local action against social security privatization

I just received this list of local activities and thought that I’d pass it along. The first one is scheduled for this Tuesday, when Bush is in Detroit:

1) Join folks from all over SE Michigan, carrying anti-privatization signs outside Detroit’s Cobo Center THIS TUESDAY, Feb. 8, when George W. Bush is to speak to the Detroit Economic Club. We will carpool from Ann Arbor’s Arborland parking lot, in front of the Borders Bookstore there, LEAVING at 10 a.m. Please be there by 9:45 (look for the PT Cruiser with woody sides & relevant stickers), and phone (734)662-1731 in advance to say whether you need a ride or can take riders. The gathering point in Detroit, between 11 and 11:30: on the south side of Jefferson Ave., as close to Cobo Center as may be permitted. (IF you bring a sign, focus only on DON’T PRIVATIZE Social Security; signs about other issues would be distractive & thus counter-productive. We will have big-sizes anti-privatization shirts to wear over other clothing.) It will be helpful to have people of ALL ages. Dress WARMLY!

2) Our DEFENDING SOCIAL SECURITY COMMITTEE will meet at 6:30 p.m. (until 8 p.m.) SUNDAY, FEB. 13, in the Pittsfield Twp. Hall, just west of the corner of Platt Rd. and Michigan Ave. Please attend and bring a friend! A Panel of Six of our members will describe what they’ve been doing (and you can do) to stop the privatization scheme and preserve Social Security. And we’ll hear a report on the Feb. 8 activity in Detroit. Anti-privatization shirts, buttons and bumperstickers will be on sale, and literature will be available. Plans will be made for our first very specifically-focused letter-writing & phoning campaign.

3) An organizational meeting of hundreds of our anti-privatization colleagues from all over SE Michigan will be held from 6 p.m. until 8, FRIDAY, FEB. 18, in the UAW Region 1 Pavilion building, 27700 George Merrelli Dr., Warren, MI. Speakers will include Dr. Max J. Skidmore (author of SOCIAL SECURITY AND ITS ENEMIES) AND one or more U.S. Senators and House members. Rally sponsor: the Michigan Alliance to Strengthen Social Security and Medicare: 313, 935-8480; 8616 Cheyenne, Detroit, MI 48228; e-mail: michalliance@umich.edu. FOR A RIDE or to offer one: call 734, 662-1731. (Directions: exit 696 at Van Dyke, go north to 1st light, Tank Rd.; turn left/west on Tank Rd. to Merrelli.)

4) Save the date WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16 for the next meeting of WASHTENAW DEMOCRATS, 7:30 p.m. in the Pittsfield Township Hall. We hope to have one or more Members of Congress speaking on Social Security, but the date may have to be changed if they must be in Washington that Wednesday. Details to be announced by e-mails ASAP.

If you know of other opportunities to get involved, please leave a comment.

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  1. Posted February 7, 2005 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Damn! My first chance to protest against Bush and I’ll be at the Knights of Columbus Paczki eating contest.

  2. mike
    Posted February 8, 2005 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Anyone have any reasons to protest the idea of having the mere option to invest a small fraction of your own money (people over 55 are exempt under the plan by the way)? And as a follow up, anyone have another solution? Solutions to the problems brought up on this site are scant. The ‘Just say no’ to anything a Republican offers seems ridiculous if no alternatives are discussed. I know Bush hating on this site is popular, but the idea of protesting in idea just because it comes from someone you don’t like doesn’t serve much of a purpose. If you are actually against the idea then I understand and would like to hear why, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. An example comes from the current Democratic senate minority leader Sen. Reid who in February 1999 (when President Clinton was advocating a change for SS because of the coming crisis) said the following:
    “Most of us have no problem with taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting it into the private sector.”
    And then in November 2004 he says:
    “If someone wants to privatize Social Security, they are going to have to find someone else to get in bed with other than me.”

    So which is it? Both sides are playing politics but it’s you and I who should be doing the analysis of the idea. Taking sides because of an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ should be left to the pundits. They get paid a lot to do it. Freedom to chose seems like a good idea to me.

  3. brett
    Posted February 8, 2005 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    i think the main problem most people have with the situation, or ‘problem’ as you call it, is that there is no ‘problem’. The ‘problem’ is being invented by a tiny, tiny portion of the citizenry, in the hopes that they will make some money off it, via the stock market.
    As for why it’s wrong to invest in the stock market, well, that’s gambling. and those of us with good christian values oppose gambling.

    on a personal note, my grandmother is having a very hard time affording her medicine on the budget alloted by social security, even as it stands currently.
    my grandmother, by the way, understands jack shit about the stock market.
    If she had tried to ‘invest her money intelligently’ she would most likely be dead now, and I’m frankly glad she wasn’t tempted to do so by money-worshipping occultists like yourself.

