The Bush domestic battlefield is littered with burned-out WMDs. Administration officials and assorted flunkies have hurled their most potent ordnance against Social Security, and thankfully most of the stuff fizzled or was defused by sound public opinion. But Social Security continues to suffer oblique attacks, especially from ‘independent” mass media. Fewer and fewer WMDs here - but lots of crapola-filled paintballs.
Look at what Democrat and Chronicle reporter Ben Rand fired off recently in a piece on Americans’ retirement prospects. Economic and demographic changes, said Rand, “are financially straining programs such as Social Security and Medicare.” This, he said, citing “experts,” will eventually “force profound social changes.” In passing, Rand let the business world off the hook, saying that an aging population, etc., will “make it harder for many companies to continue affording traditional pensions, health care, and other retiree benefits.”
Rand went on to cite an analyst at the Washington-based National Center on Policy Analysis, to the effect that “Social Security is clearly on a trajectory for insolvency.” This despite the conclusions from both the Social Security Administration and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the program will be able to pay all scheduled benefits over the full 75-year planning horizon, i.e. longer than the program has been in existence, with only tiny adjustments – maybe a tax increase of 1-2 percent. Many of you remember when the combined employer-employer contribution was around 15 percent of payroll, compared to around 12 percent today. I’m not proposing we go back to that – there are more progressive ways of doing things; I’m merely showing that any necessary change would be neither unimaginable nor unprecedented.
But Rand didn’t stop with underscoring this fib. He quoted an expert who maintained, “If we don’t do anything, Social Security and Medicare together will be taking a third of everything people earn in a few years. By the time today’s college kids retire, it will be taking half of earnings.” The expert added that any solution will “involve some pain in the form of reduced benefits.” But as the Center for Economic and Policy Research says, any “shortfall” in the future will require compensatory funding smaller than what we’re losing through the Bush tax cuts. So to translate from the expertise: we can’t afford history’s most successful and efficient social-welfare program and simultaneously let the rich keep getting endlessly richer at the majority’s expense.
By the way, Rand didn’t bother to inform us that the neutral-sounding National Center on Policy Analysis is a conservative thinktank headed by the ineffable Pete du Pont, hereditary foe of economic fairness. (Remember Grinning Pete's flat-earth, er, flat-tax nonsense from the 1988 presidential race?) A sample of the NCPA’s current offerings: a health policy heads-up from the Wall Street Journal with the redbaiting insinuation that “Canada is the only country other than Cuba and North Korea to ban private insurance and private care.” Why didn’t Rand go to CEPR or some other delightfully progressive source for another view? I wouldn’t even have minded seeing a standard tag, like “a foundation-supported liberal thinktank.”