Don't buy Bush's 'snake oil' on Social Security

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Frank Lipscomb

President Bush's tepid effort to push the GOP towards better racial behavior appeared to pay some dividends in the last election when his black voter support went from 9 to 11 percent and around 14 percent in Ohio, the swing state that give Bush the electoral votes to win the election.
But in the short span of a few months, the slender hope of a Republican racial renaissance has been blown to bits. In January, Bush showed a penchant for making a foot-in-the-mouth racist crack. It had to do with his "legal fiction" about reforming Social Security. The president said at a forum on Social Security that, "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people. And that needs to be fixed."

His supporters, since the remarks, have been quietly making the argument that blacks have even more to gain than other Americans from private retirement accounts.

Bush and his supporters' rush to interpret "death trial results" on race as showing that blacks are somehow "dying different" from whites amounts to Social Security racial profiling in a population that already receives substandard health care.

Racial issues and remarks that are made without careful research are always explosive and certainly have been for past Republican presidents who set the tune for Bush Jr. with their own verbal race-bashing. In his autobiography, My American Journey, Colin Powell called Reagan "insensitive" on racial issues, and tagged Bush Sr.'s Willie Horton ad stunt "a cheap shot."

There is plenty of existing evidence about how American big businesses, health care facilities, and public schools treat blacks and whites differentially in ways that disadvantage most African Americans. What Bush's people's faulty interpretation of this data does is try to legitimize this differential treatment and use it to their advantage?"mainly, trying to get black voters to leave the Democratic party.

To think that blacks are getting a raw deal on Social Security and they have more to gain than other Americans from private retirements accounts is totally false. Black people in Austin and the entire city of Chicago don't fall for this "snake oil and chicken little" remarks. Wealth for the poor working class? That's a joke. The sky is not falling folks; just stop and look up like Chicken Little did and you will see the facts. Here are the facts:

? The president's bold new plan to partially privatize Social Security is not new at all. In fact, it looks similar to England's 25-year experiment with its pension reform, which was a total failure. While Bush and his war hawks are looking to privatize, England's experts are looking at our Social Security system as a model?"the one Bush and his team want to destroy.

? Nothing, yes, nothing is wrong with our present Social Security system. For the next 50 years it will not go broke.

? After 50 years or so, only about 20-25 percent of the present system needs adjustments. And this can be done mathematically by changing the formula for calculating the cost of living adjustments (COLAs).

? At present, the current formula for calculating the COLAs overstates inflation. So changing the formula is the logical first step towards improving the long-term financial soundness of the Social Security system.

? Finally, if the GOP-controlled Congress approves Bush's dangerous plan, it would take about $7 trillion to dismantle the present system. Where would the country get the money? At present America has the biggest budget deficit in the history of the country?"around $3 trillion.

Remember, folks, George Bush went into the White House with a budget surplus that he managed to turn into a deficit in two years. And since the war against terrorists began, the United States has dug itself into a "bottomless" pit. Bill Frist, the Senate GOP leader, is one of a few high-powered Republicans who opposes Bush's plan. He lost more than $500,000 in the stock market when he invested a portion of the fund set up for his 2000 re-election bid. And these "poor managers" want to reform Social Security? They must be drinking the same "insane" beverage that Daley and his city council have been drinking. It's a risky gamble for all races of people. Everyone.

What needs to be done? First, a bi-partisan committee of Democrats and Republicans needs to be formed to look at the changes needed in the risky Social Security formula.

Secondly, if Bush were sincere and truly wanted to help the early demise of black males, then he would remove those barriers in health care that help to shorten our life expectancy. This can be done by executive orders similar to Democratic presidents of the past that faced an unwilling Congress and insensitive majority of voters. Large majorities of voters in the country typically support stable or increased government spending for programs that serve (or will eventually serve) nearly everyone?"not just one group. Just think, four years of Bush shook the world. Four more could destroy it?"mainly from within.

Leave Social Security alone, Bush. Social Security is so popular that politicians call it "the third rail" of American politics. "Touch it and you die."

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