A Plan or a Scam?

Beat on the Street

Volume CV, No. 5May, 2005

As an 802 member and as an American, what are your concerns about the proposed changes in Social Security?

We should not let the “bull” of Wall Street into the “china shop” of Social Security.

Ernest G. Wilson, Jr.

As a retired person my Social Security and AFM pension are supposedly safe. However, Bush’s fiscal policies and systematic dismantling of all social programs and safety nets stemming from FDR’s and LBJ’s presidencies are a travesty.

Michael Comins

How can Americans trust a president and administration which has lied to us on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and has led us into the highest national debt ever, to “fix” Social Security?

Nancy Brennand

As a 55-year-old person who has been paying into the system since 1966 I am extremely concerned. I have grave doubts about Bush’s claims that benefits will not be cut. Also adding more than a trillion dollars to the deficit can only further the interests of the multinational corporations that wish to colonize the U.S. and the rest of the world. The Congressional Budget Office projects that Bush’s working-people-bashing budget will add over a trillion dollars to the deficit. But now I recall that most of it is caused by making his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. Of course since he originally financed these cuts by raiding Social Security, it’s hard to figure out which part of his economic “plan” is causing what damage to working Americans.

Flip Peters

I’ve paid in for many years, at double the norm no less, due to independent contractor laws, and now they want to take it away. I’m 50 years old and getting ready to retire soon enough. Teachers, artists and musicians continue to get dumped on. If I was big business this wouldn’t be happening, not to mention they could fix the problem by having those who make over $90,000 pay their fair share of tax. Currently anyone making over $90,000 pays the same as those at $90,000. So if you make a million, you pay like you make $90,000. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? And here are a few more questions: will I get back what I put in? Have we forgotten about Enron already? How do people in Britain like their privatized system? Let’s fix the system without turning it over to crooks!

John Fumasoli

Bush’s plan would torpedo Social Security. It would enrich his own family and his buddies in the banking business. The Republicans have in mind to create a kingdom of “haves” – the rest will be obedient peasants. Social Security is well over half of my current income.

David Moore

Bush’s plan is an obvious payoff to Wall Street for all the donations he received in his political career. The people who are sure to make money are the brokers. The banking industry stands to profit a great deal through commissions that they will earn by private investments of Social Security funds. At best, the stock market is a gamble. To privatize Social Security would be very unwise.

Rudy Blitzer

Social Security pays me each month about half of what my monthly AFM pension is. I have no faith in the stock market at all. I have visions of a worker working 20 years, putting $50,000 or $100,000 of hard-earned dough into a fund, and then a CEO stealing it or a company going broke.

Avron Coleman

I’m not so sure Bush’s plan is the right one, but I agree that Social Security needs to be overhauled, and I agree that individuals should have more control over, and responsibility for, their retirement savings.

Rob Kahn

Many of my musician friends think I am pro Bush because I support some of his policies in the Middle East. But on this issue, I am deeply offended at the way he makes like he is concerned for those who may one day depend on Social Security, while pushing these absurd personal accounts that everyone admits will do nothing to help make the system solvent. The fact of the matter is this: stocks go up and down, and you never know where they will be when you need to retire.

Aaron Minsky (Von Cello)

I disagree with the proposed changes to Social Security.

This approach has already been tried in Great Britain with disastrous consequences. The average American citizen has neither the knowledge nor the resources to wisely invest retirement money.

I agree with a recent article in AARP that Social Security is meant to be insurance and, as such, should not be independently invested.

My vote is to leave Social Security alone and stop crying wolf. Thanks for asking.

Kathie Sumrow

I have no concerns about Social Security. Everyone in the country, even Republican officeholders, can see what a knuckleheaded proposal “Dubya” pitched. No one wants the way in which their retirement funds are distributed changed. Dubya should stay with baseball (and steroids, too).

Michael Gibbons

Bush’s plan is just a way to disguise benefit reductions. If we were to have our own accounts, and we invested in 50 percent stocks and 50 percent bonds for 35 years, we would only have a 65 percent chance of making the same amount we would have gotten if we kept our money in the Social Security fund. In general, I think 802 members are going to be in for a hard retirement. Most of us are unable to contribute to 401(k)’s and IRA’s and many of us aren’t even vested in the AFM pension fund. Yes, I do agree as Americans we should be saving more, but the bottom line is many of us don’t have any money left at the end of the month to save! It’s a good thing we like our profession ’cause we’re going to need to keep working long past “retirement years”!

