Members of the ruling class from both sides of the aisle, together with various media elites, are all over Rick Perry about Social Security. The criticism began following the Republican presidential debate on MSNBC last week. In that debate, Gov. Perry characterized Social Security as a Ponzi scheme and a monstrous lie.
The received wisdom regarding Gov. Perry’s rhetoric runs along these lines: 1.) Social Security is a “third rail” issue. That is, you touch it at the risk of your political life; 2.) straight talk about Social Security to win support among your base in a nomination race will come back to bite you in the general election; 3.) ergo, you can talk in general terms about the need to “reform” Social Security but too much more specificity regarding your convictions and too much candor on the subject will frighten old people in Florida and cost you the election.
Well, apparently Perry doesn’t believe the received wisdom and frankly, neither do I.
Like Bernie Madoff, who is serving a 150 year prison sentence for a Ponzi scheme involving mere billions of dollars, the government has used trillions of dollars in proceeds from earlier “investors” in Social Security (read: ordinary citizens who had their own money confiscated from their pay envelopes) for purposes other than to provide for their retirement, which is to say the government has used the money to fund everything from the Vietnam War to school lunches. The government is now relying on the proceeds from current “investors” (keeping in mind that the term “investor” implies that the investment is voluntary when in fact the “investment” is coerced under penalty of imprisonment) to pay those earlier “investors” off. If that’s not a Ponzi scheme by the strictest definition of the term, it’s close enough.
To say that such characterization by a candidate for president is unwise presupposes that the American people are not capable of handling the truth.
I couldn’t disagree more. I think that if there is one thing at this moment in our history for which the American people hunger more than anything, it is the truth. President Obama actually admitted the truth without meaning to during the debt ceiling debate by threatening that Social Security checks would not go out if the debt ceiling was not raised. The threat was valid because Social Security no longer takes in enough on its own to meet its obligations and must rely on the Treasury to fund the shortfall.
The Social Security system is broke and the American people are fully capable of absorbing that reality and reacting appropriately. The truth is both liberating and long overdue.
It is the assumption that Americans cannot be trusted with the truth, together with the willingness of generations of politicians of all stripes to make promises that could not possibly be kept, secure in their knowledge that when the piper came to be paid it would be some future politician’s problem, that has pushed America to the brink of bankruptcy.
Nothing Rick Perry said about Social Security is untrue. If, as our ruling and media elites condescendingly insist, the American people cannot at this pivotal moment in history be trusted with a plain-spoken assessment of our mammoth problems, a prime example of which is Social Security, then it doesn’t much matter who wins the next election.
If such truly is the case, all that is great about America will be beyond that individual’s capacity to preserve or resurrect.