This afternoon I attended the Call to Action Forum presented by the Progressive Democratic Caucuses of the 46th Legislative District.
The turnout was amazing. Even though Rep. Jim McDermott was a featured speaker, I didn’t really expect more than 100 people. There must have been at least 500. The audience overflowed out of the main auditorium at the Labor Temple, into adjoining rooms where they could watch on closed-circuit TV.
Anybody who thinks progressives had their morale destroyed by the November election, think again. Today I saw the same kind of energy and dedication that I marveled at during last spring’s caucuses. I have been too immersed in my own battles to have the luxury of feeling confident about our nation’s future. Today I felt confident.
The audience was rewarded by a surprise visit from Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who followed up McDermott’s talk on the Bush administration’s proposed privatization of Social Security, with his own informative presentation on the subject. Opposing Republican efforts to dismantle our nation’s most important social safety net should be the overwhelming focus of Democrats in Congress. After hearing both McDermott and Kucinich put forth such a concise and powerful message, I have renewed hope that Democrats can block Bush’s destructive legislative agenda.
In his discussion, McDermott pointed the audience towards a column by economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times: “Little Black Lies.” In it, Krugman accuses Bush of shamelessly using the “the race card” when claiming that African-American males get a bad deal from Social Security because their life-expectancy is so much shorter than whites. According to Krugman, this not only exploits “the tragedy of high black mortality for political gain instead of treating it as a problem we should solve,” it is also an out-and-out lie.
Here’s why. First, Mr. Bush’s remarks on African-Americans perpetuate a crude misunderstanding about what life expectancy means. It’s true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years – but that doesn’t mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years’ worth of Social Security benefits. Blacks’ low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African-American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years – not that far short of the 16.6-year figure for white men.
Second, the formula determining Social Security benefits is progressive: it provides more benefits, as a percentage of earnings, to low-income workers than to high-income workers. Since African-Americans are paid much less, on average, than whites, this works to their advantage.
Finally, Social Security isn’t just a retirement program; it’s also a disability insurance program. And blacks are much more likely than whites to receive disability benefits.
Put it all together, and the deal African-Americans get from Social Security turns out, according to various calculations, to be either about the same as that for whites or somewhat better. Hispanics, by the way, clearly do better than either.
Of course, this is exactly the kind of fundamental dishonesty we’ve come to expect from the right when they can’t back up their agenda with the truth. And the truth is, the Bush administration will do or say anything in their effort to dismantle the greatest legacy of the New Deal.
From The Washington Post (via The Seattle Times):
The congressional Republicans’ confidential plan was developed with the advice of pollsters, marketing experts and communication consultants, and was provided to The Washington Post by a Republican official. The blueprint urges lawmakers to promote the “personalization” of Social Security, suggesting ownership and control, rather than “privatization,” which “connotes the total corporate takeover of Social Security.”
Yes… when proposing legislation designed to dramatically unravel our nation’s most basic social safety net, it’s not economists the Rovians rely on, but rather the “pollsters, marketing experts and communication consultants.”
“Personalization” my ass.