Sunday, January 23, 2005

Social Security and 'Newspeak'

"Two and two are four." "Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane."WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.--George Orwell, from his novel 1984 (1949)

Susan Jacoby has written an insightful article in the Los Angeles Times entitled, "Hear 'Reform,' Think 'Destroy': Bush warps the language in his effort to kill Social Security". In it she writes:

In a 1946 essay titled "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell observed that all political language is designed "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

As President Bush begins his second term, he has already demonstrated the truth of Orwell's dictum by persuading much of the windy news media to attach the word "reform" to his plan for fundamental change in the way Social Security is financed. Each time television or radio newscasters use the phrase "Social Security reform," as they do every day, they send a message to the American public that Social Security is a broken system in need of fixing.

Social Security doesn't need fixing. It is the most successful social program in the United States of all time and, if we do nothing to it at all, it will be able to provide full benefits until 2042. At that point - again if we do nothing at all - it will be able to provide more than 70% of scheduled benefits. Social Security taxes were already raised in the 80s to accommodate the retirement of the baby boomers; we have no crisis regarding the next generation soon to retire. All we need to do is raise the cap on taxable income and the future problem will be solved. It is outrageous that someone who makes $87,000 a year pays the same Social Security tax as someone with an income of $870,000.

I know it's been said that Bush wants to dismantle Social Security on ideological grounds - that is, he sees the program as socialism and he's in favor, rather, of what he calls "personal responsibility". I know Bush has also made it clear that he believes the churches - not government - should provide the social safety net and he has already made good on that by funneling vast amounts of public money into so-called faith based initiatives. But I think there's an even deeper motivation at work. A desperate population is a pliable one. If people are constantly struggling to meet their most basic needs they are more easily controlled and Bush needs to prevent any possibility of social unrest or protest in order to further his goals of world domination.

So the effort to change Social Security as we know it is only secondarily a domestic matter; it is primarily about foreign policy. The right wing powers-that-be are trying to disempower the American public in order to engage in war-mongering relatively unhindered. Keeping the majority of people in the country constantly fearful regarding their basic survival needs is a sinister but ever so effective way of doing just that.

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