I saw DougJ’s post on the effort currently underway at the Washington Post to browbeat us all into handing over our anticipated Social Security benefits and then I recalled this from last week, where we found out that Alan Simpson doesn’t know anything about Social Security, and that reminded me of this, from the last round of Social Security mania, where we found out former President Bush didn’t know anything about Social Security, either.
The message to blacks is that Social Security screws them because they die younger. By all accounts, that’s what Bush told black business and community leaders at a two-hour private meeting on Jan. 25. It’s also the centerpiece of black community town halls and speeches to black audiences by GOP chairman Ken Mehlman, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As Paul Krugman has explained, remaining life expectancy for a 65-year-old black man is 14.6 years, not two. It’s true that black male life expectancy at birth is only 69, but black-white mortality differences trail off throughout life. (By the late stages, black men outlive white men of the same age.) So, while blacks are likely to spend fewer years taking money out, they’re also likely to spend fewer years paying in.
Here’s Paul Krugman on the last round of lies about Social Security:
Let’s start with the facts. Mr. Bush’s argument goes back at least seven years, to a report issued by the Heritage Foundation – a report so badly misleading that the deputy chief actuary (now the chief actuary) of the Social Security Administration wrote a memo pointing out “major errors in the methodology.” That’s actuary-speak for “damned lies.”
Here’s why. First, Mr. Bush’s remarks on African-Americans perpetuate a crude misunderstanding about what life expectancy means. It’s true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years – but that doesn’t mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years’ worth of Social Security benefits. Blacks’ low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African-American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years – not that far short of the 16.6-year figure for white men.
So, both former President Bush and Alan Simpson don’t understand life expectancy, and they simply apply that misunderstanding to advance whatever policy goal they hope to achieve. People die younger, people die older, whatever, don’t bother them with details. They’ll use younger (like Bush did) when it fits the push to privatize, but they may also use older (like Simpson did) because that slots in nicely this round.
This cavalier attitude towards a program that tens of millions of working people will rely on doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. There’s a history here. We have been misled on Social Security in the past. That happened. Those of out here in the cheap seats watched it happen, and there wasn’t any crisis that last time other than the crisis created by the people who hoped to push privatization hurry-up-quick, before we noticed.
The crowd that don’t and won’t have to rely on Social Security and their opinion-page mouthpieces have a credibility deficit on social programs, it’s been accruing over years, and they never seriously address it. I’ll get serious when they do.