An Alternate Reality for Social Security
Perhaps its cause is an irrepressible idealism on my part, but I still find myself stunned and disheartened by the stooped-to depths of political dishonesty. In this one sentence, Rep. Patrick Kennedy appeals to a completely alternate reality to score political points among people whom he assumes to be uninformed and/or stupid:
Since the president took office and began squandering the Clinton surpluses, the federal government has treated Social Security like a credit card — borrowing from the Social Security surplus to pay its other bills.
First of all, “the Clinton surpluses” never amounted to money in hand. Rather, they were projections into the future based on a booming economy. (Although, I suppose that if any body can squander something it doesn’t have, it’s the federal government.) Second of all, the money that Social Security raises each year began being filtered to the federal government’s general funds via bonds long before President Bush ever stepped into the White House.
From there, deconstructing Kennedy’s “facts” is a tedious matter that I leave to interested readers. (For example, the suggestion that “Social Security would be unable to pay full benefits in 2021, instead of 2042 or 2052,” ignores the obvious reality that Bush’s private account program is meant to supplement benefits that Social Security will eventually be unable to finance.) I offer a summary piece by Donald Luskin as a helpful antidote.
Overall, in building his phony version of political reality, Kennedy is either a dupe of his own rhetoric or a con man. The story is that Bush has been “squandering the Clinton surpluses,” in part because he tapped the Social Security trust fund, money that he “borrowed for big tax breaks.” Yet — yet! — Kennedy’s counter-proposal is “the ASPIRE Act, which would give every child an investment account at birth [for which the government would] put in a seed contribution, and match parental contributions for lower-income children.”
In other words, a Congressman who has declared that he’s “never worked a f***ing day in [his] life” prefers giving government-funded, redistributionist hand-outs to eighteen year olds to allowing working citizens to keep more of the money that they earn. A man wealthy by default wishes to ensure the importance of the government teat to the common citizen by taking money from the hands of parents, filtering it through the grubby ones of government, and then handing it back to adolescents just as they exit their parents’ legal guardianship.
Somehow, I don’t think Kennedy’s concept of “an ownership society” matches that of believers in a free market and individual independence. The difference is who does the owning, and the alternate reality that he’s striving to bring about is not one in which Americans should invest hope… or votes.