  4. mike
    Posted February 8, 2005 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Brett, it’s called freedom to choose. One less thing to depend on the government for. You do not have to do anything if you so wish. I am sure that you are a good christian and I respect that. God bless your grandmother, I am sure you are helping her out any way you can. On another note, here is an article about Texas counties that opted out of Social Security when they had a chance and how they are doing now. The people, maybe similar to your grandmother’s age are recieving 3 times the money they would have under SS. This surely helps them pay their medical bils.

  5. Posted February 8, 2005 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    The social security program was started for a reason. Everyone has the option to invest for themselves right now. Most are stupid and choose not to. Personally, I’m not counting on social security for a dime, but I’d rather not be the 1 out of 5 people not starving when I reach retirement age.

  6. Posted February 8, 2005 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    And if we really cared about the health of elderly people, we’d have a national healthcare system. We’re already paying for it, just not getting the benefits.

  7. brett
    Posted February 8, 2005 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    mike, i think it’s okay to depend on the government, since i was under the impression that in a democracy we ARE the government.
    …And I’m not actually a christian, but my values do overlap with theirs. Philosophically I’m basically a Sartrean Existentialist, so please don’t talk to me about ‘freedom’. Freedom isn’t something that ‘would be nice to have’, nor is it some sort of a christmas present the government gives its citizens. It is an unavoidable and oppressive state of being which all humans are immersed in, although many deny it.
    Thanks, by the way, for coming back and adding a comment.

  8. Tony Buttons
    Posted February 8, 2005 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Social Security is not a savings plan. It was never intended as such. It is, as it states in its name, “insurance.” Look at your paycheck, Mike. See the “SSI”? That “I” is for insurance.

    And, as Brett states, the current system is not in crisis. (Check out the “There is no Crisis” link to the right if you want the facts.) Social Security works. We don’t have elderly starving in this country at anywhere near the rate that we did before the launching of the program. It’s a successful program.

    If you want to talk about things that are in “crisis,” let’s talk about the deficit, or the fact that Bush cut taxes while taking us to war. Those things will cripple our nation. Social Security, while requiring some work, is not anywhere near the same threat.

  9. mike
    Posted February 8, 2005 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    So you guys do not want a choice in the matter? Whether or not it is insurance is not the question. Seems like you all seem to think that it’s the government’s money and not yours. None of you have offered a plan to fix SS. In fact, all of you have deflected to other subjects like National health care, the deficit and tax cuts (all which can be addressed in another thread) . Anyone want to talk about SS? My initial question even remains unanswered : Why protest privatization?

  10. marx
    Posted February 8, 2005 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    The last thing we need in this country is to let people keep more of society’s money. The only way to reach the true goal of converting America to a socialist state is to make sure that goverment controlls the means of production and that the people are dependent on government for their basic needs.. Only then will true social change be accomplished. Those republicans are just trying to weaken the dream.

  11. mike
    Posted February 8, 2005 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Well, it looks like everyone that comes to this site has let their voice be heard on this issue. The alternative plans presented here are only surpassed by the multitude of reasons given for protesting this idea. I commend your intellect, insightfulness and wisdom. If you put as much energy into protesting as you have in analyzing the issue, you should have a delightful turnout. I am looking forward to hearing about your success.

  12. Posted February 8, 2005 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    What can we say, Mike. You’ve obviously made up your mind. “Let them eat cake”, right?

    (The “social security crisis” is a distraction intended to keep Congress from fixing the healthcare system. That way, corporations can continue to take advantage of us on healthcare and additionally, investment bankers can get their mits on the Social Security funds they’ve been salivating over for years. Anybody who believes that borrowing trillions of dollars to invest in the stock market is a good idea should have their head examined.)

  13. mark
    Posted February 9, 2005 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    The Social Security System as it is needs reform. And, there needs to be an open, honest debate on the issue. That’s clear. From my perspective privatization is the wrong course, but I’m willing to hear all sides out. What I don’t like, however, is the fact that Bush is trying to market this issue as the most critical one facing our country when it cleary is not. (Addressign the defecit would be the much more responsible thing to do.)

