Social Security still on Bush-corporate hit list

A vampire is not really dead until a wooden stake is pushed through its heart (so they say).

The Vampire of the Empire arose last month and presented to Congress a federal budget proposal containing a Social Security privatization plan that, unless defeated, will suck the blood out of America’s seniors and future seniors.

(This is not to say that this vampire only likes old blood. He also likes that of children, women, young men and women, in all colors, you name it. It’s in Bush’s budget proposal.)

During all of 2005, a mighty coalition of labor, seniors, service organizations and a multitude of groups, Black, white, Hispanic and others, shot down Bush’s privatization trial balloon. People recognized there was no crisis in Social Security, except the one Bush was trying to create. They knew his plan, drawn up by his corporate base, was designed to suck trillions of dollars from the trust fund promised to Americans when they retire, and to eventually destroy Social Security.

Even though the great majority of people, including some Republican politicians, opposed his risky scheme, Bush is once again “staying the course,” showing he doesn’t give a damn what the people want.

Unlike his generalized privatization talk last year, Bush has now put the numbers on paper. And it’s pretty much what he’s been saying all along.

• In his budget proposal, Bush would allow people to set up private accounts starting in 2010 that would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years.

• In the first year of private accounts, people would be allowed to divert up to 4 percent of their wages covered by Social Security into what Bush called “voluntary private accounts.” The maximum contribution to such accounts would start at $1,000 annually and rise by $100 a year through 2016.

• Bush’s plan would change the way Social Security benefits are calculated for most people by adopting so-called progressive indexing. Lower-income people would continue to have their Social Security benefits tied to wages, but the benefits paid to higher-paid people would be tied to inflation, which rises slower than wages. This would set up a two-tier benefit, with higher-paid workers paying more into the system than lower-paid people, and getting less. It would reduce political support for the system by making it seem more like welfare than an earned benefit.

According to the AFL-CIO and Alliance for Retired Americans, Bush’s budget plan would:

• Slash guaranteed benefits as much as $9,000 per year.

• Take away 70 cents in retirement benefits for every $1 in a private account and return the money to government coffers.

• Prohibit you from controlling the money in your private accounts. Politicians will pick Wall Street firms to control your investment accounts, a process corrupted by politics.

• Saddle our children with $4.9 trillion in debt over the next 20 years alone, most of which we would owe to foreign countries.

The coalitions across the nation that stopped Bush’s privatization plans last year are being urged to gear up for the current fight on the budget. Bombard (it’s the American way) your Congress members with e-mails, letters and phone calls. Insist that they vote to defeat this latest ploy to fatally change Social Security. Tell them if they support this plan to privatize, you will do everything you can to defeat them next election. Unlike the Vampire, negative votes can end the political lives of these fellow flyers.

John Gallo is a Cleveland leader in the labor and Social Security movements.