Continued from part 1
An ambitious sales pitch is now being test-marketed, tweaked, and rolled out to reform public attitudes about Social Security. President George W Bush is barnstorming again, and if the last election didn't already clear away any doubts, he has more than proven himself to be, if nothing else, a great salesman. Look no further than the roster of programs and policies that the current administration has passed through Congress, and sold to the public to prove this point:
The unifying theme would seem to be that as a sales team, the key players in the administration find it hard to sell their product without some form of crisis or another. The "crisis" of all crises is now an imminent implosion of Social Security. The White House team has developed a solution: Reduce the amount of money flowing into the program -- and that solves the crisis.
The solution isn't new and improved, but the selling point is certainly taking-up headline space and attention away from the other crisis. With the Republican Party now in control of all three branches of government, the campaign solutions -- "private accounts," "ownership society," "privatization" -- now appear politically achievable.
Why does President Bush want to make Social Security reform "the cornerstone" of his second term in office? What interests are in favor of, or against the kind of privatization being discussed? Who benefits from Social Security and is it really going to survive 50 years into the future? And is there really a crisis? Most importantly, what is at stake and why should you pay attention?
Social Security is the largest and most enduring non-defense related U.S.-government program of the 20th century. It dates back to 1938, and forms the foundation of Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal. Conceived of as a guaranteed retirement benefit program for retirees, it also pays out benefits to the under-aged survivors of deceased workers as well as the physically or mentally challenged. If you know any retirees, or any one diagnosed with some form of physical or mental disability -- it is more than likely that an important part of their household budget is derived from Social Security payments.
For one-third of senior citizens, Social Security represents almost 90 percent of their annual income. Many social scientists point to Social Security for its role in the dramatic decline in poverty for senior citizens in the United States during the past four decades.
In 1960 more than 33 percent of senior citizens retired in poverty, whereas in 1995 only 10 percent of seniors claimed the same threshold that rose from $1,467 in 1960 to $7,763 in 1995. Benefits are determined by a percentage of your average wages for the 25 top grossing years of our working lives, with higher earning individuals receiving more, but also they are more likely to have saved through individual retirement accounts.
An individual who retires at age 67, after reaching an average salary of $50,000 a year, receives roughly $1,500 per month from Social Security as it stands today.
---This content is copyrighted by Think & Ask, reproduction of any kind is not permitted without written consent.---