Wednesday, January 19, 2005

"Healthy" debate

I've been having various debates on the Social Security issue, mostly online, and it's very interesting to me how fundamentally different my views on the issue are from a conservative's views on the issue.

First, there's the difference in argument. As is becoming increasingly clear, conservatives are opposed to the idea of Social Security, mathematics and facts be damned. If the only way to get support up for "reform" is to make stuff up, then so be it. They will not be deterred. But their objection is that they shouldn't be made to give up any of their money to give to somebody else (and I'm sure the progressivity* of benefits gets them all furious, too). So pointing out that Bush's crisis is so much smoke and mirrors becomes a moot point when what they really want to argue is that Social Security is a philosophical quagmire. I think that there could be a legitimate debate to be had there, but that's not how the president's couching it.

And I know that they'll hate me for it, but I can't help but feel that there's this fundamental selfish, "greed is good" mentality going on with the conservatives, too. They believe that the free market solves anything, and I guess those who get caught in the crossfire and lose everything are just those proverbial eggs that get cracked for the making of the omelette. They get pretty enraged when the compassion issue gets brought up (i.e., keeping Social Security is more compassionate to the people who can't otherwise afford much retirement savings). They claim that it's more compassionate to not rob people of their money to pay other people with.


Social Security keeps a great many seniors out of poverty. To completely abolish Social Security (which is what they really want to do, and which Bush's plan really will accomplish in the long-run by weakening it so much) will be to subject everyone to the whims of the market. Conservatives, again, don't want to talk about administrative costs of running these market purchases, or brokerage fees, or the fact that not every US citizen is going to become a stock market expert overnight. Instead they'd like to stick their fingers in their ears, pretend that 100 million people are going to be able to invest in the highest-yield stocks in the market all at once without somehow changing its dynamic, and live forever in their glorious "ownership society."

Again, please.


*For those who don't know, Social Security benefits are scaled so that people who contribute more get more monetarily, but people who didn't have enough money to contribute more get a greater percentage of their former wages.