Mikki Ryan

My concerns for the Social Security program are indeed serious. What is typically not discussed with this issue are the long-range plans of the present administration in Washington to totally eliminate not only Social Security but the Medicare program as well.

Rod Ruth

The president of Peru made an address in early March in which he said he had privatized part of Peru’s social security program, and that revenues had increased by 14 percent as a result of it. I like hard numbers as opposed to all the political posturing. When I hear statements like “Benefits will be cut!” it is merely a scare tactic used to keep uninformed people in the stone age.

Gerald Chamberlain

I support any changes especially those that lower our taxes!

Brian Eddolls

George W. Bush’s agenda for America favors those who are wealthy enough to pay for their own health care, education and retirement. It is not in the best interest of most Americans. His plan to change Social Security is only one case in point.

I have just returned from Denmark where the government provides free health care, education and retirement for all citizens. Of course, taxes are higher, but people there actually receive something of great value in return: dignity, peace of mind and a true sense of “Social Security.”

I believe Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes if they received something meaningful in return. What Americans are getting from George W. Bush is war, debt, treachery and an erosion of the American Dream. In my day (the 1960’s), we would take to the streets and shut the mutha’ down! Americans today are not angry enough. We are intoxicated and addicted to cable, DSL and cheap imports made possible by nonunion labor and the weak dollar. A reckoning is bound to occur.

Armen Donelian

Anyone who pays close attention knows that conservatives have been claiming that Social Security was on the verge of collapse since the program began. There are problems in funding, but nothing urgent, and nothing that a mild adjustment won’t fix. The biggest danger that Social Security has ever faced is in fact the president’s plan. Bush wants to “fix” our safety net by turning it over to Wall Street. This is potentially one of the biggest public ripoffs in the history of democracy, and anyone who believes that Wall Street has the public’s best interests in mind probably deserves the retirement benefits they won’t get. It doesn’t take much expertise to see that Bush’s plan is akin to a fox offering to fix urgent problems in the henhouse. There isn’t a single reputable economist in the country who isn’t waving their arms and shouting “no” about this plan. The question is, is the American public smart enough to know when they’re being taken?

Ero Thomson

I am disgusted with Bush’s bait-and-switch messages on Social Security. First, he pumps the need for better long-term management of the plan into a bogus crisis, and then presents us with a plan for private accounts that does nothing to address the crisis he is trumpeting so loudly! His plan will create a windfall for bankers, and will undermine a proven public benefit that millions of citizens rely on.

Bill Crow

As I can clearly remember the stock market decline in 2000 (not to mention the stock market “mini-crash” of 1987), I find it frightening to think that people are still considering risking their future safety net on this type of legalized gambling. Even stock market experts make many, many wrong decisions. How can laymen be expected to make long term investment decisions that will bear fruit? Social Security isn’t broken, it’s just flawed. The current administration is using, in their own words, “fuzzy math” to make it seem like their own objectives are really for the common good.

Russell Alexander

As usual, the Republicans (with President Bush leading the pack) are trying to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Jeffrey Lance

Whether Social Security allows private accounts, or not, is not critical. I have heard figures from 2 percent to 4 percent for private accounts, so we are not talking cataclysmic repercussions. At this point it is unknown whether private accounts will be beneficial overall or deleterious to the taxpayer, because we haven’t tried it. I guess if private accounts were part of the system and one made money in the market, it would be a good thing. If one made poor investments and lost money, it would be a bad thing. Wall Street would probably think it a good thing, no matter what the outcome. But, in any event, it will not have a major impact on Social Security overall. However, in looking at Social Security, as a whole, now is the right time to address it. The future of Social Security is directly dependent upon the economy. If the economy is good, more people will be put to work and contributing to Social Security. If there is a downturn in the economy, there will be less people working and contributing, and an increasing number of recipients. Currently we do not have a problem and although some argue “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” we do know, for sure after 2018, more money will be leaving the system than will be going in. And by 2040 it will be bankrupt, unless steps are taken to fix it. Better to address it now long before there is a real problem, than to wait until the flood gates break and seniors and working taxpayers are faced with serious consequences.

