The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

– Take your filthy hands off our Social Security!

Mar 1, 2004

Congress asked Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan for some advice about how to handle the current budget deficits. He responded by proposing to gut Social Security and Medicare. "Adjustments in our commitments" are needed – so said Greenspan.

"Adjustments"? That's hardly the word for what Greenspan is proposing. He wants to rewrite the cost-of-living formula so it will cover still less of the actual inflation increases, and he wants to introduce another increase in the retirement age.

Government officials have been calling for changes in Social Security for decades now – and Congress has been sliding in some of those changes, pretending to defend Social Security as it did. The current cost-of-living formula – itself a revision of an older one – was written to cheat retirees out of some inflation protection. And the age for retirement, which had long been 65, is right now in the process of going up to 67 years. Before it's even got there, Greenspan wants to raise it still further.

Greenspan justified his call for still more "adjustments" by predicting that there would be "soaring budget deficits" when "baby boomers" retire.

What cynical toying with the truth!

Social Security for two decades has run an enormous surplus, amounting to a trillion and a half dollars today. If, for a decade, the "baby boom" bubble will draw funds out of this surplus, why should that create a problem? Ever since the early 1980s, Congress has been raising Social Security taxes beyond what was needed to pay out then current benefits, claiming that the additional money would cover the short term deficit when the baby boomers retired.

What happened? Did Congress spend the money on something else?

Yes, in fact, that's exactly what it did. Congress has been running up deficits in its regular budgets year after year – extending ever bigger tax breaks to the wealthy, funding wars all over the world, subsidizing profits through all sorts of contracts to the corporations. And every single one of those deficits was paid for in part by money that Congress borrowed out of the Social Security surplus, putting in IOU's as promises to pay in the future.

Well the time is coming for Congress to start paying up its IOU's. But, it seems, Congress wants to welch on its promises. They sent their boy, Greenspan, in front of the microphones to speak for them.

Outrageous! Don't they dare try to tell us there is no money for our retirement.

Are they short of money? Then take back those tax breaks from the wealthy. Stop those wars. Put a moratorium on extra profits to the corporations. Those actions would be more than enough not only to pay for the Baby Boomers, but to provide a fully adequate Social Security benefit for everyone, and starting at a much earlier age.

How dare they try to raise the age of retirement! The labor of this society's workers has long created enough wealth that we could all retire at 55, if not 50. Why not? For years, we contributed our muscles, brains, blood and guts to make this society run. We have the right to retire early enough and with enough money to let us have a productive and fulfilling life after work while we are still young enough to enjoy it.