Editorial Praised, Letter Analyzed

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, September 9, 2010

Editor, The Herald:

Your editorial in the Friday, September 3rd, edition was journalism at its finest. I only wish that other papers could present the facts as you do, instead of reprinting biased handouts or repeating the mindless codewords supplied by those who would undermine and subvert our democracy.

Alongside your editorial was a letter from someone urging the privatization of Social Security. That letter seems to me to have been based on a Walter Williams column, which in turn was based on a published report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

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Walter Williams is well-known for his eccentric economic theories and far-right politics. The National Center for Policy Analysis, billing itself as “non-partisan,” a claim made by all think tanks, is in fact heavily funded by corporations and by foundations controlled by them. Its board of directors consists almost entirely of current or retired corporate and financial executives. In their self-description appended to the end of the report, they make no secret of their agenda. This group has an axe to grind.

The letter focuses on the amount paid by, for example, today's 20-year-old-male in taxes vs. benefits eventually received. This sum is said to be in the whopping amount of $312,000. This seemed so fantastic to me that I decided to examine the original report, which can be found on line at the NCPA website.

I found that in fact the authors of the report include in the “paid” figure ALL TAXES, federal and state, paid by the hypothetical youth, while the “benefits” included only direct cash payments like welfare, Social Security and Medicare. Would it not have been more fair to include in the “paid” figure only Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes? After all, we receive many benefits from the payments of other taxes that are not cash–police, fire protection, public schools, infrastructure like highways and bridges, national security, etc., etc. I think this distortion clearly demonstrates the agenda of the report, of the NCPA, and of Walter Williams: privatize social security or drastically cut benefits.

Social Security funds are now totally invested in U. S. Bonds, probably the safest investment possible in the world today. What would have happened to our retirement funds if they had been in the stock market in 2008? I can tell you what happened, because it happened to my private retirement account. Approximately 40% of my funds disappeared.

If we want to strengthen Social Security, one good proposal would be to make everyone, including the wealthy, pay their fair share. Right now Social Security taxes are paid only on the first $106,000 of income. That means you and I pay tax on all we earn, while a millionaire pays tax only on about 10% of what he or she earns. Yet these are the people who are constantly whining about high taxes.

By the way, another tidbit from the NCPA report (p. 20): “The [2001] Bush tax cut helped make a terrible situation significantly worse.”

Bill Shear