    As with the Iraq war, this is something that’s been on the NeoCon agenda since day one, and they see an opportunity now, given Bush’s claimed mandate, to push it though. The bottom line is that the right wing of the Republican party sees no place for programs built to serve the public good. (They think that should be handled by our institutions of “faith.”) If you don’t see that, Mike, you’re missing a big part of the picture. The NeoCons want to do away with the New Deal.

  14. chris
    Posted February 9, 2005 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mike,

    Interesting reading. This is a reprint of an article from the NYT’s. If you’re not familiar with Paul Krugman – besides being a NYT op-ed columnist, he is a professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT and Stanford. At MIT he became the Ford International Professor of Economics. I would rather have him plan my retirement.

    But basically, I am not really interested in having my fiscal future planned out by people who really don’t have to rely on Social Security to meet their financial means in their retirement. Although, according to Krugman’s argument I could stand to profit from privatization as a large source of our income is options sales. So, go ahead, make my day, widen that gap between the strike price and the market price when I go to sell.

    By Paul Krugman

    The fight over Social Security is, above all, about what kind of society we want to have. But it’s also about numbers. And the numbers the privatizers use just don’t add up.

    Let me inflict some of those numbers on you. Sorry, but this is important.

    Schemes for Social Security privatization, like the one described in the 2004 Economic Report of the President, invariably assume that investing in stocks will yield a high annual rate of return, 6.5 or 7 percent after inflation, for at least the next 75 years. Without that assumption, these schemes can’t deliver on their promises. Yet a rate of return that high is mathematically impossible unless the economy grows much faster than anyone is now expecting.

    To explain why, I need to talk about stock returns. The yield on a stock comes from two components: cash that the company pays out in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, and capital gains. Right now, if dividends and buybacks were the whole story, the rate of return on stocks would be only 3 percent.

    To get a 6.5 percent rate of return, you need capital gains: if dividends yield 3 percent, stock prices have to rise 3.5 percent per year after inflation. That doesn’t sound too unreasonable if you’re thinking only a few years ahead.

    But privatizers need that high rate of return for 75 years or more. And the economic assumptions underlying most projections for Social Security make that impossible.

    The Social Security projections that say the trust fund will be exhausted by 2042 assume that economic growth will slow as baby boomers leave the work force. The actuaries predict that economic growth, which averaged 3.4 percent per year over the last 75 years, will average only 1.9 percent over the next 75 years.

    In the long run, profits grow at the same rate as the economy. So to get that 6.5 percent rate of return, stock prices would have to keep rising faster than profits, decade after decade.

    The price-earnings ratio – the value of a company’s stock, divided by its profits – is widely used to assess whether a stock is overvalued or undervalued. Historically, that ratio averaged about 14. Today it’s about 20. Where would it have to go to yield a 6.5 percent rate of return?

    I asked Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, to help me out with that calculation (there are some technical details I won’t get into). Here’s what we found: by 2050, the price-earnings ratio would have to rise to about 70. By 2060, it would have to be more than 100.

    In other words, to believe in a privatization-friendly rate of return, you have to believe that half a century from now, the average stock will be priced like technology stocks at the height of the Internet bubble – and that stock prices will nonetheless keep on rising.

    Social Security privatizers usually defend their bullishness by saying that stock investors earned high returns in the past. But stocks are much more expensive than they used to be, relative to corporate profits; that means lower dividends per dollar of share value. And economic growth is expected to be slower.

    Which brings us to the privatizers’ Catch-22.

    They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don’t need to worry about Social Security’s future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come.

    Alternatively, privatizers can unhappily admit that future stock returns will be much lower than they have been claiming. But without those high returns, the arithmetic of their schemes collapses.

    It really is that stark: any growth projection that would permit the stock returns the privatizers need to make their schemes work would put Social Security solidly in the black.

    And I suspect that at least some privatizers know that. Mr. Baker has devised a test he calls “no economist left behind”: he challenges economists to make a projection of economic growth, dividends and capital gains that will yield a 6.5 percent rate of return over 75 years. Not one economist who supports privatization has been willing to take the test.

    But the offer still stands. Ladies and gentlemen, would you care to explain your position?

  15. mike
    Posted February 9, 2005 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    So one argument is that it’s not the most important issue (mark) facing our nation so we shouldn’t work on it. It may be your opinion that it’s not the most important issue, but to take the attitude of “if we can’t do everything, we should do nothing” is not productive at all. It’s not an alternative plan at all so it’s really still not on topic and doesn’t help debate the issue of SS.

