared by more of society.
Also, Americans should cut through the fog of fear, hate and debate outrage, and vote their own interests – against cutting Social Security.
[PICTURED: Illustration from thepeoplesvoice.org.]