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The 'Debate' over 'Social Security Reform'

A study of the propaganda techniques of the extreme right, using Social Security 'reform' as an example...

The growing unpopularity of the right wing

Just a few years ago the concept of 'Welfare Reform' was introduced (ironically, leading the way in unraveling the new Deal were the Democrats) and this 'reform' program of 'ending welfare as we know it' was also taken up in Europe and Australia, where former 'left leaning' or 'progressive' parties (such as 'Labor' or 'the Social Democrats) are now being trounced in the polls as repayment for their right wing policies. In Australia the policies being followed by both the 'Liberals' and 'Labor' are resulting in the Green party being able to tap into wide spread voter anger and discontent, with the result being that the Howard government appears headed towards a minority with the Greens holding the balance of power. In Germany protests have been going on all summer against the program known as Hartz IV, which is more or less a clone of the Clinton Administrations program to 'end welfare as German's have known it' and as is the case in America, is also targeting the pension system as well as the unemployment insurance system. In Germany the Social Democrats were recently trounced in the polls, recieving one of their worst sackings in decades, with the results blamed on hatred of the parties new social policies. In response party officials defiantly stated that there was no turning back, and that they planned to stick with their right wing economic program. At the same time, wide spread voter disillusionment led to a drop in turn out at the polls to just over 50 per cent of the electorate. A similar plunge in the number turning out to the polls took place in the recent Canadian elections, where disgruntled voters forced the Liberals to pretend to move to the left, and where, after NDP (socialist) governments who won political power in the countries largest provinces brought in a right wing agenda, the national NDP party proved unable to overcome the lingering hostility left by previous provincial 'socialist' governments so as to capitalize on voter anger against the right wing.

It is amazing to me how right wing politics is so unpopular and yet right wing parties, or so called 'labor' or 'Liberal' or 'Socialist' parties with right wing agendas, can still manage to win elections. Part of the problem is that there is no viable alternative perceived by voters, who, while they are disgusted with the harmful policies of the right wing which hurt average people and benefit only a minority of the population, nevertheless don't bother to vote since they are convinced there is no one to vote for.

The United States has had a corrupted and deteriorated 'Democracy' for longer than has been the case in many other countries (voter turn out has been historically high, sometimes as high as 80 per cent in Canada, but is now plunging, a lot of this collapse due to some really bad experience with 'right wing' so called 'Socialist governments in Ontario and British Columbia). If half of the population of the United States turned up at the polls that would be a good election, and in some elections the turn out can be as low as 39 per cent. This dysfunctional Democracy is now spreading around the world as the 'Washington Consensus' on the economy becomes 'globalized', taking its deterioration of Democracy with it around the world. As well 'capital liberalization' and what is called 'the free market' (with its god like 'invisible hand') transfers power into the hands of a small minority, who can then severely trash the economy of entire nations using tools at their disposal such as capital flight. In the end what results is right wing 'left wing' parties and policies, voter disillusionment, and the only real Democracy that remains is the Democracy of a few who exercise effective veto power through the vote of large accumulations of dollars.

In the United States the tilt to the right wing extremists is facilitated both by the lack of a legitimate alternative for voters, which reduces voter turn out and by the presence of a strong minority vote controlled by the religious right. This religious right vote only compromises about 15 per cent of the total population, but with only half the country motivated to vote, and given the decayed and rotting state of Democracy in America due to the decayed and rotting state of America's entire political and economic system caused by the power of big money and concentrations of power, this small minority vote has had the effect of pushing the United States further and further to the hawkish right wing over the past few decades, since the importance of their vote is exagerated due to the collapse of Democratic institutions in America.

The collapse of old superstitions concurrent with the rise of science, combined with such things as women's rights, and in particular the Stonewall riots and the 'gay rights movement' of the 1960s brought the religious right into the political arena in full force, with an agenda to push both the Republican Party and the entire nation to the extreme right. (People might not remember that such things as the Environmental Protection Agency, so hated by the current Republicans, were in fact created by Republicans (the Nixon Administration), along with other legislation that today would be considered 'progressive', this taking place before the invasion of the religious right into the Republican party began to transform the Republicans from a 'conservative' party to the sort of reactionary, right wing extremism we see developing in the decades that followed. Other factors came into play, such as the ongoing decay of the Democratic party, a party which constantly bitches about how Greens cost them elections, when in fact they have alienated half the population, who don't vote, and can't get the vote of another twenty five per cent who tilt to the right wing policies of the Republicans, which means that all told the Democrats have alienated close to 75 per cent of the population of the United States, leaving them to quibble with the Greens over a handful of voters. Meanwhile among the 25 per cent of the population which does vote Democrat are a large number who do so while holding their nose and thinking to themselves that a Republican would probably be worse, even though the differences, historically, have proven to be minor (thus making the Democrats 'the lesser of two evils' as they have become known).

