Social Security 101

George Bush made his revision of our Social Security system a major item in his recent State of the Union address. He declared that Social Security would go broke by 2042 and that the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt if nothing was done. His proposal is to partially privatize the system by allowing workers who were born after 1949 to divert up to 4% of their income (which is subject to Social Security taxes) into individual investment accounts. ...

Bush seems intent on creating divisiveness by appealing to younger voters with his "crisis-mongering,'' which is a hallmark of his presidency. In a Washington forum on Social Security reform on Jan. 11, he said:

"As a matter of fact, by the time today's workers who are in their mid-20s begin to retire, the system will be bankrupt. So if you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s, and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act now. And that's what we're here to talk about, a system that will be bankrupt.''

That's nothing new, of course. According to USA Today, when he was running for Congress in 1978, he claimed, "Social Security would go broke in 10 years (1988)'' and called to privatize the system.

His statements then and now are sheer fabrications and humbug to create fear. The Republican Party has been opposed to our Social Security system from its inception in 1934 as if it were some form of creeping socialism. God forbid that the government should be concerned with the welfare of individual tax payers.

The British government, under Margaret Thatcher's leadership, has tried privatizing their retirement system. [The New York Times' Paul Krugman] quotes Norma Cohen, a senior writer for the Financial Times: "Britain's experiment with substituting private savings accounts for a portion of state benefits has been a failure ... A shorthand explanation for what has gone wrong is that the cost and risks of running private investment accounts outweigh the value of the returns they are likely to earn.''

There is a concern that just as the large drug companies will profit gratefully from the largesse of Bush's prescription drug plan, privatizing a part of the Social Security plan would generate huge profits for Wall Street investment firms and would expose the public to the vicissitudes of the stock market. How many investors had serious loses to their IRAs within the past five years? The cost of administering the current Social Security system is less than 1% of benefits. With minor tinkering, Social Security as we know it will continue to provide for our aging population.

Iver Bogen
Duluth, Minn.

Campaign Reform Top Priority

Your editorial ["Dems Need Rebranding," 2/15/05 TPP] went a long way in identifying the basic reason for the recent failings of the Democrat Party -- i.e., the lack of a clear-cut, aggressive, and loudly publicized statement of party aims and intended problem solutions. Your 10 proposed issue stands were commendable, but they avoided a salient issue that needs correction before any of your listed 10 can be led to fruition. It is an area, incidentally, that the 2004 Democratic National Platform (in all "43 pages of platitudes") also totally ignored. Namely, it is the effect that money (whether campaign contributions, lobbyist payoff, or more accurately, graft) has on the federal legislative process (the effect in state houses is another ball of wax).

I'm fully aware that while most politicians publicly denounce the need to scrounge up obscene amounts of cash in order to conduct election campaigns, they seem to be eventually swayed by media-advanced propaganda condoning the need by invoking the flawed position that since "money talks" (the vapid motto of American business), then campaign contributions can be justified as "free speech!" Even the ACLU is enchanted by that rationale.

... It seems that "progressives" are reluctant to admit that before progressive actions can be successfully accomplished, the US electoral process needs to be radically overhauled. Consider the following four sequential legislative steps as a potentially corrective agenda:

1) eliminate the presidential primary (the bellwether of campaign-spending excess) and return executive nominations to the parties;

2) establish a single nation-wide Federal legislative primary election day closer to the general election;

3) enact regulations giving candidates free time on TV and radio airwaves on timely and equitable schedules;

4) provide for public funding of federal candidate campaigns, covering reasonable and proper expenses.

I submit that the above legislative actions, however radical sounding, must be accomplished before the Congress can return to enacting measures with the benefit of the general public in mind, instead of being influenced by the needs for campaign cash.

Bruce J. Kullen
Lisle, Ill.

Rebranding Made Easy

To reach the huge number of the "duhs!" in this land of Dumpth, I suggest even 10 "new deal" items are too many to penetrate. Thus, for the bumper sticker mentality, here is a condensation to just three. Almost every problem and program will come under one of these three headings.

1) We need to return to a truly representative government. What we have now is a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich corporations -- and everyone else gets the leftovers. It would also return us to the balance of power of the three branches of government; true representation is virtually impossible without it. For a representative government, voting would have to be fair, frequent and highly participatory, made so by incentives such as real debates, and a media unbound from corporate ownership excesses.

2) We need an insurmountable wall of separation between church and state. Religion is a highly personal belief system. The state comprises participants of every religion, as well as those who adhere to none. The state therefore cannot show favor to one without currying the resentment of others. To build a true wall of separation between religion and state should include taxing church property and removing all religious references from government laws.

3) We need to give every citizen equal access to, and protection under, the law. This will include privacy laws, police enforcement laws, as well as equal access to quality education facilities. This is still a highly racially conscious country. Racial, sexual orientation and national origin prejudices abound. Acceptance of differences follow laws that ignore those differences; after all, it was just a tick in time since separate racial accommodation in public places was the law of the land.


