Opening salvos fired in Social Security fight

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11067543548713.jpg’, ”, ‘Vice President Dick Cheney’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-110675437915394.jpg’, ”, ‘Karl Rove’);

Presidential political strategist said reforming Social Security ‘would rank as one of the most significant conservative government achievements ever’

Political analyst, writer and commentator Noam Chomsky has often written of the government’s pet industry, which he terms “manufacturing consent.” There is a second occupation of which the current administration is adept as well; it is “manufacturing crisis.”

We are seeing it today in the multi-million dollar campaign kickoff to convince the American public that Social Security is on the verge of collapse and must be overhauled straightaway.

Recently, a memo written by an aide to Karl Rove, President Bush’s political strategist, was leaked to the press. In the memo, Peter Wehner of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, wrote: “If we succeed in reforming Social Security, it will rank as one of the most significant conservative governing achievements ever. The scope and scale of this endeavor are hard to overestimate” (

At the end of the week, the heavy artillery was opening up. Joshua Bolten, Bush’s budget chief, declared that unless Congress put through the president’s proposed reforms, a future administration may have to raise Social Security taxes by 50 percent. “If we do nothing to fix Social Security, we will eventually need to raise Social Security payroll taxes on Americans by about 50 percent,” Bolten said.

The withholding tax rate for Social Security was raised in 1983 under a bill written by former Sen. Bob Dole and the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan. The result? In fiscal 2004, Social Security had a $71 billion surplus. Sound like a crisis to you?

Columnist Ed Henry, in his most recent column, wrote: “The year before that it was $82 billion and the year before that it was $89 billion that the government claims to have ‘borrowed.’ The first year of the Bush administration, 2001, the excess stolen was $98.7 billion. That’s $341 billion of your supplemental retirement money that the Bush administration has walked off with since taking office” (

But the propaganda drums continue to beat, louder and louder and probably will go on doing so into the summer. Vice President Dick Cheney recently spoke to students and faculty at the Catholic University of Washington. Cheney declared: “At present, Social Security operates with a substantial cash surplus, but very soon, the greatest test of the Social Security system will be upon us. The first members of the baby boom generation are reaching age 60, and they look forward to long, active and healthy lives.

“In just a few years, their generation will begin retiring and collecting benefits, and the surpluses will begin to decline. By 2018, Social Security will begin paying out more than it receives in payroll taxes. From then on, the shortfalls will grow larger every year” (

Note the calculated fear-mongering and raising the spectre of the fictitious 76 million baby boomers threatening to overwhelm the system.

Anyone calling the Social Security Administration for help with a problem may get put on “hold.” In that event, they hear a recorded message, paid for with tax dollars, which says: “Did you know that the 76 million strong baby boom generation will begin to retire in about 10 years? When that happens, changes will need to be made to Social Security, changes to make sure there’s enough money to continue paying full benefits, and most experts agree, the sooner these changes are made, the less they are going to cost.”

Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, commented: “VicePresident Cheney is doing exactly what President Bush and the rest of his campaign have been doing since the election. They have been trying to scare the American people into thinking that there’s some kind of a crisis facing Social Security. It’s very, very parallel to the scare tactics they used around weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

“It is just bald-faced lies. It is designed to sell people on a program that will eventually dismantle Social Security. If we did nothing to the Social Security system, we might have to reduce benefits by 20 percent or 25 percent in 2052. (Even then, we could pay about 81 percent of the benefits due, according to analysts.) Until then, we can pay full benefits.

“This is going to be a campaign run by Karl Rove and Ken Melman and the people who ran the president’s re-election campaign. They have allies. Look for groups already advertising—the Progress for America Organization, funded by contributors to the Bush campaign, the Club for Growth. They’re going to be raising somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million to sell this privatization plan.”

Hickey concluded his comments by saying that he believes the American people, and not the Bush administration, are going to win this battle.

Columnist Henry declares the real crisis is not what Bush and company say it is. Henry says: “The crisis is a management that walks off with the money, steals the profits, spends these surpluses wherever it pleases and then demands that the taxpaying public replace them plus interest. Why do you think the Social Security trust fund is 22 percent of the national debt now standing at practically $1.7 trillion in debt markers that only the taxpaying public can redeem? And we are the people who provided the extra money in the first place. That’s double taxation no matter how you look at it.”

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