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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Dishonesty in the Social Security Debate

Standing before an audience in downtown Washington, President George Bush said, “I campaigned on this issue of Social Security, and the need to strengthen it and reform it,” the Washington Post reported earlier this month. “…This is part of fulfilling a campaign pledge.”

If the president is talking about campaign pledges that he made, the plans he and the Republican National Committee have are quite different from that of strengthening and reforming Social Security.

It would be much more accurate to say that they are attempting to privatize the 70-year-old government program, with “privatization” a term Republicans were entirely comfortable using up until about three weeks ago, when polling started to indicate what the phrasing, quite frankly, scared the crap out of people.

Now it’s “personal accounts,” or whatever watchword the conservative spin-meisters have come up with this week, charging anyone in the media who calls a spade a spade as liberal bias. A special irony is in the fact that President Bush himself campaigned using the word “privatization” with regard to Social Security.

In a recent Washington Post interview, reporters pointed out that to Bush. Suffice to say, it didn’t take. “You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir,” said reporters. Bushed sounded incredulous, asking, “Yes?” “Yes, three times in one sentence,” the reporters said. “We had to figure this out, because we’re in an argument with the RNC (Republican National Committee) about how we should actually word this.”

Bush continued to respond with disbelief before finally brushing it off. “I’m surprised. Maybe I did. It’s amazing what happens when you’re tired. Anyway, your question was?”

The incident, and frequent others that have happened since then, in newspaper columns and morning news shows across the nation, are example of the lengths the supposedly “straight-talking” president and some members of this party will go to in order to push through their plans, without acknowledging the true circumstances and consequences. The Bush plan, critics point out, actually weakens the system by cutting benefits.

Some have ridiculed the Democrats for comparing the so-called Social Security “crisis” to the Bush administration’s hyping of presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In fact, the comparison is not all that out of line. Once again, it appears the administration is creating a sense of danger where there is none and there won’t be, as long as it’s taken care of the right way.

As many have pointed out, Social Security cannot actually go “bankrupt,” as privatization proponents charge. “If nothing is done to the system Social Security could still pay out 73 percent of promised benefits in 2042, when the system’s ‘trust fund’ of Treasury bonds will be depleted, Social Security’s chief actuary has calculated,” reported the Post. “Even after adjusting for inflation, that 27 percent cut in benefits would leave monthly Social Security checks considerably higher than they are now.”

Whatever the plans that either side will have to present, America, especially us young workers who will be directly affected by whatever happens, deserves an honest debate. Whether it be reducing benefits for future retirees, raising the retirement age, increasing payroll taxes, or truly investing in Social Security, let’s have some straight talk on an already tangled-up issue.