Friday, March 11, 2005


"The Ones Who Work For Them" vs. the rest of us

It's fascinating to watch this Administration work. Recently it has dispatched Republican Congresspeople home for the explicit purpose of selling the President's Social Security plan to constituents. Currently, Administration heavies are on a 60-city tour with the same marching orders.

Isn't this backwards? Our representatives are supposed to represent us, aren't they? Shouldn't they be listening instead of selling?

I suppose that wouldn't work, though, because if they were to listen, they'd hear loud and clear that Americans don't want Social Security "reformed" (i.e., dismantled).

Meanwhile, the model for the Republicans' Social Security plan is becoming clearer. It appears to be Chile, where the private-account investment scheme has been in force for a decade and a half.

The Chilean model works extremely well...for salaried full-time employees.

The only problem with it is that half the Chilean work force consists of unsalaried, self-employed, part-time, or seasonal workers. Chile's investment-based retirement plan doesn't work for them. It also doesn't work for the poorest Chileans, who live hand-to-mouth. They can't afford to set aside the mandatory 10% for their retirement, so they don't.

• • •

My growing suspicion is that the current socio-governmental crisis in America is most accurately framed as a war between corporate culture and the rest of us. Corporate culture doesn't want universal health care, for instance, because corporations already provide health insurance for their employees. Beyond the subset "the ones who work for us" of the set "all Americans," they don't care. It explains why the Bush Administration spends extremely heavily on the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex (President Eisenhower's original name for the phenomenon), while shorting individual Americans, such as, oh, you know, soldiers. And their families. It explains why Congress would make bankruptcy harder on people than it already is, even though the whole point of bankruptcy is to give people a second chance--because, after exhorting the public at every turn to pile on the credit card debt and trade away its hard-earned home equity, lenders want to squeeze every last drop of blood out of the turnips that fall off the truck. The new bankruptcy law is lender-friendly, not citizen-friendly.

Within this framework, it makes perfect sense that the Bush Administration would support a Social Security retirement plan that will primarily benefit salaried corporate employees, but that shortchanges the very people who will need it the most.

The Quotidian Meander

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