portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

community building

AUDIO FILES: The Future of Social Security

These are two audio files taken from a presentation given on February 3, 2005, at the First Unitarian Church, by Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Representative from Oregon's 3rd District, and Mark Weisbrot, Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington D.C. Mark is also co-author of "Social Security: the Phony Crisis" published by University of Chicago Press, 1999.
For those who have cable, this event is now scheduled to play on Portland Community Television.

In the first audio file, the moderator immediately sets the tone for the presentations which were to follow. She begins by stating that "the struggle ensuing around the subject of social security privatization is actually an elaborate icon for a deeper ideological battle over what it means to be a human being in the United States of America and in the world community. at this particular historical moment. No doubt, saving and perhaps reforming Social Security is of enormous importance, but not because it is in crisis and not because the generations are competing against each other for scarce resources, but instead because Social Security represents a particular ideal of what a just society looks like...............We are also talking about a deeper and wider issues that I think points to some very serious questions."
"What kind of society and world community do we want to live in?
What is our responsibility to each other, especially the most vulnerable members, regardless of age and other characteristics.?
And fundamentally, what kind of human beings do we wish to be?"

After a few remarks, regarding the conservative mentality, she introduces Earl Blumenauer., whose remarks and power point presentation last about 23 minutes.
Earl begins by stating that "there are some who truly believe that Unemployment Insurance promotes unemployment.. Some of you may laugh, but I have had people on the floor of the house of Representatives look me in the eye and say there would be a little dislocation, and it might be hard on a few families, but basically society would be better off and people would get out and get a job, and we'd be more productive and we'd be more wealthy as a country. This conversation has a lot to do with that type of mindset."
Earl then begins his power point presentation with a picture of Ida May Fuller, the first U.S. citizen to receive a Social Security check, on January 31, 1940. He uses her example to demonstrate the po of this program and the commitment that we have made that the Ida May's of this world would have this tenant of Social Security. Ida May lived to be 100 years old and received her checks that whole time, increasing along with the standard of living for all Americans.
The power point presentation continues for a total of about 25 minutes, with Earl delving into changes proposed by the Bush administration, and demonstrating how these changes will not help retirees, but actually make things worse.
Earl Blumenauer
After Blumenauer gives his remarks, Mark Weisbrot speaks to the issue for about 25 minutes. He begins by speaking a little about his organization, which was "started about 5 years ago to promote debate on exactly these kinds of issues, and with the idea that if people knew more about the major economic issues, that would be a positive influence."
He begins by stating the System is not in trouble. "The truth is, according to the numbers that President Bush is using, the System can pay all the promised benefits for the next 37 years. And that's without any changes at all...........in fact that makes it more financially secure than it's been throughout most of the 69 year history of Social Security. So if there's a crisis today, it's been a lot worse most of the time that it's been in existence."
Apparently, there are two sets of statistics that people are using concerning Social Security. One is from the Social Security Trustees, which the Bush Administration uses; and the other is from the Congressional Budget office., which Weisbrot himself prefers. He says that this is his preference because the later organization tends to be more non partisan, though the Trustees are supposed to be non partisan, yet 4 out of the 6 members are political appointees.
Weisbrot states that the Bush administration is becoming increasingly political on this issue. In fact, "the New York Times reported that the Social Security Administration is telling it's employees, instructing it's employees, to carry out the message that Social Security needs to be changed." And the SSA is currently refusing to respond to queries concerning their use of Public Relations firms to get out that message.
Weisbrot then speaks a little about how people got this idea about how Social Security got in trouble. "There is a number of tricks that have been used. One is to use really big numbers, that sound big and scary, and that's not hard to do." He then proceeds to debunk some of the administration usage of these numbers. Another trick. "You'll see that there are now 3.3 workers for every retiree drawing benefits today. And they'll say that if you go out 30 years it's going to be down to two. Well, that's like giving one half of a baseball score........What happens every year is that productivity grows. Right? Back in 1870, half the labor force was in agriculture; now it's only one per cent. But we're still producing a lot of food aren't we? And so productivity grows, and those two workers in 2035 will produce more than the 3.3 workers today. And so, that is just another trick." A third trick they use is that they inflate the health care costs. "they say, look what's going to happen to Social Security and Medicare in 50 years, and that is indeed as you saw, (in Blumenauer's presentation) explosive, if you put Medicare on there. But Medicare is a separate program, so that has nothing to do with Social Security, and has very little to do with the aging of the population. It has everything to do with the fact that our health care costs are out of control. In the United States we spend nearly twice as much as the other developed countries do on health care and we still leave about 47 million people uninsured. That's the real problem."

Both of these are interesting and illuminating presentations, debunking Administration hype and fear tactics too often simply parroted by Corporate news organizations. I urge you to research this, as well as other available material, and correspond with your elected officials, letting them know how you feel about this. As there are those that feel Unemployment Insureance promotes unemployment, there are certainly those that believe that Social Security weakens both the indiviual and the nation. If you don't believe this, please make your voice heard.

Mark Weisbrot

homepage: homepage: http://www.PhilosopherSeed.org

thanks for the write-up, Jim! 16.Apr.2005 23:23

regular reader

you post some great reports!

The Real Problem 17.Apr.2005 01:32

Wallowed

As usual, the Democrats and Republicans manage to have a huge, highly publicized debate about a complex issue, while completely ignoring the fundamental problem. The fact is- THERE IS NO SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND, AND THERE HAS NOT BEEN FOR DECADES. What there is, is an alpinic heap of IOU's, in the form of Treasury Bonds, which the US Government promises to pay back to itself sometime in the future. This is promised despite an already crippling multi-trillion dollar debt, of which many of our foreign creditors are losing their appetite for funding, and a half a trillion dollars more added every single year through out of control federal spending- primarily on our bloated military.

Does someone foresee some kind of monumental economic boom down the line, or some massive tax hike that will make up this multi-trillion dollar shortfall? Because, with our current crippling National debt, our eye-popping ongoing record trade and account defecits, record low personal savings rate, record high consumer debt, probable bubbles in the equities and real estate markets, and the outsourcing of almost every good and service that our country offers, it appears to me that this economic roller coaster ride is about to go over the hump.

Want to save Social Security? Better start investing that "surplus" in China.

How do you listen to these files? 17.Apr.2005 16:35

a man what's made out of gas

Is there a specific program I need? I assume the audio files referenced in the headline are the .ram ones, right?

These files are in Real Player format 17.Apr.2005 23:37

Jim

You have to download the Real Player from RealMedia. They are a proprietary outfit, but do offer some of their Players free of charge. The.ram file is a pointer which points to the .rm file, which is the file containing the actual audio.

Also, just got it together to offer some of these as mp3's Blumenauer, MP3

Weisbrot, MP3

Hope this helps out!