Finding Sense (and Cents) in Bush’s Social Security Reform, by Jimmie L. Hollis

There’s no lack of opinion concerning President Bush’s plans to reform our ailing Social Security system.

As an American of African ancestry, I support President Bush’s efforts because I believe the reforms he’s been talking about would help all black Americans.

It’s unfortunate that the liberals, on the other hand, have dug in their heels on the wrong side of the Social Security issue because they stand to alienate young people of all races who would like more control over their own money.

I’m not the only one supporting Bush’s reforms. As Dr. Thomas Sowell, a black American and respected economist with Stanford University’s prestigious Hoover Institution, writes: “The latest liberal spin on Social Security is that there is no problem… [Liberals say] that President Bush’s plan is no ‘magic bullet.’ When people start talking about how this or that policy ‘is no panacea’ or ‘not a magic bullet,’ then you know their argument is not serious.”

Dr. Sowell adds: “The… big difference between privatized pensions and Social Security is that the individual owns the pension he has paid for. This is not a fine philosophical distinction but a major practical difference… Liberals are desperate to keep Social Security the way it is, because that means they can keep spending your money as they see fit and keep you dependent on them.”

Then there’s the problem of life expectancy.

In an March 1, 2005 article in the Los Angeles Times, Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger report on how the life expectancies of whites and blacks show why President Bush’s Social Security reforms would benefit young black males. In short, the shorter life expectancy of a black American male and the inability for him to transfer his Social Security contributions to others after his death shortchanges black America.

Wallsten and Hamburger report the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington think tank focusing on black America, commissioned a poll that found strong support among blacks for investing a portion of Social Security payroll taxes in private accounts.  “Among younger blacks there is a consistent attraction to private accounts and we have seen it for some time,” noted Joint Center senior analyst David Bositis.

Star Parker, president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, has challenged the NAACP to support the President’s proposal on Social Security. She says the prize blacks should have their eyes on these days is political freedom, financial ownership and independence from the government dole, and the NAACP appears out of step with many black Americans on these goals.

Criticizing the demagoguery of the President’s opponents, David Almasi of The National center for Public Policy Research notes: “This is not a total overhaul of Social Security. We’re only talking about a small percentage of what people currently pay into the system going into personal accounts. Even the most conservative investments will earn a great investment than Social Security. And no plan will be approved without plenty of safeguards, so don’t believe the stories suggesting people will be day-trading away their retirement funds.”

Ignoring the need to reform Social Security and how blacks will benefit from it is like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

A recent Zogby poll found that 61 percent of Americans believe Social Security faces “serious problems” and needs “major changes.” Yet the liberals still try to play the race card and scare our senior citizens with misinformation. They forget that current proposals ensure that no one over 55 is affected.

As for blacks being told that opponents of reform are looking out for their best interests, the position they take on Social Security assumes that blacks are too dumb to handle their own money.

I’m an optimist. I don’t believe blacks want to be led like sheep on any issue. I also believe that the opportunity to have more control over their future finances will eventually excite and energize young people of all races to support the President’s Social Security reform proposal.


Jimmie L. Hollis is a freelance wrtier and a member of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or The National Center.

Publication date: August 2005

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