I guess this is where we run into the liberal - conservative idealogical divide. A liberal looks at a massive government program that on the basis of economic reality is unsustainable (and that by the way is grossly unfair to minorities) and sees it as "sharing the risks of the new economy" and that attempts to empower people to take responsibility for their own financial future is nothing more than requiring them to "shoulder [the risk] on our own."
Obama goes on to say,
Since this is Washington, you won't hear them [presumably Republicans] answer those questions directly when they talk about Social Security. Instead, they use the word "reform" when they mean "privatize," and they use "strengthen" when they really mean "dismantle." They tell us there's a crisis to get us all riled up so we'll sit down and listen to their plan to privatize.Tell me there's a crisis to get us all riled up? They don't have to tell me anything. All I have to do is read my Social Security Statement from the Commissioner of the SSA that I received in the mail last week which tells me:
In 2017 we will begin paying more in benefits than we collect in taxes. Without changes, by 2041 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted and there will be enough money to pay only about 75 cents for reach dollar of scheduled benefits.Apparently Obama is okay with that.
We've even been scared into thinking the system will go broke when our kids retire, even though we know there'll be enough money then to pay the vast majority of benefits."
Scared into thinking the system will go broke when our kids retire? My goodness man, it 's going to happen long before then. There'll be enough money to pay the vast majority of benefits? I should be content with a program that takes 7% of my income every month and in the end will only give me 75% of what they said they would (not to mention the opportunity lost of hundreds of thousands if not millions more for each one of us)? Are you kidding me?
Obama wants the government to tell companies that they must offer pensions (he seems to confuse pensions and 401ks or IRA's even though they are fundamentally different) even though they don't work economically, the same way the government told banks they must lend in areas of declining economics and high risk which helped catalyze the subprime mess we now find ourselves in.
The statement from the SSA is not propaganda or fear mongering. That's economic reality. But Obama doesn't want to couch this debate in terms of economic reality. He wants to put in terms of warm, fuzzy liberalism:
I think we will save Social Security from privatization this year. And in doing so, we will affirm our belief that we are all connected as one people - ready to share life's risks and rewards for the benefit of each and the good of all.And in so doing, you have prevented action when it will cost us the least and provide the greatest opportunity. Is it that Democrats don't understand economics or that they don't have any confidence in free market capitalism?
Senator Obama's speech to the National Press Club is available in its entirety here.