The propaganda techniques of the Religious Right

Three factors seem to play the largest role in the deterioration of democracy around the planet - first, and foremost, the second coming of 19th century 'robber baron monopoly capitalism' and the widespread corruption of the social contract that results from this deformed economic system. While much is made of the prosecution of a few notorious scape goats who have been robbing and plundering in grand 19th century fashion, not much is said about the economic environment which was created which was the nuturing seed bed for the recent orgy of robbing and plundering that took place. That such an environment (referred to by the oxymoron 'liberal capitalism') could have developed is a function of concentrations of economic power in the hands of corporate special interest groups which inevitably led to such things as the total corruption of the Democratic party, which led to this 'neo-liberalization', which then led to the further concentration of power which weakened and then gutted 'labor' or 'social democrats' parties world wide, which then led to further concentrations of power which then led to voter disillusionment which inevitably led to the rise in influence of the religious right, which now allows deeply unpopular right wing policies to be imposed by a minority upon on an unwilling majority.

So then ultimately the religious right is not the source of the right wing corruption currently spreading around the globe, but rather the religious right are the beneficiaries of the second coming of robber baron monopoly capitalism, and are now in place to entrench further corruption and further depredations, while their are all these disturbing signs of the world, in particular America, staggering and weaving towards the establishment of a totalitarian (even theocratic) police state, the ultimate expression of right wing extremism when it has fully matured, having been allowed by the circumstances to continue its progression.

It is interesting to note how religious right propaganda moves in lockstep with the propaganda of robber baron capitalism, and my familiarity over the years with the propaganda techniques of the religious right leads me to conclude that not only is the right wing agenda of the two movements in accord, but the techniques are also similar. Religious right propaganda consists of exploiting fear and also of spreading half truths. One thing I have found over the years is that the religious right will do everything they possibly can to suppress any inconvenient facts or alternative explanations (this type of suppression of dissent always being one of the characteristics of authoritarian Christian extremism throughout the ages. Those on the recieiving end of religious right propaganda will, if it is possible, always be kept in the dark, and carefully shielded from inconvenient facts where possible, and the same propaganda technique is also employed by the instruments of robber baron capitalism, which through its monopolized, privatized media organs feeds the public half truths, distortions, and a single world view combined with healthy doses of fear (since it is fear which is the primary emotional support of right wing authoritarianism, the belief that world is dangerous and thus strong authority figures are required for protection, while lack of debate and the suppression of inconvenient facts and the promotion of a single view point provides the intellectual support, which is always very shaky, and thus the need for such things as 'attacks on the heretics' and the suppression of dissenting viewpoints).

This feature of the system can be highlighted when we compare the propaganda produced in favor of what is now called 'Social Security Reform'. Like 'Welfare Reform' before it, the purpose of this 'reform' is to ultimately 'end Social Security as we know it', and in the end bring the world back to the time of Charles Dickens, the very highest heights of robber baron capitalism, and the rolling back of that particular clock would of course require the complete roll back of 'the New Deal' (while the growing huge debt load makes impossible the prospect of any future 'Deals', which it can be said then that no one can afford ... an added danger here is that faced with the rising threat of revolution, and with no money to pay for progressive policies (progressive politics is in and of itself a weak political organism, as history shows, and is only strong when there is revolution in the air, as history shows) and given how revolution is a constant companion of robber baron capitalism, as the history of the 19th century shows, the lack of a 'progressive party' to save the sorry butts of the robber barons by cutting another 'Deal' would seem to indicate the strong possibility of the rise of a murderous right wing police state ... certainly you can see all these disturbing signs that the robber baron capitalist system is so consumed with hatred of progressive politics that given the choice between cutting another one of those Deals, deals which they are currently doing everything possible to utterly destroy, and the option of a right wing dictatorship, they will choose the extremist option. One of the most disturbing political signs to emerge this year was the talk of 'cancelling the November elections' should Osama strike again. (Truly if Osama did not exist it would have been necessary to invent him.) We know that throughout the seventies Europe faced one terrorist group after another (the Red Brigades and so on) and Israel has faced manay bombings, and yet elections continued, and one must suppose that America is that one special case wherein if Osama should blow up the Sears tower, America will become a right wing police state, because America is a very different, very special place, making random acts of terrorism the reason for the complete destruction of America and the creation of the robber baron police state. (Certainly the propaganda organs are in place so it would not be required that the country start building up fascism from scratch, having gone more than half the way to fascism already...and where America goes the rest of the world will soon follow, as the next phase of the 'Washington Consensus' becomes 'globalized'.

