Tuesday, February 2, 2010

GOP: Privatize Social Security, Abolish Medicare

No, I am not making this up.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) appeared on Hardball... and advocated balancing the budget by privatizing Social Security and cutting benefits for those now under 55.

"You can get better health care and better retirement security if you go to a defined contribution plan. We had this debate in Social Security a few years ago," Hensarling said...

A "defined contribution plan" means the amount contributed to the plan on the front end is fixed. Social Security and traditional pensions are "defined benefit plans," where the amount paid out on the back-end is fixed according to a formula.

Throughout the interview, the congressman said Social Security benefits should be kept the same for those already receiving them, or those over 55.

"You mean cut Social Security benefits as a way of balancing the budget," Chris Matthews said.

Hensarling rejected Matthews' wording, but continued to call for privatization and reduced benefits for those under 55.

At the same time, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been getting a lot of attention (including shout-outs of a sort from OMB Director Peter Orszag) for his proposed budget plan. But Ryan's plan too harkens back to earlier Bush proposals, with a call for private accounts...

Yeah, I didn't trim much from that article, really. It's mostly meat.

Something needs to be laid on the table right up front: if George W. Bush had had his way in 2005, and partial privatization of Social Security- his so-called "Ownership Society"- had gone forward, then many if not most retirees today would have been utterly wiped out after the bankruptcy of AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch, General Motors and Chrysler- to name the major names. Even if a particular retiree had managed to steer clear from these stocks- which in 2005 looked solid as Gibraltar- the market as a whole took a 50% plunge from January 2008 to February 2009, starting at a peak near DJIA 15,000 in 2007 to a low point of just under DJIA 7,000.

And the Republican response? Well, if you were irresponsible enough to not be rich, you deserve to lose everything.

Let's not have any illusions here: the Republicans are trying to buy the Red Car so they can dismantle it privatize entitlements so they can be killed entirely. Their end goal is to relieve the corporate employers who support them (and whose stock they own in significant quantities) of employer taxes to support these entitlements. Of course, if these taxes vanished, the money would NOT go to higher wages, no matter what Republicans tell workers about "it's really your money."

And, as the article shows, this is not just one Congressman. Even if it was just Jeb Hensarling, it would be more than just a lone Congressman. Hensarling was one of the very few people chosen by the Republican leadership to ask a question of Barack Obama in that disastrous (for the GOP) televised Q&A session on Friday. (He used the opportunity to basically give a campaign speech on how the deficit is 100% Obama's fault.) He is not a flake or a lunatic by Republican standards; he's a leader.

But it's not just him. It's also Paul Ryan, who has his own plan separate of and different from Hensarling's proposal.

And when there's two Congressmen in agreement on generalities but with different ideas on the specifics, it's a safe bet there's more than two.

And they're not lunatic at all for suggesting this. Consider a comment made to the article:

The 55 cutoff is about voting demographics. The 55-and-over demo is large, votes in high numbers, and votes Republican. Any "plan" that cuts benefits to that demographic is electoral suicide. A plan that preserves benefits for that demographic might not be rejected by those who won't get hurt by it.

This is 100% true. On average, nationwide, if you're over 55, you're Republican; if you're under 55, you're Democrat. And, as we've seen with so many other issues- torture, habeas corpus, healthcare, employment, etc.- if your ox isn't the one getting gored, odds are you couldn't give a rat's ass about what Congress does about it.

Another comment is a bit over the top... but not much.

{Republicans} HATE democracy. Ask Ronald Reagan, right? He said it. "Government does not solve problems; government is the problem."


We-e-e-ell, if We the People are the government, he is saying we can not solve our own problems but rather, we are the problem. And we must be gotten out of the way.

The full comment is an attack on corporatism, and it ignores the fact that there really are some things no majority democratic vote should be allowed to do. But the core of it is quite accurate: Republicans believe the rich should have power, the poor none... and they're working to make that reality.

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