A kind way to describe President George Bush’s Social Security privatization plan is to call it a “dodge.”

One editorial cartoonist said Mr. Bush might make the dull discussion of actuarial tables more exciting if he changed its title to “piratization,” and flew a skull and cross-bones flag on the ship’s mast. Another critic called the Bush plan “a big hoax” about to be pulled over on the American people.

Although broken promises from White America are nothing new to Blacks and other non-Whites in this country, the Bush proposal to reorganize Social Security means tearing up the U.S. social contract, which is second only to the Bill of Rights.

As Mr. Bush moves forward on his campaign promise to revive the country’s stalled economy, and to rescue the Social Security system (which runs out of money 45 years from now), more and more opposition is cropping up among Blacks who have studied the issue.


There is some “shady math going on,” said Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-Ohio) recently. The fact that they’re even talking about doing this means there is “a gimmick” in progress, she said.

The cost of diverting all, or a portion, of the funds currently supporting the Social Security program into 401K-type accounts that individuals can invest in the stock market will be astronomical the experts predict. Just when the U.S. public has begun to comprehend that each billion-dollar expenditure means 1,000 million-dollar payments, here we go with figures in the trillions–or 1,000 billion-dollar expenses.

“A recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated that recent plans to replace part of Social Security with individual accounts would significantly increase federal borrowing for at least several decades,” Rep. Tubbs-Jones pointed out. “Over the next 10 years alone, (Social Security privatization) would increase deficits and borrowing by, between $1 trillion and $5.3 trillion.”

That’s not all that’s wrong with the scheme. Most knowledgeable Black experts and many other informed Democrats believe that the administration’s plan to privatize Social Security will be detrimental to the nest-egg that many Americans, particularly Black folks, depend on in their retirement.

The Bush plan to partially privatize the retirement accounts of younger workers will not “fix the system” as the President promised but will, in fact, jeopardize Social Security’s protection which accounts for more than 90 percent of the retirement income for half of all Blacks over 65 today and 100 percent of the income for 40 percent of them. Indeed, if enacted, privatization will more than double the number of Black retirees living below the poverty level, raising that number from 24 percent of Black seniors up to 60 to 65 percent of the Black elderly.

Finally, although broken promises from White America are nothing new to Blacks and other non-Whites in this country, the Bush proposal to reorganize Social Security means tearing up the U.S. social contract, which is second only to the Bill of Rights.

“Social Security was never intended to be an individual retirement account. It was intended to be just what it said: a social security, a social program to provide benefits to those most in need, and to provide benefits to older people at a time when they most need it,” said Rep. Tubbs-Jones. “For us to now change that program from a social program to an individual account makes no sense at all.”

While the President’s plan “may seem innocuous on its face, the reality is that privatization is a duplicitous attempt to renege on our country’s promise to provide reliable support to aging retirees, disabled workers and orphaned dependents.” wrote Dr. Maya Rockeymoore in a recent article. She’s the vice president of Research and Programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

After the end of 350 years of servitude slavery when Black labor was absolutely free, Black men and women who worked for pay all their lives–when they could get work that is, at the hardest jobs for the lowest pay–suffered because of this country’s history of discrimination in the education system and the labor market. As a result, Black workers are more likely to have experienced spells of unemployment or underemployment, and are more likely to retire with less income from private pensions, assets or personal savings.

Up until now, Social Security has provided an equalizing effect through the provision of a steady monthly check for retirees, for those who become disabled, and for the dependent children and spouse of a worker who has died in the prime of his or her life.

Now, with his latest proposal, the President would rewrite the country’s social contract in a way that robs Black workers again–this time at the time of their retirement, forcing them, when they can no longer work, into lives of poverty.

These Social Security reform proposals are “ill-advised” and “irresponsible,” and that’s putting it mildly.