In a major editorial, The New York Times roundly condemns President Bush's scheme for changing the Social Security program, saying that it would "weaken Social Security, hurt the economy and endanger many workers' retirements by pushing them into unreasonable risks in the stock market."
The Times says the Bush plan represents one of the "clear-cut policy differences" between Bush and Senator John Kerry. Bush would partially privatize Social Security by allowing workers to place part of their payroll taxes in stocks, bonds, money market funds or other assets. Workers doing so would receive a much-reduced guaranteed government benefit when they retire. Bush is betting that the money they invested in the market would at least make up the difference.
"If Mr. Bush were a broker peddling stocks to low-income, uninsured, indebted individuals like many of the Americans who would be included in his plan, he would be violating rules that require brokers to recommend only suitable investments," the Times writes in the editorial, headlined "How Not to Save Social Security." Moreover, the Times charges, the Bush privatization scheme would divert taxes to private accounts, leaving Social Security short of cash to pay benefits to current retirees.
While the Social Security program is projected to come up short in 2042 under the current program, the Times says that modest reforms over the next 38 years would bridge the gap. But it contends the Bush proposal isn't so much about strengthening Social Security as it is about advancing an ideological agenda that would move the program from a sound insurance footing that broadly pools risks to a system of every man for himself.
"To Mr. Bush and his supporters," the Times concludes, "taxation and redistribution are anathema, and Social Security is an anticapitalist ploy to squelch initiative and growth. Those same arguments were leveled against Social Security when President Franklin Roosevelt established it in 1935, and when its constitutionality was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1937."
To read the entire editorial, click on: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/23/opinion/23thu1.html (Free registration required and article may no longer be available free of charge.)