January 18, 2005
Bush Baby-Boomers Take Care of Their Own
GEN-X BEWARE! And all you ever-ambiguous Blank Generation folk, among whom I number myself, you ought to wake up too.
For once again, the post-war Baby-Boomers, arguably the most pampered, selfish and programmatically self-indulgent generation in American history, are preparing to take care of themselves at the direct expense of their younger brothers and sisters, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
At least, that's the impression one gets reading the Bush-Cato Social Security Administration's online Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security's Future.
(Also beware that under the Bush administration we live in an Orwellian world where official government websites frequently change their 'facts and figures' with political calculus, so the following quoted passages may no longer be there when you go to look.)
But as it stands at this writing, the Social Security Administration's official FAQ About Social Security's Future is a powerful object lesson in the crude directness of the 'divide and conquer' strategy the Bush administration is already deploying in hope of obtaining the Holy Grail of the Republican Right, the destruction of Social Security and the humane social compact of the New Deal that underlies it: that we Americans live by something higher than the law of the jungle, that we are in deed as well as word our brother's keeper.
And Gen-Xers, that brother is you.
Let's take the Social Security Administration's FAQ About Social Security's Future from the top, question by question, descending age bracket by age bracket, and see what the Cato Institute has in store for each of us.
I am retired and receiving a monthly check from Social Security. Are my monthly payments going to be cut?
No, there are no plans to cut benefits for current retirees. In fact, benefits will continue to be increased each year with inflation.
Over 67. You're doing just fine. Relax. Go back to sleep. Take your pills. Don't come out to vote or write Congress on this one. Enjoy the benefits of the system you wisely counted on and defended all your life. It's there for you.
Screw your grandkids. The damn ingrates, never visit and never think of anyone but themselves anyway.
I'll be retiring in the next five to 10 years. Can I expect my presently scheduled benefits to be paid to me at retirement?
Many reform plans, including those put forth by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, preserve scheduled benefits, including cost- of-living increases, for near-retirees. Depending on the proposal, a "near-retiree" is defined as someone aged 50 to 55 and older.
Oh ho, Baby-Boomers, here you are. Your generation's bloated numbers are supposed to be the cause of this "Social Security Crisis." You're the reason Bush claims we need to destroy this system in order to save it.
But what does this administration promise Baby-Boomers, the most pampered, selfish and programmatically self-indulgent generation in American history?
Surprise, surprise. The Baby Boomers are going to "grandfather" themselves in!
Everything will be just fine. No reason to raise a stink about what happens to someone else. The selfish joy ride of life just continues, as it should. After all, Bush himself is a Baby-Boomer, perhaps the paradigmatic Baby-Boomer of our times.
My parents are receiving Social Security payments. Should I be worried that their monthly checks will be cut and that I will have to make up the difference?
No, there are no plans to reduce benefits for current retirees. In fact, benefits will continue to grow annually with inflation.
A sleight of hand detour from the descent from age bracket to age bracket. Here is where the FAQ should address the future Social Security prospects of Generation X and the slightly older and edgier Blank Generation.
And perhaps it is, singing its siren song: Don't worry, there's no danger you'll ever have to cough up for your parents.
Pay no attention to the man behind the green curtain and his plans for you.
I am receiving disability benefits from Social Security. Should I be worried that my monthly check will be cut?
Most plans, including those put forth by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, do not reduce the benefits of currently disabled beneficiaries.
Being disabled. The detour continues. In the future Bush and the Cato Institute have in store, if you're not rich, disability's about as nice a piece of work as you can get, regardless your race, creed, color, sex or age, if you can get it. Maybe we should all start planning on disability now.
After all, that also marvelously gets around the Clinton administration's nobly passed "term-limits" on welfare recipients.
I'm 35 years old. If nothing is done to improve Social Security, what can I expect to receive in retirement benefits from the program?
Unless changes are made, at age 73 your scheduled benefits could be reduced by 27 percent and could continue to be reduced every year thereafter from presently scheduled levels.
Suddenly, we're 35. What happened to the 40-somethings? Never mind them. It's you thirty year olds who are in deep trouble. You and your peers better get with the program now. Without Bush, there's nothing in Social Security for you.
Since you're Gen-X, we suspect you never really learned how to add and subtract. So we're rather sure you won't notice that even Bush & Company's pessimistic projections of the draw on the trust fund, at age 73, you will have already been receiving full benefits for six years and, at least if you are male, your life expectancy is only a few years more.
So just don't look at the fact that, as a simple selfish bet, it's really touch and go whether you'd want to change anything, even if the whole system were really to go to the dogs after you.
No! No! Panic Now! Support the President!
I'm 25 years old. If nothing is done to change Social Security, what can I expect to receive in retirement benefits from the program?
Unless changes are made, when you reach age 63 in 2042, benefits for all retirees could be cut by 27 percent and could continue to be reduced every year thereafter. If you lived to be 100 years old in 2079 (which will be more common by then), your scheduled benefits could be reduced by 33 percent from today's scheduled levels.
So you're 25. Oh my! Lucky you. Unlike any previous human generation on the face of the planet, you're going to live forever! Strong! Healthy! Invincible! At 100! No sense looking out for anyone else. Just grab all you can for yourself. You can do it. And George Bush is here to help you.
No sense throwing away your hard earned dollars on a broken system designed to take care of all those sick old people who are just going to die anyway. The future is yours further than the eye can see.
We're absolutely certain you haven't learned jack-shit in the schools we barely provided for you, so you won't have heard anything about the Hayflick Limit or any of the more prosaic evidence of diminishing returns on further medical "miracles" that contribute to extending human life.
Never mind that if things go Bush's way, fewer and fewer of you will have access to that kind of health care anyway, as you live out your years in an increasingly polluted, life-shortening, Texas-style environment.
And we know that, unless you're an immigrant, you know even less math than Generation X, so there's no chance you'll notice that no privatization program currently proposed or even imagined is going to fully fund the retirement of anyone living to 100. Social Security, even paying 33% less than today's scheduled levels, beats privatization hands down if you're still planning to live that long.
Never mind. Never mind. Don't listen. Plug in that iPod, buy those iTunes, and support your iPresident.
So did you get that Gen-Xers?
Did you notice that gap? That here, as throughout the current public debate over the so-called "Social Security Crisis," you've become the unmentionable generation, conveniently omitted from the Bush Baby-Boomer's right-wing plans to divide and conquer, destroying Social Security for you and your children, all the while taking care of themselves and their generation?
Better wake up and take a lesson from the generational playbook of your selfish elders:
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
--Bob Dylan (1963)