Survivor Benefits - Not Just For Reality Show Winners:
Yesterday, the Rude Pundit talked about the greed at the heart of Americans who support Social Security privatization. At his "conversation" (if by "conversation," you mean a lecture interrupted with sycophantic fawning and blow jobs a-plenty for the lecturer-in-chief) with the "public" yesterday, George W. Bush played right into that nascent greed. "If you hold that money for 50 years at that rate, it compounds and grows and ends up being a lot of money," President Obvious said in reference to compound interest rates. Everyone gathered in the auditorium nodded, impressed at Bush's ability to say what interest does.

The Rude Pundit also talked about how the Bush adminstration approach is to treat everyone as if they're at least middle class (and Americans' belief that no matter how dirt poor we are, we think we're at least middle class). Said the Prez yesterday, "I love promoting ownership in America. I like the idea of encouraging more people to say, I own my own home, I own my own business, I own and manage my health accounts, and now I own a significant part of my retirement account," except, you know, most people don't and never will own all that wondrous, amazing stuff.

When the Rude Pundit was an adolescent, his father died. His family, which had worked its way out of welfare, food stamps, and a very nice mobile home park, would have been crushed had it not been for one simple thing: the survivor benefits of the Social Security system. It wasn't a fuck of a lot of money, but between survivor and dependent benefits, the Rude Pundit wasn't sent off to live with creepy Uncle Marvin and his cold, cold fingertips. It was enough to pay the rent. It was enough to supplement Mama Rude's income. See, caught up in the whole debate about privatization is the fact that, really, retirement benefits only make up a portion of what Social Security pays out. In fact, between survivor and disability benefits, retirement makes up a smaller part of the SS pie than you might imagine.

Says reader David S, who was a claims rep for Social Security for 17 years, "Social Security is a social insurance system, with roughly 1/3 of payments going to the severely disabled and 1/3 going to survivors, and 1/3 going to retirees. Any disciplined fool could take the money and beat the retirement benefits today (though that wasn't true in the past), but it would take an astute person to beat the whole package. Disability coverage is freakin' expensive, and your Bushie investment plans aren't going to be much use for that." But we're not hearin' a fuck of a lot about disability and survivor benefits. Certainly not in the "Ask the White House" online chat with Special Assistant to the President on Economic Policy Chuck Blahous, who created the new mantra, "The President does not want to privatize Social Security," even though Bush does want private individuals to control where a private portion of their private Social Security is privately invested. And Blahous has a doctorate in Computational Quantum Chemistry from Berkeley, so random sequences of bizarre numbers are right up his alley.

In Bush's little "conference" yesterday on fixing "the problem" (oddly, the White House transcript of the event puts those words in quotation marks) with Social Security, not once were survivor or disability benefits mentioned. It was fearmongering of the nearly-lowest kind (the lowest comes when you sow fear in a population that then allows you to send soldiers off to die to soothe your mental demons). It was more of the same: A big kerfuffle over that pulled out of an accoutant's ass $11 trillion shortfall (which should happen sometime in the year 2607). A lot of patronizing of the poor, stupid people listening: "We're kind of throwing around these words as if everybody understands compounding rate of interest and rate of return, but what people need to understand is that the money that's now -- your money in the government is earning much less than it's capable of generating under safe conditions." A lot of straw men set up and knocked down: "Some would say, well, it's not bankrupt yet; why don't we wait until it's bankrupt?" And, of course, no talk or conference with Bush is complete without thuggish threats to anyone who opposes him: "I happen to believe people who have been elected to office who ignore problems will face the price at the ballot box." So, we're on the road to talking about Medicare?

All that's been said in the vague doublespeak of Bush's as-yet-unannounced plan, which, no doubt, will be massive and released in the middle of the night for voting the next morning, about Social Security's survivor and disability insurance is that Bush wants to "preserve" them. But the Social Security Adminstration's website says, "Most plans, including those put forth by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, do not reduce the benefits of currently disabled beneficiaries." That's "currently disabled." In other words, lose a limb now, motherfucker, or you better start shinin' your coin cups. (Why is the SSA website promoting Bush's policies? Isn't that the use of government funds for partisan political purposes?)

The Cato Institute and others say that the focus of "reform" is solely on retirement benefits. But unless that comes under a completely separate budget, any adjustment to the funding of the retirement portion is going to affect the other two areas. To keep with the dismemberment imagery, if you lose one kidney, the other is gonna have to do double duty, and that just means faster death for the whole body.

Tomorrow: How to take down the whole plan and the President with it. (Hint: it involves goat fucking.)