• A Truly Representative Government

• A Wall Between Church and State

• Equal Access To, & Protection Under, the Law

M. Neven Du Mont
Pleasanton, Texas


Don't Forget Disability


Thank you for Arvonne Fraser's article on Social Security as a life and disability insurance program ["Social Security Not Just for Retirees," 2/15/05 TPP].

Yes! When my husband became disabled, and UNUM private disability insurance refused to pay, Social Security came through for us. (A year after a 60 Minutes exposé and six years after his application, UNUM has offered to review his claim -- but if we'd waited for that money to pay our bills, we'd be under water.)

Workers carry Social Security from one employer to the next, which is very helpful for women -- indeed, for all workers in today's layoff economy. It's the only insurance you can't lose. We appreciate hearing from people like Fraser, who aren't well known, but know whereof they speak.

Alison P. Martinez
Santa Fe, N.M.

Progressive Christians

I have noticed a disturbing trend since last November's elections. Progressives, including some of your own columnists, seem to believe that all Christians read and believe the "Left Behind" series and support the agenda of Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell. Please allow me to set the record straight.

There are American citizens who are college-educated, political progressives who also believe in the virgin birth and other miracles. We profess Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. We claim his teachings on caring for the needs of others and the environment as the moral basis for our political positions. We are repelled by the fear and smear tactics of Tim LaHay and Karl Rove. Yet Progressives dismiss us because of our beliefs.

Could it be that Progressives are, in their own way, as narrowminded as the right-wing neocons? Maybe this is why so many of us Progressive Christians feel disenfranchised. We're not really welcome anywhere.

Joy Mumford
Rogers, Ark.


Paper Trail No Cure


A paper trail will not guarantee a fair election, contrary to what some of your readers think. Computer experts say that a paper trail should help, but that the machines can still be reprogrammed easily by those who know how,

The "system" we hear the most about allows the opposition's votes to be counted as long as its total vote count remains below 50%. Should it reach 50, the electronic voting machine kicks over and gives all votes to the other side. Simple? They cannot lose, and the setting remains hidden.

Listen to the experts: Electronic voting machines cannot answer for default or miscarriage of results, The Help America Vote Act, or at least the section that requires electronic machines, should be rescinded.

Otherwise, every voter must request a paper ballot.,

Byrna Weir
Rochester, N.Y.


Examine the Dems


The progressive forces in America have retreated into backing the Democratic Party. They thought that this was the best way to advance the social democratic reform agenda.

But backing the Democrats also means all out support for American imperialism. Kerry and his fellow Democrats voted for the Iraq war. He even said that he would continue the occupation until he job was finishedmeaning when the oil was flowing. ...

American politics works like this. The Republicans own the upper middle class and the culturally backward. The Democrats have been carefully constructed by the ruling class to coopt the disadvantaged -- labor, ethnic minorities and women. They are awfully good at that job, awfully rich and strong, and totally incapable of being changed.

What then are we progressives supposed to do? We must start again on the laborious task of building an alternative political force -- a new party, down the road. Not right away, but when objective conditions (depression or losing war) send the people to the left. That will come, maybe sooner than we think. Meanwhile, let's keep away from the Donkey's hind feet -- unless we like getting kicked. ...

Perry Cartwright
Woodridge, Ill.


Protect Us from Dogooders


"Dogooders" really are nice people and the world needs more of them. And I think it would be impossible to have Democracy without the characteristics they have. The sad part about their actions is when, with the highest and nicest of intentions, something is done and the reaction is a worse situation that it was before. The best example of this occurrence is the great push of the Religious Right to elect a president who supports their belief on women's choice (in other words -- relatively rare cases of abortion) calling it the destruction of -- questionable -- human beings. A noble cause in their minds. They succeeded and what a result: Hundreds of children suffering, and dying, of malnutrition, thousands of fine soldier boys dead on the battlefield, multiple thousands of others dead, the future welfare of senior citizens and those senior citizens to be direly threatened. Dogoodism that flopped.

Everett L. Williams
Ingram, Texas


Seniors Organize


What kind of world do you want for your grandchildren? The current administration seems to advocate policies that always turn out to benefit the rich and the powerful. We need to become active now in promoting measures that serve all Americans. We urge you to set up a local group of Seniors for a Progressive Society (SPS). We are passionately concerned with passing on the best possible world to our children, grandchildren, and future generations. We embrace the values of sustainability, equality, fairness, compassion, quality health care for all, quality education for all, policies truly supportive of our environment, responsible use of our tax money, peaceful solution of conflicts, openness in government operations, and minimum use of fear in determining public policy.

We will be setting up these SPS groups in each congressional district in the country. Those joining with us will be sending well-reasoned, powerful and concise letters on important issues to all of the newspapers of significant circulation in their district. We will follow up by sending the same letter to our congress member and two US senators, adding that we have sent this letter to the newspapers in the district. Whenever relevant, we will point out any inappropriateness of proposals that Congress is considering. Involvement at the state and local governmental levels is possible also.

Please consider leading a group in your community. You can contact us at our new website:, or phone 815-282-3706. We will be happy to send you suggestions on how to organize your first meeting or two.

Rudy Huzacha
6813 Sonoma Rd
Rockford, IL 6114

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