Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I Know Why SS is Team Bush’s #1 Priority

In all of the commentary I’ve seen about the latest, manufactured, fake, emergency crisis, I’ve seen precious little discussion of what agenda does this issue serve for the right. Like most on the left (which is becoming pretty synonymous for “those with a brain”), the President’s stated objectives have never seemed particularly likely to be true: to let workers have more control, to let retirees live better, to avert the disaster that will strike in 2042 when we may actually have to – gulp! – raise taxes a bit to cover the SS obligations.

No, this is all of course utter nonsense. But I think I’ve got the answer. If Iraq was about changing the landscape of the Middle East, SS “Reform” is about changing the political landscape of the US – for the next 50 years.

I saw the President’s remarks yesterday that he made to one of his patented “town-hall” events. On the stage with him were young workers who were worried that SS wasn’t going to be there. One after another, these poor deluded youths brayed, “I was raised to believe in personal responsibility, and I’ve taken responsibility for my life. I went to school, I worked hard, got married, and I want to know that when I retire, the money I put in for SS will be there for me.” And so on.

Then the President stood up and tried to make the case for the urgent nature of the crisis. (I always think of the comment of my friend, the litigator, on the case for Iraq: it just doesn’t take six months to argue exigent circumstances.) His basic point was that we owe to to today’s younger workers, whose future are so clouded by this crisis, to resolve it today, so that they can get on with their lives. Today’s young workers need to know that SS will be there, that we’ve honored our commitment to them, …etc., etc., etc.

And then I saw a Repub-robotron, Mr. Toomey, come on The Newshour to deliver the day’s Talking Points. And guess what? No matter what was asked, no matter what the other person said, all wind-up Toomey said was that all he knew was that today’s younger workers need to know that we will take the steps needed to protect their futures, and that the only way to do this was to let these young workers have their own private accounts that because they are private will be worth at minimum several hundred thousand dollars – dollars they will be free to use as they please once they get old. Oh, and by the way, these ideas are the purview of the ultra-wise Republicans, because the liberals are tied to the old failed ways of doing things.

And that’s when it hit me: the whole point of this exercise is to establish the right as the party of youth. This whole issue is meant to wed younger workers to the right the way retirees are wed to the Dems. The game is all about shifting the demographic so that as new voters enter the body politic, they will flock to the right, because that’s where the hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars-for-them-to-use-as-they-please are. Democrats will be the party trying to steal these young people’s future to squander it on governmental spending for special interest groups like old people.

If their anti-labor tax program is class warfare, this is age warfare. And by getting young voters on their side, they need only wait for the doddery old generation of liberals to die before there will be nothing but Republicans left, right and center.

After that, I can’t imagine what they will do, since there only real value seems to be the acquisition and retention of power. They don’t seem too terribly interested in improving anyone’s lives – hell, even rich people can only use so many homes and airplanes after a while.

So that’s the big insight. And it just confirms my own instinct that the way forward here is NOT to become the party of the old and just defend the New Deal wonder that is SS. No, the way forward here is for us to propose our own young worker retirement program, so that young workers can see that some of us actually want to improve their retirements, while others of us would be just fine if they’re eatin’ ALPO in their dotage.

No comments: