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Cultivating Fear
by Pythagoras

The world spins mad. The people are so intoxicated by luxury they have forgotten everything that makes us more than house pets. Reason. Truth. Justice. Freedom. – Frank Miller from DK2

Last night I was flicking through the cable channels and once more I saw the Republican mouthpieces cultivating fear. Channel after channel, personality after personality, all preaching the same vile verses.

“Social security is about to collapse. It can only maintain solvency until 2018. That’s only 14 years away!”

Maybe this would be frightening if it were true, but much like Saddam’s possession of WMD’s and his supposed involvement with terrorists, this claim is very, very exaggerated.

First, Social Security won’t be bankrupt in 2018. In fact, if we do nothing it will continue to pay 100% of its benefits until approximately 2040 and maybe as late as 2050. To put this in perspective, if you are 30 years old it will likely pay you 100% of its current benefits for the rest of your natural life.

Why the discrepancy? It is true that in 2018 Social Security will start paying more benefits than money it is receiving in tax dollars. However, it will not be bankrupt because we have been paying extra tax since the mid-80’s and as a result, Social Security has a massive trust fund to support it. The republicans know this and still they lie. Still they spread fear. Hell, it was Reagan and Greenspan who created this trust.

Secondly, they say that the only way to keep Social Security in its current format is with huge tax increases. This suggests that said increases would be avoided by switching to private funds. This is bullshit!

Bob Novak (a devout conservative) recently erred when he reported that maintaining social security would require a $2 trillion tax increase. This seems terrible, BUT later in the same article he said that switching to private funds would cost $14 trillion! Which do you prefer?

Lastly, the republican’s like to say that people will receive a higher return with private accounts than they currently receive through social security. This is highly speculative at best. Some years this may be the case, when the market is doing well, but in others it will be much worse. Even still, that $14 trillion in increased taxes will suck up any extra benefits. And, we would be giving up other benefits as well. Social Security is more than a retirement fund. It supports your children if you die before they are 18 and it supports us if we become disabled. Private funds will do neither of those because it will take a lifetime to build up your fund!

So what is the answer? Currently, Social Security tax is only paid on the first $80,000 of income that you make. Simply by raising this amount to the first $200,000 of income would prolong social security’s life significantly and this is without a reduction of benefits or added taxes on the poor or middle classes.

So why are the republicans pushing so hard for private funds? The only groups who seem to benefit from this switch are corporations who would become the caretakers of our massive, multi-trillion dollar social security fund.

But the republican’s wouldn’t put their own interests above the taxpayers would they?

Yeah, I suppose that's just crazy talk.

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

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The following comments are for "Cultivating Fear"
by Pythagoras

let me be the first
To comment on this opinion. (I was just wondering what you were up to these days) Thanks for telling it like it is, Pythagoras. Someone has to do it, and you have delivered the goods. We have a market driven political system, so anytime those boys go wanting to change things, we can be fairly sure it's going to be good for (somebody's) business, and has nothing to do with our general well being. A poignant example is the fiat of healthcare.

I'm sure we could both go on for hours, but anyway, this is logically written and well stated. You may want to watch the plural apostrophes, though. Apostrophe "s" is almost always showing possession, and when not, it is a contraction of the word and "is." Of course, you could show me a thing or two about math...

( Posted by: brickhouse [Member] On: January 2, 2005 )

Thanks brick
During the school year, I'm a little busy so writing takes a backseat. Fortunately, holidays come around with a certain amount of regularity. :)

As for the republicans and our market driven political system, I'm stunned that they are able to pull of the notion that they represent the "every man." Geez, has Bush passed a single initiative that hasn't helped individuals more than industry? hrmmm...I don't think so.

As for the apostrophe thing, thanks for pointing that out. I know the rules of grammar. I just sometimes develop a glitch. I also frequently misuse "are" when I mean "our." But that is also a pretty common error.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's nice to bitch about those dastardly republicans again. :)


( Posted by: Pythagoras [Member] On: January 2, 2005 )

I meant has Bush passed any initiatives that HAS helped individuals more than industry....whoopsy!


