[an email to a friend who supports Ron Paul. I voiced my opposition to his views on social security and my friend said ss was "fucked" and that people need to be more responsible and save better. There have been slight additions to my response that follows...]
First, social security is not "fucked." I am tired of hearing this myth. it is the most sound program that exists. What other program is paid up and solvent till the 2040s (by conservative estimates) and may actually be solvent untill the turn of the next century?
Any perceived problems can be accounted for by a couple of things.
SS is regressively taxed, meaning the poor bare the largest burden in paying for it. People who make more than $98,000 dont even pay into it. If Bill Gates income alone were taxed its solvency would extend even futher. And if corporations – who are giving rights as individuals – were taxed like the rest of us then, Holy Shit!, we all can have our dream vacation!
Other problems are healthcare costs, real living wages (which have been declining consistently for more than three decades), and increasing inflation. If your’e paid less and things cost more then it is obvious that there is a problem on the horizon.
Military expenditures and corporate welfare also should be added into the equation, because as President Eisenhower once said, every dollar spent on the military is a dollar subtracted from the needs of the poor (im paraphrasing and thats why i didn’t include quotations).
So social security is not in trouble fiscally, and future problems can easily be remedied. in fact Robert Ball, former social security administrator, has pointed out conservative and sensible solutions outside of more radical and long-term solving solutions like universal heatlhcare, reduction in military spending and progressive taxation. Here is his solution ( http://www.robertmball.org/ ).
But its not just Ron Paul’s views on social security that trouble me. His distorted views on the UN, WTO and ICC also trouble me. His views on SDI, abortion, minimum wage and other things also disturb me. But what also lies behind my problem of his warped views on social security is not that he goes along with a myth that is easy to see through, but some of his comments that you have regurgitated.
The youth and workers should be more "responsible" and "save" better, or so we are told.
Right now the White House and Congress just passed an "economic stimulus package" that, as Paul Krugman pointed out, "gives each worker making less than $75,000 a $300 check, plus additional amounts to people who make enough to pay substantial sums in income tax. This ensures that the bulk of the money would go to people who are doing O.K. financially – which misses the whole point."
But there is more, drew. The logic here is that sometimes shit happens and people need assistance. So we see "business tax breaks" and the FEDs come in to lower the interest rate. True, that assistance SHOULD be geared more to the most vulnerable, but the logic that sometimes we need to intervene to alleviate suffering is perfectly acceptable.
Why is no one telling the "private sector" to be more respobsible and save better??
What is up with the apparent double-standard?
Now, the "mortgage crisis" is affecting more than just consumers and lenders. There are direct and indirect victims to this mortgage scam, and Im not completely opposed to intervention to thwart a crisis that could be very painful for the lower working class. Now, we can take things further and push for something more egalitarian like PARECON, but that’s not really the point here.
If companies – who have vastly more resources than the average worker – cannot be expected to be completely self-reliant without a safety net or "handouts" then why is the worker expected to be, especially when they rely on the companies for their salaries? Again, these are industries that rely on a super, conservative nanny state (ie corporate welfare).
Now, Ron Paul has voted for corporate welfare but is opposed to social welfare. That is very revealing of him.
All we need to do to look for the need of safety nets and "handouts" is our own economy (or any industrialized economy for that matter).
If it were not for wage slavery, one-sided class wars, subsidies, tax breaks and all-around corporate welfare our economy would sink to pre-industrial levels unless the structure was radically altered (which I advocate so as to retain industrialization without the need for class divisions, social/economic injustices and all-out exploitation).
So, if we enjoy comfort and leizure then we have to recognize that some form of planning and intervention is necessary (I think the planning should come from below and by those who are more impacted by the decissions). Economies are not natural, living organisms. They are created and maintained by human endeavors.
The same logic applies to society. If people are reliant on institutions to meet their basic needs and more then it must be recognized that occassional – if not permanently on-going – assistance will be needed to deal with problems.
The poor, elderly, unemployed and retired will need help to stay affloat just like modern corporations do. Again (and sorry to beat a dead horse), if fortue 500 companies with butt-loads of money and lawyers can’t do it on their own then what makes anyone think that the average worker with far-less resources can or should?
Anyway, unless youre a pathological monster you will care about others (ie solidarity). Thats not an ad hominem, that’s just reality. It would be abnormal for a social species to show anti-social tendencies, so therefore "pathological" would be an accurate and appropriate term. The arguments of "responsibility" and "saving better" are just weak distractions to justify harsher standards for those that we don’t expect the rich to show. Social Security is fine, it works, it keeps millions out of poverty though it could be improved by addressing other issues like living wages, military spending, inflation, healthcare and so on. And we shouldnt be holding workers to a standard that is not only unfeasible but something we are unwilling to hold to affluent institutions of power. It’s just simply wrong.