Bush would restore some choice on retirement funds

By Vin Suprynowicz
web posted May 22, 2000

Formerly, delegates to the national nominating conventions chose the major parties' presidential nominees in early summer, setting up our quadrennial, four-month presidential campaign.

(People familiar with the issues -- party members who helped draft and thus presumably even read their party's platform -- choosing from among candidates known to them for years, but still expecting them to make speeches and answer substantive questions: The old folks sure had some quaint notions, didn't they?)

But as "binding primaries" became more and more the rule in recent decades, the campaigns have begun earlier, and shifted more and more to televised "sound bites." Now, "reform" has finally led to a situation so weird that the major party nominees were effectively chosen while snow covered most of the land, yet everyone now sits waiting for the "campaign" to begin, for all the world like the marshals of France in the winter of '39.

What was needed to break the impasse was for one of the nominees-apparent to bring forth a dramatic new political proposal. And so it has come to pass.

The candidate of the slightly more progressive party (among the two incumbent parties -- we don't discuss the Libertarians, even though they would end Social Security and the income tax entirely, since the press does not cover them, since they are not "viable," due to the fact they receive no serious press coverage) has stepped forward to propose a modest step in the right direction. To accomplish this, the candidate bravely approaches an issue which till now has supposedly constituted the "third rail" of American politics -- the touch-it-and-you're dead issue of reforming the actuarially bankrupt Farley-Roosevelt Ponzi scheme known as "Social Security."

And -- like a gift sent from heaven -- the nominee-apparent of the older, hidebound, reactionary troglodyte party, thoroughly encumbered and denied the slightest flexibility by his commitment to the public employees unions, has actually responded by reflexively squawking that such modest and sensible reform is "a dangerous and irresponsible plan" that could "wreck Social Security" -- rhetoric so over-the-top that even members of his own congressional caucus are asking him to tone down the absurd "scare" talk.

The sensible (if quite modest) proposal in question is that of Texas Republican Gov. George W. Bush, who wants to let American wage-earners choose for themselves where to invest approximately 2 percent of their own paychecks -- actually less than one third of the money now being systematically looted and fed directly into the Democratic Party's intergenerational income-transfer scheme under the rubric of being "placed for safe-keeping into a Social Security trust fund with your name on it."

In fact, because "contribution rates" were so small 50 years ago, today's typical senior citizen uses up everything he or she has paid into "Social Security" -- plus interest -- within a couple years of retirement. After that, all their elderly welfare comes directly out of their own grandchildren's paychecks. And if you think today's worker has a "trust fund with his name on it," try collecting the money in that "trust fund" should your wage-earning spouse die before age 60.

Private "trust funds" distribute their contents at that point. With Social Security, you'll quickly discover "trust fund" is "just a metaphor."

Mind you, the fact that it would still leave 5 percent of the worker's paycheck in the hands of the federal "Social Security Administration" makes Gov. Bush's proposal a mighty modest step. As further details are revealed, it may even be that the so-called "freedom" to invest these funds will turn out to be so "government-directed" as to only make things worse, by allowing the politicians to "award" certain money managers with this business -- in exchange for suitable "campaign contributions," of course.

But the issue is, at least, well-chosen to demonstrate just how bound today's Democratic Party is to the government unions' counterproductive, statist agenda.

This is a small step in the right direction. "Nobody has really run on a Social Security reform platform -- ever," conservative policy analyst David John told The Associated Press last weekend, an air of wonder creeping into his voice.

The only thing sadder than the fact that this passes for "a major free-market reform" in the Year 2000 is the fact that the nominee-apparent of one of our two major parties can think of no response more substantive than to blink his eyes on and off while thrusting his arms about and droning: "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger, Will Robinson!"

The "product differentiation" has begun.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998," is available at $24.95 postpaid by dialing 1-800-244-2224; or via web site http://www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html.

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