( Posted by: Pythagoras [Member] On: January 2, 2005 )

well put, tackled with both wit and thought.
(HAVE -- you changed your subject from initiative to initiatives)

( Posted by: brad [Member] On: January 2, 2005 )

antisocial insecurity
Reasoned, concise, nice read.

We already have private retirement accounts-
401k and IRA.

( Posted by: drsoos [Member] On: January 2, 2005 )

I was recently reading a New York Times article about the Bush team's push for better private investment strategies across the board in the US. The article related that in 1980, the average American (a misleading term because it refers to a mathemetical average rather than the synonym of "typical"; though, if fictitous, it's nevertheless a handy statistical gauge) invested 8% of their earnings in savings or an equivalent fund. Today, the average American puts 2% in savings -- a drastic drop, to be sure. The article went on to note that while pushing for better private investment strategies would help to take some of the burden off of social security and related programs like Medicaid, that any such program would be unlikely to get anything more than a cursory approval from any administration, whether Republican or Democrat, because money put in savings is money removed from the economy.

Statistics which measure the economy (like the GDP, GNP, consumer spending, unemployment and job creation) not only affect the state of graciousness with which a people accept the current administration, but equally important figures like the interest rate at which outstanding national debts are appreciated (something vital to consider when our national debt is standing in the multi-trillions of dollars)

I think it's easy to decry an opposing party as evil, but considering the weight any administration must give to the economy when measuring the worth of various budget policies, don't you think it might be more realistic to say that the Republican initiative is towards a high-payoff short-term, in which, through privitization, money is kept flowing through the economy while, at the very least, maintaining the semblance of a concern towards programs like social security, where the Democratic policy tends toward a long-term, lower-risk payoff, with money invested more wisely, but with an inevitable increase in taxes?

The resultant choice then is not between good and evil but must be made regarding how close to the edge of financial insolvency we want our nation to dance -- to my mind, paying a higher rate in taxes is better than having another financial audit by the World Bank, something which is usually only performed for third-world economies like those of Peru or Argentina, yet something which this nation endured after the last finalization of the Bush Budget.

The above may not make for much of a quippable sound bite, yet considering the division of the nation in the last election, I think it's more important to have sound discussions about issues than to resound on issues in a manner that sounds like a recycling of the simple terms the current administration has made palpable as watchwords: good, evil, fear, hope.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: January 2, 2005 )

re: Hazelfaern
Wow, your response is well reasoned and well written and I agree that sound discussions are the way to go.

However, this administration's pundits are saying that social security will be bankrupt in 2018 which is completely false. I believe that, much like their push for war with Iraq, they are cultivating fear to keep people from reasoning so that they may funnel our tax money into the deep pockets of the corporations that they either represent or are highly invested in. I guess whether this is "evil" or not is debatable. It certainly isn't good.

I agree with your claim that the republican method is more short-term in thinking and that is my problem with it. The catastrophe of social security is still decades away and yet, they are trying to frame it as a short-term problem. Further, both plans (liberal or conservative) will require tax increases. However, the liberal one will not need a tax hike for 40 years while the republican plan will require an immediate and much larger one now.

Also, there are many real crises that we are facing and that you have mentioned, such as our soaring debt and the trade deficit. These are real impending dangers that should be dealt with long before social security.

Thanks for your response and your excellent points.


ps. I agree that watchwords may not be the best way to go. Are you familiar with Newt's list of words he gave to republicans to use in reference to liberals and their policies? Its funny. His list is probably 20 yrs old but rep. pundits still use them today...everyday.