Peter Pastorelle

Bush’s plan is a sham and a shame and a gift to the banking and brokerage houses at the expense of middle- and low-income Americans. It will do nothing to support Social Security or improve anyone’s chances of doing better in retirement.

Russ Spiegel

The administration’s ideas on Social Security are destructive, ill-conceived and bound to fail. They are driven by ideological motives, will create needless national debt, and will simply continue the Republican practice of robbing from the poor to give to the rich. They deserve to be roundly defeated in Congress.

John Colligan

Mr. Bush seems to favor cutting taxes for his rich friends while pledging trillions to fund programs that our grandchildren will have to pay for, long after he is out of office. I agree that the Social Security system does need some adjusting, and the sooner it is done the better it will be for those due to receive their checks 75 years from now. But cutting taxes for those most able to afford to pay them is not the way to fund these adjustments!

Bill Spilka

The president has said that “you ought to be allowed to take some of your own money and set it aside in a personal savings account that you call your own.” Really, don’t we already have this option? It seems that the aim of the administration is to fracture a very successful government program with nothing positive to be gained from doing so.

John Hines

The crisis in Social Security that President Bush is crying about would disappear or diminish significantly if Bush returns a huge “loan” that he took from Social Security funds. Bush has showed us over the years, and proved with his attitude and legal acts, that he stands for, and guards, only interests of big corporations, that he is not a president of all people. As an American and a union member, I am very disappointed.

Adam Makowicz

This is just another attempt to shift focus from the issues that really matter, like war, the economy and the environment, while at the same time lining somebody’s pockets with lots of money. When will the madness stop?

Ed Neumeister

If I had kids, I’d encourage them to spend as much time in front of the Big Board as they spend in front of the chalkboard.

Erich Graf
The writer is principal flutist with the Utah Symphony and president of AFM
Local 104 (Salt Lake City)

Bush and his henchmen won’t be happy until we’re back in the nineteenth century. Apparently his presidential model is Warren G. Harding. Forget about Hooover! He was too liberal! It seems everything having to do with FDR, Europe, or plain common sense is anathema to these criminals. Do you want to know how I really feel? I wouldn’t be surprised if, when the general public finally wakes up, there’s an armed insurrection (after all, the NRA supports the Second Amendment to the death), just like the banana republic we’re fast becoming, with an ever-widening gap between the super-rich and the rest of us who are becoming increasingly poor. Especially those in the arts.

Stephen Christen

My biggest concern is that every dollar that would go to one of the Wall Street account managers is a dollar that would not make it to the retirees who will depend on it.

Scott Robinson

I think I’ve lost enough money in the stock funds I hold in my IRA and annuity. I am “banking on” having something secure, which is why Social Security should not be put into personal investment accounts. It smacks of another chance for the stockbrokers to make some commissions. If the government needs to make a repair, it should not put a ceiling on contributions.

D. Lozano

President Bush and his political supporters are playing sleight of hand with other people’ s money. The model of a national insurance concept would be more effective if fine-tuned toward current and future economic realities. In any case, I don’t see a significant number of retirees, presently or in the future, living comfortably on Social Security benefits alone.

Garnett Brown

This is less about “privatizing” Social Security that it is about eliminating the social safety net established during the Roosevelt administration. It’s another way to declare war on those who need help the most, the elderly and the poor. Like WMD, this is another manufactured crisis. Will the Democrats stand up this time?

Jay Shulman

The president should be foreseeing ways of stimulating employment, reducing interest rates and reducing the cost to Americans for essentials, like healthcare and housing costs. The Social Security system is not broken. What has been shaken is America’s faith in its ability to heal itself with truth, facts and compassion.

Dr. Roy A. Norman

If throughout the years the government had acted responsibly and left the Social Security money alone there wouldn’t be any problems; however, it seems that various administrations have viewed that money as ‘play’ money and have abused it. Leave that money alone to be used for Social Security benefits only!! If managed responsibly and left to grow, it should be sufficient for the aid of future generations for years to come.

