Democratic Underground

The "Symbolic" Pledge on Social Security
August 30, 2001
by JB

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While browsing the Internet for more whoppers - finding a worthy whopper can be hard, because a lot are just stupidities, not things worth writing about - I found the New York Times saying that White House aides - unidentified, of course - had been claiming that the Social Security pledge was a symbolic pledge, and that, quite simply, "Why honor a symbolic pledge when we have real, hard needs at Defense?"

Why indeed. Also, in a related story, the Virginia governor and nominal RNC chairman, Jim Gilmore, announced an ad campaign to demonstrate that the Democrats were launching unwarranted partisan attacks and were themselves the real threat to the budget with their risky spending schemes on wasteful government programs.

All right, let's take #2 first, and work our way back

First of all, who uses the term "risky spending scheme?" Why, that's an Al Gore line if I ever heard one. That's quite a feat, Al: Your lines are now being used by the Republican national chairman to announce an anti-Democrat ad campaign! Come on, be proud.

Side note: Gilmore is only the nominal head. Karl Rove is the real head. Bob Novak said so. Apparently Gilmore, like old tales of a foolish British prince who thought that his title of "Commander in Chief of the British Navy" or something like that actually meant that he could RUN the thing, tried to take charge of the RNC like his title suggested. He was brutally slapped down and informed that Karl Rove was in charge. End of story.

Second of all, let's get this straight. Democrats want to launch risky spending schemes on wasteful government programs, so Republicans are going to thwart this evil plot by sending the money to an agency that deserves the money, a department that will use the money much better than other departments possibly could.

They're going to send it to the Pentagon.


Have we gone mad!? The Pentagon doesn't even know how much money it has year to year! Even their auditors fail audits! (Those are factual statements, by the way.) They haven't had a working accounting system in place there since at least the Reagan administration! What does Gilmore think the Pentagon is? Thrifty!?

I'm just pointing out that saying you're going to take money away from wasteful programs (like what? Health care? Education? Roads? Oh, I forgot, roads are a sacred cow) and then give the money to the Pentagon, which makes even HUD blush with its brazen waste and fraud. Remember the case of the credit cards to buy equipment that ended up being used to pay for 5-star hotels and gourmet restaurants, and no-one was ever called to account? Because to save paperwork, the Pentagon skimped on controls to make sure the money wasn't wasted? Forget about it. That's NOTHING compared to what the Pentagon really does.

I mean, let's make one point here, and one that should be remembered. You can find people at Lockheed-Martin or other defense giants (not that there's many anymore due to merger mania) who will tell you flat out the truth: They're not in it for patriotism. They're in it to bilk the taxpayer, and to hell with whether their stuff actually works or not. All their equipment needs to do is to fool the government's people so that Congress approves the budget. Beyond that, if it works, great. If not, who cares? If Russia goes full nuclear they're all dead anyway. NMD will never be 100% effective, so their motivation for that is, of course, also simply to suck money from the budget, and if it never works in the real world, big deal. Anyone who thinks that military procurement is the real world is really, really kidding himself.

So this is what the "symbolic" promise is being broken over?

OK, let's present some facts, from

Governor Bush's Reform Proposal

• Governor Bush will build a bipartisan consensus to save Social Security based on the following principles: Absolutely no change in existing benefits for retirees or near-retirees.
• The Social Security surplus must be locked away only for Social Security. Social Security payroll taxes must not be increased.
• The government itself must not invest Social Security funds in the market.
• Modernization must preserve the disability and survivors components.
• Modernization must include individually controlled, voluntary personal retirement accounts, which will augment the Social Security safety net. These accounts will earn higher rates of return, have parameters of safety and soundness, and help workers build wealth that can be passed on to their children.

Really "symbolic."

Yeah, well, I'm not buying it. Even the part about the government not investing SS funds in the market is just not credible. Congress recently bailed out a railway worker retirement fund with a provision for the federal government investing the money into the market, and because of congressional politics, Bush did not veto it. (Again, I'm picking on Bob Novak a little, but the point is, this was unprecedented. Now there really is a precedent for the government investing funds itself. This is scary stuff.)

The point is this. Bush was lying when he made the pledge - he knew damned well that Social Security's surplus does not go towards Social Security. It either goes to additional spending (i.e. "wasteful programs" like the Department of Defense) or, in a recent and benign twist, it went to help pay off the national debt. In no way is this money locked for Social Security itself, unless - and here's the kicker - counting taking the surplus money and lending it to the federal government to be "locking it away." Well not in my book.

For anyone who missed my very first Whopper, this is a lesson you should take to heart. Those Treasury bonds held by the Social Security Administration? The Full Faith And Credit of the American Government is none other than YOU. To repay Social Security, you will be taxed more, and squeezed more, because your current President is breaking his pledge.

Yes, the pledge was symbolic; we know that, because Bush obviously didn't mean what he said. However, breaking it will do harm to the American public that is all too real.

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