( Posted by: pythagoras [Member] On: January 3, 2005 )

Watchwords: Good and Evil
In many ways, Pythagorus, my biggest problem with Republican strategy is that it reduces complex problems into simple sound bites. To my mind, one of the biggest reasons that the Bush team has been able to get away with the total lack of reasonability in the push for a war in Iraq is that Bush just keeps shrugging his shoulders into the camera and saying "Well, Saddam was evil anyway." While in some ways this statement is certainly true, the body of international law works much like any other form of judicial law: it is based on precedent. If we, the United States, create the precedent that the invasion of another nation is tolerable as long as the claim that it's leader is evil has a grain of truth to it, then we may have unleashed an untenable threat to the continuence of peace. Certainly, to many fervent nationalist constituents of India, the leadership of Pakistan is evil. According to the religious leadership of Isreal, the government of Palestine is evil. According to the religious leadership of Iran, the United States is evil. This precedent, because of it's lack of carefully structured logic, creates a grave threat to the tentively peaceful inter-relationships of a world which has given these same nations the right to stockhold their own weapons of mass destruction. It creates the sense that it is perfectly all right for worldleaders to become not only reckless in their vendettas, but triggerhappy on a nuclear level, whenever and wherever they find fault with the strategies and principles of a rival nation and it's authorities. I believe, to put it lightly, that this is an intolerable state of affairs. Yet it is fundamentally based on sloppy, emotional, gut-sensitive rhetoric.

The Republican party has gained profound momentum since the Reagan years, which is ironic considering that the party was considered politically dead on it's feet in 1978. Today, some 20 years later, the Democratic party faces the same possible political extinction. There are some liberals who would like to see the DNC adopt many of the tactics which have, inarguably, allowed the RNC to gain so much ground so quickly. Some of those tactics, like creating think tanks and spending more money on high level strategists to help center the party into core policies and messages are probably benign. Yet, if liberals adopt the language of conservatives for the short-term gain of political power, they will have done more harm to this nation than the war in Iraq has done to international law. By using easy and emotionally charged words like good, evil, fear-mongering, hope, terms which cannot be quanitified or truly gauged, they will have significantly contributed to the continual decline of true democracy. They will have put aside the language of debate and relented to the murmering of the mob-mentality, which charges in with torches and fear-based hate before the whispering of insight. The more momentum a panicked mob gains, the more difficulty logic, reason and purpose have in deterring it.

This is why I find fault with some of your statements. I think it is considerably important to bear in mind the lack of real discussion, as opposed to sound bite creation, which exists today. While it is certainly possible that Republican party leaders are corrupt in their principles, I find the notion that one party contains less corruption than another to be logically unmaintainable. We are all human. We all have self-interests and facade-bearing principles, whether our NC contains a prefix of D or R. We should not be discussing good and evil in relationship to politics -- let's leave that to the Ayatollahs. Let us be the few sane politicos left in the world. Let's discuss policy, impact and theory, instead. Let's discuss the rights and futures of our fellow human beings and leave the naming of the spiritual attunement of our leaders to the fanatics and the torch-bearers.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: January 4, 2005 )

re: well said
Hazelfaern, you write with incredible passion and logic and I couldn't agree more with most of your points. Especially, the "saddam was evil" argument and that Bush's pre-emptive war has opened the door for other countries to apply the same logic. Bush has fragmented the world community and we are all less safe because of it.

Also I love your critique(sp?) of the republican party and its rise to power...I think you left out the destruction of the freedom of information act and how that enabled wealthy conservatives to buy up radio, tv and newspapers and in turn get out a biased and divisive message.(Rush, fox news, etc.)

THe only thing I disagree with, is that I have used watchwords and have not argued with facts. In truth, I never used any watch words in my piece above and almost every paragraph is loaded with one fact or another.

So, I guess we are both on the same page.

Also, I'm going to have to seek out some of your posts. If they are half as well written and reasoned as your comments, I'm certain to enjoy them. :)


( Posted by: Pythagoras [Member] On: January 4, 2005 )

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