Daniel Coe

I’m totally against President Bush’s proposal to drastically alter Social Security as we know it. The current program, which has worked just fine for over 50 years, and can continue to do so with some small changes, is an insurance program, not an investment club. The guaranteed payments are much more valuable than the uncertainty of market investments. (Witness the stock market downturns in the 90’s and then in the early 2000’s, not to mention the Great Depression!)

Why not lift the cap on income for Social Security deductions? After all, those of us in lower income brackets have our entire income taxed for Social Security purposes; why shouldn’t those among us who are more well off be subject to the same 100 percent income tax? Those at the top would certainly feel this tax less than those at the bottom and middle; they should carry more of a fair share.

Cathy Aks

My main concern is that benefits would indeed shrink for those trying to take advantage of employer pensions in addition to Social Security. A percentage of that money could be counted against the “voluntary” private contribution. That being only a small disadvantage compared to the huge investment risk. What if all goes well? Will the “surplus” go to higher benefits? Too many questions, not enough answers. Here are some points and information that I’ve been able to garner from various sources to consider:

Privatizing will not mean more money for us. Privatization will cut benefits by 30 percent even for those of us who don’t choose to have private accounts. If you do choose a private account, the government will take back 50 cents for every $1 in your account-on top of the 30 percent benefit cut. Privatized Social Security investment accounts will be managed and controlled by Wall Street firms that are hand-picked by politicians.

How do we prevent the subsequent corruption that would inevitably ensue? All Social Security accounts will be converted to annual payments preventing account money from being passed on to heirs.

I’ve always believed and known that there is a dire need for Social Security reform and I am not advocating for the status quo. Social Security could be strengthened by tax reform that would roll back the most heinous tax breaks that have been afforded the very wealthy or perhaps it might be time for our Congress to pay back the monies it has borrowed from Social Security.

Tino Gagliardi

President Bush’s idea of strengthening Social Security is all wrong. I am a child of a ruined family because of the Depression and investments in the 1930’s, so I know all about disasters from the stock market.

John Bunch

Just as with the “weapons of mass destruction” that got us into this tragic war in Iraq, the notion that Social Security is in trouble is a fraud deliberately perpetrated by the Bush administration. And the motive is the same: corporate greed.

Just as corporate coffers are filled with the spoils of our overseas imperialism, corporate coffers will be filled with the spoils of the privatization of Social Security – that is, if Bush succeeds with this nonsense. We need to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

Rich Siegel

Why should we replace a social safety net with a money manager’s shell game?

Robert Walters

What concerns me most about the proposed changes in Social Security is irresponsible investing. I feel that with regulations and restrictions, a system could be devised where individuals could invest their Social Security monies in the private sector.

Lou Bellofatto

Social Security has come to represent an “absolute” – something that in a worse case scenario, at least we know it will be there. Bush’s proposal takes away the security of the program and lines the pockets of those that will be managing the millions of new investment accounts created as a result. And the payoff in the end would be only as good as one’s discipline. I’m all for each of us taking responsibility over our affairs, but Bush is going too far in this instance.

James Mironchik

The Social Security system does need changes for it to remain viable in the future. But despite his claims to the contrary, Bush’s privatization plan diverts money from the system, thereby destroying it and saddling our children with more debt. Americans pay Social Security taxes on only the first $90,000 they earn each year. I believe we should also start taxing FICA on earnings of $500,000 and above for each year.

Dennis Mitcheltree

Once again this administration forgets, or chooses to ignore, why FDR instituted the programs he did. It was because there was an almost complete lack of government control over business and institutions, which pretty much had free reign. After the Depression, many people lost not only their jobs, but their life savings, their homes and their pensions.Social Security was put into place so that no retired or disabled worker would ever be forced into poverty for lack of savings.

Casting aside this program, or even part of it, means putting your retirement savings at the mercy of the free market, and it is only a matter of luck or timing whether you are left with anything once you reach retirement age.

Individuals are free to invest in the stock market on their own.

Fix what needs to be fixed in order to secure the system in perpetuity, but do not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Guy Klucevsek