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Social Security Privatization Is Back

Social Security privatization is back. After being thoroughly defeated when President Bush proposed it, it is being revived by Republicans, who are said to be poised to take over at least one house of the Congress in November. According to TPM,

House Minority Leader John Boehner won’t say if the Republican Party will again try to privatize Social Security, even as the GOP pushes fiscal responsibility as a major issue in their quest to win back control of Congress.

When the Washington Post’s Dan Balz asked Boehner (R-OH) if the failed 2005 Social Security privatization plan would resurface this year, the Republican leader twice answered, “I have no idea.”

In February, Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI), the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, and Devin Nunes (R-CA) introduced “A Roadmap to America’s Future” which advocates the privatization of Social Security. Several Republican candidates, like Rand Paul, have advocated privatizing or eliminating Social Security.

Privatization is taking something that is public and handing it to private interests. Instead of being managed democratically, accountably and transparently by the public for benefit of the many, it is instead managed for the benefit of a few. Medicare and the “public option” vs private insurance are examples. School privatization is a dream of the right.

Social Security privatization is an ongoing campaign by conservatives, backed by Wall Street. In a 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, “Achieving a Leninist Strategy” by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of Heritage lays it out for us. The document is still available at Cato, and select quotes are available at Plotting Privatization? from Z Magazine. It is worth reading the entire document (in particular the section “Weakening the Opposition”) to understand completely the strategy that has been unfolding in the years since, but the following quotes give you an idea:

“Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent upon … its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. … we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy.”

” construct … a coalition that will … reap benefits from the IRA-based private system … but also the banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans to the public.”

“The first element consists of a campaign to achieve small legislative changes that embellish the present IRA system, making it in practice a small-scale private Social Security system.

“The second main element … involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it.”

“The banking industry and other business groups that can benefit from expanded IRAs …” “… the strategy must be to propose moving to a private Social Security system in such a way as to … neutralize … the coalition that supports the existing system.”

“The next Social Security crisis may be further away than many people believe. … it could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible. But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform.”

Remember this when you hear that “Social Security is going broke” or “contributes to the deficit” or “is a Ponzi scheme.” These are only manufactured propaganda points, repeated and repeated in an ongoing attempt to drive the idea into “conventional wisdom,” something that “everyone knows” but is not actually true.

Take a look at Social Security Works to learn more about the fight to keep Social Security for the American People, and subscribe to their mailing list to receive ongoing information as the fight unfolds — again.

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Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson

Principal author at Seeing the Forest.