    Another argument(Hillary) is that ” that borrowing trillions of dollars to invest in the stock market is a good idea should have their head examined.” Wow, this really analyzes the situation. Good work Hillary. You obviously believe it’s the government’s money and not your own. Again, no alternative.

    The third argument (i should really say ‘first argument’) at least offers the negatives of the plan. I applaud chris for actually doing the first bit of research on the topic.

    I would still like someone to tell me why places like Galveston Tx. couldn’t be replicated nationwide. Did anyone read that link? Chris also mentioned that he would rather have Paul Krugman managed his money than he himself. Well, under the privatization plan you could do that and I could take responsibility for my own money. Is that such a tough choice for all of you? I thought Liberals(like Paul Krugman) were pro-choice? Is it only when convenient?

    Again, I see that most of the people here hate President Bush and are anti-capitalists. I believe your hatred has gotten you where you are today. Less seats in government with each election. Alternative plans will win back seats, not hatred. Pick a plan, any plan, as an alternative and I will listen. Telling me that the only proposed plan won’t work, giving sparse reasons why, and then countering it with nothing but “protest privatization” seems irresponsible at best. And another thing….don’t be afraid to start a conversation on the fair tax. That, in itself, could ease many of our problems. But I digress.

  16. chris
    Posted February 9, 2005 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    No Mike, I would rather have Krugman manage my money rather than the folk who line up to do it for the like’s of yourself.

    But really, it doesn’t matter because most people REALIZE there is no crisis other than that of the GOP agenda blowing smoke up our ass so we don’t notice that our head’s on fire and they’re holding the lighter. No coincidence that this became the HUGE issue 3 weeks before the release of the budget?

    OK, lets say it is an issue. This theory work along the same lines as legalizing drugs, aren’t there people out there who should really be getting the yearly Lotto payoff rather than the lump sum?

    People, Social Security is NOT a benefit but a safety net, which ultimately is the fabric of a compassionate society.

    BTW, I didn’t do the research, Krugman did but thanks for thinking I was even slightly capable. And, since you are so bent on proclaiming your currently employed status, don’t they offer you a 401(k)? So why crow on about SS. And I hope you don’t plan on a pension because they’re after that next.

    Also, htf did a Bushie get here anyway? This has a whiff of prank about it.

    Finally, dude, why do you keep referring to me as a he? Can’t you tell I’m a bitch?

  17. Posted February 10, 2005 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Mike: I read the first few paragraphs. The article is about a town that secedes from social security and adopts a 401k style retirement plan. It doesn’t work because they are no longer paying for the people that are on social security right now and we would have to borrow trillions of dollars to cover our obligations.

    I didn’t say that we should do nothing. I said we should be fixing the healthcare system. It takes two years to get anything done in government and Bush has roughly 2 years before he becomes a lame duck. Nothing is going to be done about a national healthcare program for at least 4 or 5 years. We pay more than twice what the rest of the world spends on healthcare, more than $4000 per capita. Government already pays something like 45% of all healthcare costs through programs like Medicare and VA hospitals. We’re wasting $2000 per capita per year. Wouldn’t we all like to invest that money on our own behalf?

    Nationalized healthcare would also be great for business. Imagine how much more competetive companies like GM would be if they no longer had to provide healthcare coverage. Small local businesses would be more able to hire people as well. More people could start their own businesses.

  18. Long Face
    Posted February 10, 2005 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Also imagine how much more competitive companies would be if we had a national retail sales tax. If you are so concerned with the well being of these corporations, large and small, then I am sure you support a retail sales tax. Maybe we should start there and have that fund your programs down the road.

  19. Long Face
    Posted February 10, 2005 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    One other comment on Social Security. For those who truly believe there is nothing wrong with the system today.

    As Bret put it “i think the main problem most people have with the situation, or ‘problem’ as you call it, is that there is no ‘problem’.”

    Are you kidding me. There currently is no money in the SS Trust Fund. It is all gone. ZIP, ZED, NADA!!! Spent. Every year both Democrats and Republicans take from this fund. They take every penny that was left after that years benefits have been paid. Most of the money was spent on certain “vote buying programs”. All that is left are some IOUs sitting in a cabinet somewhere. So what happens in 2042 when working Americans are not paying enough into Social Security to cover benefits for retired Americans?

    Whether you like it or not it is a crisis. A crisis denied purely for partisan reasons.

  20. Posted February 10, 2005 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Let’s call it a crisis of convience. I’m just trying to figure out why W shouts defensively when he talks about SS reform.

    My favorite part was where he described his plan as “a chance for people to make even more money in retirement.”

