This past year, as a United States worker, I put $1,500 into Social Security. I will probably never see that money again.
This does not bother me. The money I am putting into this great social program will go to helping those who fought in World War II live a life free of poverty. In many ways, I owe the world I live in to the works of today’s retirees. The people who built the roads I walk on, the buildings I live in and the structure of the country as it is today are living their declining years in comfort because of the money deducted from my paycheck.
Republicans see something outrageously wrong with this. Those lazy old people should have provided for their own retirement, they say, and if they didn’t, then throw them to the wolves.
In the latest example of their insatiable greed, the Republicans are once again trying to "reform" Social Security by destroying it. The "crisis" they see is that in its current form, Social Security will not survive indefinitely. The simple solution, raise taxes on the wealthy, is anathema to wealthy Republicans who see their lives as unsuccessful unless they make the gluttonously rich even richer.
Their plan would lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy and would divert the majority of American taxpayer’s taxes from the very program they are planning to "save." It would keep the money taken out of my paycheck from going to the retirees of the moment, and invest it into the stock market, in a "personal" retirement account for me. This way, I will be solely responsible for my own retirement. Right now, I am subsidizing the retirement of people 40 years older than me. If I suddenly switch gears and start subsidizing my own retirement exclusively, what happens in 10 years, when the Baby Boomers retire? Nobody will be actively paying for them, and the Social Security fund itself will be depleted rapidly.
What really makes Republicans salivate with this scam is the sudden influx of our taxes into the stocks of companies in which they hold stock – lots of stock. When people buy up Halliburton shares, the price of the stock goes up ($40.80 today), and people who own the stock already make more money. People who own lots of the stock, like Dick Cheney, (100,000 shares/333,000 options) make more money than anyone else.
Diverting our taxes into wealthy Republicans’ portfolios is the American way: make the rich get richer.
But wait, it gets worse. Think about what will happen if we go along with this new plan for a couple of decades. All your Social Security money, instead of being invested in low-interest, no-risk bonds, is sunk into a fluctuating stock market. Imagine the crisis we will enter if we are forced to choose between holding a corporation accountable for maliciously lowering the quality of human existence, and our own retirement funds.
Imagine Enron collapsing when all of your retirement money is invested into this company. How could any legislator jeopardize the livelihood of senior citizens by forcing it into bankruptcy? How could any legislator rein in unparalleled greed, if it means tossing 80-year-old people into poverty? They can’t.
But, greedy Republicans say, the retirement accounts won’t be in individual companies. They will be in mutual funds, spread across the entire stock market.
This leads to an even more grievous problem. If my Social Security is indestructibly tied to the performance of the stock market, why would I ever elect any legislator who did anything whatsoever to lower the market’s value? In fear for my own livelihood, I would only trust leaders who held the performance of the market as the highest ideal. I would, in short, trust only Republicans, who cravenly fulfill every corporate robber baron’s wish.
The destruction of Social Security, our most prosperous and successful social program ever, is key to republican hegemony. We spent the ’50s in an ironically named "red scare," fearing communism and any mention of socially progressive ideas. Why do we not fear the other end of the spectrum, which is equally, if not more, dangerous to society? We would be wise to note what lies opposite communism, as best described by the Republican’s hero, Benito Mussolini, "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism, for it is the merger of state and corporate power."
Chaelan MacTavish can be reached at [email protected]