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Willisms

« Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 19 -- Oil Wealth and Third World Development. | WILLisms.com | Tony Blair's Labour Party. »

Rock The Vote's Ostentatious Partisanship.

Why does Rock the Vote, a group that professedly represents the political interests of young people, oppose crucial reform of Social Security?

Politics.

But not just any kind of politics.

The bad kind of politics. The partisan politics of who is up and who is down, which completely ignores the good kind of politics, what is right and what is wrong. Riemer knows his organization is wrong, but because of the electoral boost the GOP might receive from successful reform, he doesn't want to be right.

Hans Riemer, of Rock the Vote, believes Social Security reform, when enacted, will be so successful that it will create an enduring legacy of Republican power:

"I do think that's why they're doing this," Riemer said, "because they're trying to create a political coalition that will last them several generations."

Several generations?

Perhaps.

More likely, Democrats will become less hostile to the free market over the next generation, diluting the actual political ramifications of reform over the long-term.

One can hope, at least.

But for young people today, there is no doubt that the GOP's championing of Social Security reform, plus the left's inexplicable opposition to it, will leave a lasting impression on the political values and loyalties of younger people.

Indeed, back in 2000, when then-Governor Bush unveiled his idea to allow younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes, Hans Riemer admitted personal accounts were something "young people are more inclined to support" (which also proves President Bush's point that he has run on, not from, Social Security reform, and it was a political winner).

Riemer understands that young people are developing their partisanship brand loyalties today, and he wants to make everything about "us versus them."

"Them," being "the man," a.k.a. Republicans. It's a rehashing of that old "never trust anyone over 30" notion that was so popular during the 1960s.

Despite Riemer's hyperbole about "blatant suppression tactics" against younger voters nationwide, and his declaration on election day that, "it looks like the electoral system isn't made to handle so many voters," young voters found the process remarkably efficient in 2004, according to research conducted by The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) (.pdf):

Despite concerns that college students would face barriers when casting their votes, nearly nine in ten reported that they thought voting was easy. Less than four percent said they tried to register but were unable to do so. Less than 1 percent claimed that they went to the polls but were not allowed to vote.

Riemer's latest blog entry again attempts to make Social Security an us-versus-them battle royale, with a heavy dose of patronizing thrown in for good measure:

A lot of young people have bought into this idea that Social Security "won't be there for them." (Okay, just about everyone has.)

But this is complete fiction. We are being misled by people who just don't want to prioritize our needs....

But whatever you do, don't get played by believing you'll get nothing out of the system....because people who think they have nothing to lose will fall for anything.

1. Who is this "we" Riemer keeps talking about? Riemer, in "Rock the Vote years," is ancient; while those in their mid-30s and older also have much to lose without reform, his "we youth are in this together" rhetoric falls laughably short.

2. Again, Riemer, in a clear manifestation of how out-of-touch he is with actual young people, unintentionally patronizes his audience, telling them they've been duped by some kind of right wing lie. If you've bought into that lie, he tells young people, you must be amazingly gullible.

Let's look at Riemer's analysis of the problem with Social Security:

Today, the priorities for Congress are 1. Tax cuts and 2. Military spending. That's where the money is going.

For Riemer, it's not actually Social Security itself that is the problem, it's those tax cuts and the war. As we recently noted, military spending is significant (and up in recent years), but entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare still comprise the bulk of federal spending. America, although we have by far the largest military force in the world, spends only 3.3% of GDP on the military.

Take a look at these graphs, which illustrate just how reasonable military spending is in the United States, relative to trends over the past century (click on images for originals):

U.S. military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940 and beyond-


militaryexpendituresaspercentageofgdp.gif

U.S. military spending as a percentage of discretionary spending, 1960 and beyond-

militaryexpendituresaspercentageofdiscretionaryspending.gif

Clearly, Riemer wants to paint a picture of Social Security money going into the ever-burgeoning Republican war machine, but that's just not the case. Military spending, while temporarily and ever-slightly up, is not even remotely related to the underlying problems in Social Security.

Riemer further discredits himself and his entire organization when he distorts the very links he cites.

For example, check out this breathtaking act of misrepresentation:

On the second point, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, sustaining current U.S. defense policies would require much more taxpayer money than fulling paying Social Security benefits.

That's not what it says, Hans. The link Riemer provides focuses on the theoretical task of the United States maintaining its military pre-eminence over China over the next several decades, not "sustaining current U.S. defense policies." The point of the paper is to project Chinese economic growth, then extrapolate potential Chinese military spending from that. America's focus today is not on maintaining a larger military than China; rather, Donald Rumsfeld is on a difficult mission at the Pentagon to streamline the military, making it leaner and more efficient.

Secondly, Riemer's post displays a fundamental misunderstanding (or gleeful distortion) of how Social Security is funded.

He argues:

The point is, if anyone says "there's not enough money to pay Social Security," or "Social Security is running out of money," what is really going on is that they want to spend the money on something else.

See, there is enough money in Washington to pay your Social Security benefits. Its a matter of priorities.

While a valid point could be made regarding the "trust fund" and how it doesn't really exist (and how it goes into the general fund to pay for the rest of government), that's not the point Riemer is attempting to make. He is trying to argue that there is no demographic trainwreck headed down the track, and that Social Security's problems are the result of recent fiscal mismanagement.

He's just wrong. Social Security's problems go much deeper than that. Social Security, in its very funding structure, is inexorably flawed; it is a pyramid scheme, a slave to the impending demographic shift.

