The Spark

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

Editorial:
The phony Social Security crisis:
Don't let them rob us!

Dec 20, 2004

Social Security "is headed towards bankruptcy down the road. If we do not act soon, Social Security will not be there for our children and grandchildren." So said George Bush.

But, as we all know, George Bush lies. And this is one of the biggest lies he's ever told.

Social Security is not running out of money. On the contrary, it consistently runs a big surplus, currently 150 billion dollars per year. The accumulated Social Security surplus now amounts to almost two trillion dollars. And, according to the Social Security Administration itself, the surplus will be more than six trillion dollars by 2020.

But – or so Bush tells us – there's the "baby boom generation" getting ready to retire. It's true that when most of that baby boom generation has retired, Social Security will be paying out more money than it takes in – for a very short time. But the larger Baby Boom generation will soon be followed into retirement by the much, much smaller Baby Bust generation. The gap problem – if there turns out to be one – is only temporary. And it could be more than covered by requiring the wealthy, for example, to pay Social Security tax on all their income, and not just the first $90,000. Or the government could borrow from the military budget to pay out a few years of Social Security, just as it has borrowed from Social Security for years to pay for military contracts to the big corporations.

Instead of looking at the cold hard facts, Bush blows smoke – like the following stupid comparison: In the 1950s – says Bush – 16 active workers paid for every Social Security beneficiary. Today, only three active workers are paying for each retiree. Eventually, there will be only two.

Forget about the fact that Bush pulled these figures out of the air – just like he pulled his so-called proof about weapons of mass destruction out of the air. The social and economic meaning of these claims is false.

Yes, there are fewer active workers – that simply reflects the enormous and steady increases in productivity, which are transforming the entire economy. Today, only a tiny part of the population produces enough food not only for the rest of the country, but for other parts of the world as well. The same is true for industry and services. Today, for example, a small workforce of a few thousand in the factories and offices can do the work that used to be done by tens and even hundreds of thousands of people.

Productivity means that not only can workers provide for themselves, each one produces so much that they could provide for many other people. It's that increasing productivity that gives every worker the possibility to have much longer paid vacations, more holidays, shorter work days – and earlier retirement. The possibilities for providing a decent retirement for everyone are not shrinking, as Bush and others would have us believe. Soon it will be possible for one active worker, through the increasing wealth he or she creates, to provide the retirement for two workers.

The problem is not how much wealth workers produce. What gets in the way is big capital that takes more and more of the benefits of productivity, using it to fatten their own profits, to enrich the privileged few, to allow them to amass ever greater wealth.

Bush's proposal to "save" Social Security is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to hand over more of the wealth our labor creates to Wall Street. Bush even admitted this in a statement after his "economic summit," when he said that his plans for Social Security should "reassure" the financial markets. They sure will – because they would take a very big chunk of money that should go for our pensions and turn it over to the financial companies and the rest of the capitalist class.

Social Security is not in a "crisis." The only reforming that needs to be done is to increase it and extend it so we can all have an adequate pension.