Friday, August 17, 2012

Hooray For Social Security
    Along with my 73rd birthday, next week I’ll be celebrating a decade of getting rather than giving moolah to Uncle Sam. 

    All my life, conservatives told me this would never happen. Social Security, they assured me, was on the razor’s edge of going bust. I, let alone my kids, would never see a dime of what we were forced to shell out to this evil socialistic scheme hatched in the Kremlin by Joe Stalin and his Hebrew errand boy, Franklin Rosenfelt. (That’s really the way the Romneys and Ryans of the right talked back then.)
    Despite its venerability, Social Society still gets death threats from Wall Street and its trucklers. SS and its haters are like Fidel Castro and the Miami Cubans. Every waking hour for the last half century they have planned, plotted and prayed for his demise. Street fairs are held if Fidel catches cold. But every morning, there he is, still alive despite the world’s longest running and most expensive hit contract. And so it is with Social Security. It survives all and, I trust, will be around long after Castro, and even Paul Ryan’s great grand kids, finally join the great majority.
    The reason for SS's hardiness is that it’s simple, honest and non-profit. You put money in when you’re young and take it out when you’re old. The money is meanwhile invested in treasuries, the safest paper you can hold. Administrative costs are minimal. After 77 years, it has yet to suffer a scandal: it’s simplicity and transparency makes it hard to rip off.
    Rather than socialism, Social Security is the offspring of anti-socialist conservatism. Bismarck, the arch reactionary Chancellor of Germany in the late 19th century, was fearful of a  red revolution by the country’s beaten down workers. He came up with a package of what we would now call welfare programs to mollify them. It included old age pensions, accident insurance, medical care and unemployment insurance.  Wiki tells us that “his paternalistic programs won the support of German industry because its goals were to win the support of the working classes for the Empire and reduce the outflow of emigrants to America, where wages were higher but welfare did not exist.”
    The rest of Christendom followed Germany’s example, and the modern welfare state that later included universal health care, free education through college, month-long paid vacations, etc., was born.  We Americans got only partly down that road before a rightwing counterattack stopped our progress toward a a first world social system.
    So why do Wall Street and its yahoo trolls hate SS so much?  Because they see a vast amount of money going to ordinary people rather than rich people. That's in direct violation of the first commandment
of capitalism that wealth should only flow upwards and never downwards. And that makes them heartsick. They brood about all the additional bucks they could have had, the fatter yachts, the faster jets, the more monstrous mansions, if only they owned Social Security.
    Of course, the can’t admit to such naked avarice. So they long ago made up this scare story about SS going broke and how we’ll have to privatize it to save it. That movie has been playing ever since SS got its start back in 1935.  We Americans are generally a pretty corporate bunch, preferring to do business with anything with an Inc. behind its name than a U.S. in front of it. Nevertheless, most of us have long since taken SS and Medicare to our hearts.  We find it hard to imagine old age without them. Who besides Rush Limbaugh wants to see grandma begging pennies as she slowly expires in the gutter?
    In fact, SS is robust and its financial problems are minor. When your income hits a hundred grand or so, you stop paying into SS.  By merely eliminating that limit, SS becomes solvent for decades to come.

    Medicare is a different story. It’s money problems will only get worse as the banksters and health profiteers continue to loot it. Such vast and endemic corruption in health care is unknown in Christendom, where single payer, non-profit systems prevail.  Here, where illness and misery are seen as business opportunites rather than social concerns, we can only expect worse to come.
    Anyway, I’ll use part of my next SS payment to buy a bottle with which to toast Social Security and the duffers who are dignified by it.