Saturday :: Jan 15, 2005

Bush Wants Social Security Staff To Spread The Lies As Well


by Steve

"But for younger workers, Social Security is on the road to bankruptcy."
--Bush, today

"America's insurance policy was never meant to be a privatized 401(k)plan or a high-risk investment...It was meant to be the secure foundation for your retirement."
--Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, today, obviously very clear on the concept.

If you thought it was bad enough that Rod Paige and George W. Bush used taxpayer funds to promote a partisan agenda with propaganda through a member of the media, how about using an entire agency of the federal government, one that is supposed to be nonpartisan due to its mission of administering a benefit program, to push a disputed political agenda? Guess what Bush is ordering the Social Security Administration (SSA) to do?

Spread disinformation and scare people.

Over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution.

The agency's plans are set forth in internal documents, including a "tactical plan" for communications and marketing of the idea that Social Security faces dire financial problems requiring immediate action.

But agency employees have complained to Social Security officials that they are being conscripted into a political battle over the future of the program. They question the accuracy of recent statements by the agency, and they say that money from the Social Security trust fund should not be used for such advocacy.

"Trust fund dollars should not be used to promote a political agenda," said Dana C. Duggins, a vice president of the Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 50,000 of the agency's 64,000 workers and has opposed private accounts.

Deborah C. Fredericksen of Minneapolis, who has worked for the Social Security Administration for 31 years, said, "Many employees believe that the president and this agency are using scare tactics to promote private accounts."

The plan says that Social Security managers should "discuss solvency issues at staff meetings," "insert solvency messages in all Social Security publications" and spread the word at nontraditional sites like farmers' markets and "big box retail stores."

The official policy brief, analyzing the consequences of inaction, was written by Andrew G. Biggs, the associate commissioner of Social Security for retirement policy. Mr. Biggs, 37, joined President Bush in making the case for private accounts at a White House forum this week.

When he was an analyst at the Cato Institute, Mr. Biggs championed private accounts, saying they "would pay substantially higher retirement benefits than the current Social Security program" because some payroll taxes could be invested in stocks and corporate bonds rather than in government securities.

In 2003, just before he became associate commissioner, Mr. Biggs said that AARP, the lobby for older Americans, was "spreading disinformation" about the risks of private accounts. Mr. Biggs, who has a doctorate from the London School of Economics, said critics were wrong to suggest that personal accounts meant large cuts in benefits. In fact, he said, Social Security cannot pay the benefits it has promised.

The combination of benefits from traditional Social Security and a private account would substantially exceed what the current program can actually pay, Mr. Biggs said.

An outright lie, per the CBO. So the AARP is spreading disinformation, but you aren't Mr. Biggs and Mr. Bush?

Other analysts, including the Congressional Budget Office, have reached a different conclusion. They say the combination of benefits from the trust fund and individual accounts is likely to be less than actual benefits under the current system.

Robert M. Ball, who worked at the Social Security Administration for three decades and was commissioner under Democratic and Republican presidents from 1962 to 1973, said: "It's fine for the agency to answer factual questions, but it's unusual to use the Civil Service organization to push a political agenda, especially because what they're saying is not true. The program is not going bankrupt."

When asked about the outlook for Social Security, several agency officials pointed to a White House "fact sheet" that says, "By 2042, when workers in their mid-20's begin to retire, the system will be bankrupt - unless we act now to save it."

Another Luntz/Rove trick of scaring people by using the word bankrupt over and over again. Since the trust fund would be unable to pay its full obligations four or five decades from now, and only be able to pay 73% of them, technically the term bankrupt is correct. But this assumes that nothing is done this year or at any time in the next 40 to 50 years about this, and the White House also knows that the term bankrupt has the connotation of being flat our broke, rather than being unable to pay your full obligations. All brought to you with taxpayer dollars once again. It sounds like Henry Waxman should issue Freedom of Information Act requests to see how the SSA is using taxpayer dollars for payola with conservative pundits as well.

Also notice how the Administration has suddenly stopped talking about the $2 trillion transition costs for moving to a privatization system. Have you heard anyone inside the Administration talk about how they plan to finance this corporate welfare boondoggle for at least the last several days? Me neither.

Bush went ahead with the scare again today when he said the system was on the road to bankruptcy for younger workers. Again, the CBO and the SSA both say that if nothing is done, benefits will have to be reduced four or five decades from now, but neither of them are saying the trust funds and the system will be flat out broke. But a guy who ran oil companies into the ground and lost other folks' money doing it, only to be bailed out later in life by Texas taxpayers, BCCI, and the Saudis cannot be expected to know the difference I guess.

I hope to see the Democrats now focus their attention not only on what the Education Department has been doing with regards to propaganda, but now also the SSA.

Steve :: 2:21 PM :: Comments (22) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!