Social Security 'Reform' - an example of how to propagandize

I find it instructive to isolate the one example of the so called 'debate' on Social Security 'reform' since it highlights both how the religious right is firmly in the hip pockets of the robber barons and just how the totalitarian propaganda system really works. Fear is the emotional component, so critical to the Right Wing Authoritiarian policital movement. A single 'orthodox' viewpoint is then propagated, to the exclusion the voices of the 'heretics' who are marginalized. It is typical of police states to arrest and eliminate all such heretics, usually this being one of the first things they do when they seize complete power, since the right wing propaganda system relies on shabby one sided arguments and the spreading of less than the full facts. The same techniques are used to propagate many religious arguments, which cannot bear scrutiny, which is why, like police states, theocracies always crush the heretics.

For comparison puposes, and to illustrate how the right wing propaganda system works, we can compare the Orthodox view of Social Security, which promotes 'privatization' and also calls for 'the down sizing of government programs' all of this necessary to forestall the frightening prospect of the 'collapse of Social Security', and then we can follow this by examing the suppressed argument of the 'heretics' in this debate (such people destined for the camps at some time in the future for having spoken such heresies, should Osama strike, and America quit voting, the ominous signs of the emerging police state reach fruition...so read it now while you can...and read lots of other such 'heresies', at every opportunity, now, while you still can...)

The following 'orthodox' doctrine is featured on the CBN religious right web site...

A Plan to Guarantee Benefits to Future Generations (Begin with the fear mongering)
Social Security is going bankrupt. We can either endlessly borrow more money to keep the program going, raise FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) 20 percentage points if we are going to use taxes to make it solvent, or cut benefits 40 percent, or grow the rate of return coming into Social Security. The best way to do that is to give individuals ownership over their own retirement accounts by establishing personal retirement accounts.

('Frame' the narrative, so that disenfranchisement becomes 'ownership')
PAT ROBERTSON: The president is into that, with that ownership society. He's on board for this program, isn't he?

(Call for the downsizing of other government programs...no mention here is made of those trillion dollar tax cuts for the 'have mores' as Bush called his 'base'...this is an example of the selective presentation of information)
During Bill Clinton's presidency, he grew the government at an average annual rate of 2.6 percent. So grow government at a percentage point faster than Clinton grew it, and at a percentage point slower than we are growing it, and use those savings largely to transition over to a solvent Social Security System. What I am trying to do is two things -- build a constituency for containing the growth of federal government. (Here we have an example of more fear mongering, combined with disinformation spread by ignoring the inconvenient facts revealed by economists as we shall see)
Look at what the trustees are saying, the Alan Greenspans are saying. Social Security is going bankrupt. The sooner we act, the better it is. The more we procrastinate, the uglier the options are. We want to get the country educated as to the consequences of not acting and the benefits of reform.

The following is an example of a heresy, and as such you don't hear much of such things, and really, even the fact that you can hear them on the margins is bad enough...fortunately most heretics remain on the margins and orthodoxy still prevails in the so called 'debate' over Social Security 'reform'...

Fearmongering over Social Security ... According to Social Security's green eyeshade analysts, if the cap on income taxed by Social Security--currently set at about $80,000, were lifted, so that all income was taxed, even including paying out higher benefits to those rich folks paying the extra taxes (the same rich folks who just got the lion's share of Bush's mammoth tax cuts), almost all the Trust Fund's looming deficit would be eliminated. According to the analysts, it would at that point only require an increase in the payroll tax of 0.15 percent (divided equally between employer and employee) to completely close the gap. That would mean an extra Social Security deduction of $22.50 a year or about 44 cents a week on that $30,000 income. Why is the talk in government and media always about "crisis" and "bankruptcy" when it comes to Social Security? Well, for one thing, the media is composed of big business entities, and they don't want to pay those increased taxes.