    The other side of that coin is the “chance” people will lose thier shirts. I don’t trust anyone that uses gambling terms when describing their plan for SS reform.

  21. W
    Posted February 10, 2005 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s a choice that you need not participate in Steven. If math is not your strong suit then you can stay the course. If you are responsible for your own money, you can take the chance to earn more or earn less. But we are only talking about 2% of your own money that they are allowing you to control. If you are scared, the government will take care of you as always.

  22. Posted February 10, 2005 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    mike, you say:

    “under the privatization plan you could do that and I could take responsibility for my own money. Is that such a tough choice for all of you?”

    I don’t have a problem taking responsiblity for my own money. I don’t think any of the posters here have a problem investing their own money.

    The problem comes up when a bunch of people maybe don’t make as intelligent decisions as we will. Maybe their stupid, maybe their feeble midned, it really doesn’t matter.

    When those people are retired and starving, we’ll have to pay for their retirement again.

    You wanna pay once for everybody or once for everybody plus pay again for everybody who made bad decisions?

    Or is your plan to just let them starve? If so, I hope you’ll set aside a little extra for the guns and ammunition you’ll need to protect your property.

    At least when the bad investors lose their shirts, some investment firm will get a little richer.

  23. Posted February 10, 2005 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    “If math is not your strong suit then you can stay the course.”

    Ahh the old ad hominem attack. Another clever tool in debate. I’d considered responding but what’s the point really?

  24. W
    Posted February 10, 2005 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Steven, actually most of the posters say that they would rather have the government or “someone other than them” manage their money – so you are incorrect on this point.
    There was no ad homonym attack on anyone. I simply stated that you can stay the course if math is not your strong point. It either is or it isn’t. What is it? Don’t get overly sensitive if you happen to lack the adequate math skills to manage your own money. That is where the government comes to the rescue. Sorry you got your feelings hurt and thought it was a personal attack on you. It was not meant to be a clever tool. As usual though, you think that the masses are dumber than you and although you could handle the decision just fine, many could not. Well, why do we stop there? Why don’t we increase taxes on all of us so the government can do as it wishes with THEIR money? Hell, you don’t think it’s yours anyway. In fact, maybe all of us shouldn’t even vote. We could have a test to pass if we want to vote. Dumb people could stay home and people like you could go to the polls. As long as you think you are smarter than most and as long as you think the government is the solution to all of our troubles, the more you will see the republicans pick up more seats in congress. People like to have a choice; they don’t like elitists telling them what is best for them. Oh, again, I have to stress that you have no alternative plan. As usual, you wait for a republican plan to be unveiled and complain that it won’t work…and then think of ways to protest. Of course, without your party coming up with any plan at all, I guess there really isn’t anything else you can do.

  25. Posted February 10, 2005 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    “Steven, actually most of the posters say that they would rather have the government or “someone other than them” manage their money – so you are incorrect on this point.”

    pardon me, I missed the poll results. I’ll pay more attention next time.

    “There was no ad homonym attack on anyone.”

    again, pardon me. I was under the mistaken impression that personal attacks … forget it.

    “Hell, you don’t think it’s yours anyway.”

    Oh? When did you become an expert on Steve Cherry? I’m getting the distinct impression that you’ve deduced that I’m a democrat.

  26. ward
    Posted February 10, 2005 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Whose money is it Steven?

  27. Posted February 10, 2005 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I’ll bite:

    If you mean the social security, it belongs to those who contributed. It’s part of the New Deal.

  28. brett
    Posted February 11, 2005 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    It occurred to me that perhaps a good idea, considering that the conversation over in the “troll thread” keeps circulating back to the question steven answers directly above, would be for me to post a comment here to call attention to that fact.

    I should also add, that while nobody can do anything about how many liberals or conservatives happen to be here, one thing we could all start doing (in addition to sticking with the names we started posting under) would be to make comments which directly correlate to the specific thread they are located in.

    Sorry to be a wet blanket. I’ll try to be witty and sarcastic again in my next post.

  29. Posted February 11, 2005 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Brett, that allows little room for snarky, off-topic, shit-flinging. Do we really want that?

  30. mike
    Posted February 11, 2005 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Another good article on privatization. It’s short and to the point. Is anything not true in this article?


    Hillary, hopefully you can read the entire article as it is only a few paragraphs in length.

  31. brett
    Posted February 11, 2005 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    two words:

    Reverend Moon.

  32. Carol
    Posted March 12, 2005 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center of Economic and Policy Research, Washington D.C., will speak on Bush

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