Eliminating wasteful government programs, even at the Pentagon, would indeed be good policy, but doing so would have no effect on the looming crisis in Social Security.

Next, left-wingers like Hans Riemer love to trot out the notion that the President's tax relief has somehow "cost" America something, that lowering taxes somehow violates some kind of mythical ideal taxation level. This is bunk. Just because people agreed to a particular level of taxation at some point in the past does not mean that we must live with it today.

If anything, taxes were arbitrarily high prior to the recent rounds of tax cuts, and they now, although still too high, are approaching a more organic and appropriate level.

Ultimately, though, the President's lowering of income taxes has nothing to do with the fact that payroll taxes (a completely different tax) will not be able to cover the substantial funding gap Social Security faces. What Riemer is advocating: using higher income taxes to simply throw more money at the gaping abyss known as Social Security. Rather than actually fixing the problem permanently, he would prefer just charging the American people more for it.

Just throw more money at the bureaucratic money pit and hope the problem goes away.

How to pay for it? Just raise taxes.

This is just such a bankrupt idea, all around, but one so typical of the American left in recent years.

Finally, let's address this point Riemer makes:

...Social Security is about 75%-80% funded for our entire lifetimes and 100% funded for the next 40-50 years.

Close, but no cigar, Hans.

Social Security begins paying out less than it takes in, beginning in 2017; it is therefore disingenuous to claim that it is "100% funded for the next 40-50 years."

In 2041 (Riemer will already be collecting Social Security at that point, just 36 years from now), the IOUs (also called the "trust fund") used to keep the system afloat from 2017 to 2041 will run out, forcing massive benefit cuts (we consider a 26% benefit cut to be pretty significant).

But it gets worse. Over the course of a retirement that begins in 2041, the benefits continue to fall even further.

As Rock the Vote shamefully tries to pull the wool over the eyes of young people, young people are responding. Some anecdotal evidence:

1. The Rock the Vote townhall meetings are failing to generate any interest, whatsoever.

2. If you have read the comments under Riemer's posts at the Rock the Vote blog, most are thoroughly fed-up with Riemer speaking on their behalf on this issue. The comments are an admittedly unscientific cross-section of America's youth, but they are still hilarious to read.

Hans, your partisanship is becoming ostentatious, on top of your already-obnoxious ideology.

Does anyone else think it might be time to reevaluate Rock the Vote's "non-profit, non-partisan" status?

1930sorthodoxies.gif

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 April 2005 04:34 PM

Comments

the first SS crisis in my memory was 61. JFk said the "System" was in big trouble and needed a 200% tax hike to bail it out. After his murder Congreses raised the SS tax from ~$50 to ~$150 or 200%. Then LBJ said the "system was again in a crisis. Again the tax needed to be raised; this time "only" 100% to $300. Jimmiy told us of another crisis - same result higher taxes. But in 84 big govt Bob Dole gave us the real "solution". He Doubled the bureaucracies and the payrol preparation work by spliting SS into two (2) seperate agencies with two sets of buildings, lawyers etc. One of these taxes he set to run to infinity - the lazy eight. The other currently stops at $90,000.

When ths second SS tax is also set to infinity and we again are in crisis mode - how will we solve the crises.

Social Security has not ever worked. It has required massive tax increases four (4) time in the last 44 years. We are almost at the end of our ability to raise taxes to bail out a non functional "system"

Posted by: Rod Stanton at April 17, 2005 07:53 PM

Cute Rock the Vote picture at the end... ROCK THE VOTE IS HORRIBLE!!! SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM NOW!

Posted by: Carly Franklin at April 17, 2005 09:06 PM

Rock the vote is so lame!... Social Security is the lamest! Why would young people ever chose to pay more and get less? Social Insecurity is what it really should be called. Our young people today should have better options for their future! It is the lamest!.. It is on it's lamest last leg out. The
politicians just either don't have time to fix it, because they are too busy trying to bring down the majority. Then again they may just not have any answers because they are afraid of getting to work and really actually doing something worth while!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at April 18, 2005 08:41 AM

Its plain and simple the Republican party has stolen the US Treasury and given it to their wealthy supporter and now they dont want to have to pay it back so their solution is to STEAL Social Security and give it to wall street. Wall Street will rip off about 30% of the money going into these proposed private accounts for management fees so they can make 100's of millions of dollars in fees (want facts just look at other countries that have insituted such accounts) verses 0.7% that it costs to administer the current Social Security system. These reckless republican reactionaries must and will be stoped.

Posted by: Flash at May 15, 2005 02:53 PM

Flash do you think that Democrats have no wealthy people? Social Security is the biggest rip-off that all Americans are forced to pay into! I think you sound like you are not thinking quite right! Check your facts. when you do , maybe you can speak and make us believe what you are saying! Meanwhile check out WILLisms.com facts. It is hard to argue with the truth!...

Posted by: Carly at May 28, 2005 03:31 PM

Flash you need to read WILLisms.com and get some real facts. Quit listening to the propaganda lies! Proof is before your eyes! Open your eyes and read it! Facts are facts!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at May 29, 2005 08:51 PM

I think it's funny how much you all talk about being ripped off and how we're all being sold. When that is what your doing right here. You are trying to sell this idea that social security is falling from the sky. Well good luck. Sell it to someone eles. Last time I'll be back to this site.

Posted by: sarah at June 1, 2005 01:48 PM