The Hightower Report

Bush's Social Security Fantasies; Congress Does It Again


Bush's Social Security Fantasies

An investment advisory on the Internet notes that if you had bought $1,000 worth of Enron stock a year ago, you'd now be down to $16.50. If you'd bought $1,000 worth of WorldCom stock, you'd only have $5 left from your investment. But ... if you'd bought $1,000 worth of Budweiser (the beer, not the stock), drank all the beer, and cashed in the cans for the 10-cent deposit, you would have $214. So, the prudent investment strategy is clear: Drink heavily and recycle.

Yet, George W. Bush continues to put on his "What, me worry?" face and insist that the prudent strategy for us Americans is to privatize our Social Security funds. In July -- even as George was in full political howl about the spreading corporate crime wave that has turned highly touted stocks into trash -- he blithely said again that our retirement money should be entrusted to such Wall Street finaglers and to a market that recently has frittered away trillions of dollars of people's investment capital. It's as though reality is a complete stranger in W's head.

Bush's privatization scheme would require that you funnel your Social Security funds into the stock market through a handful of private investment groups owned and managed by such massive outfits as Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Goldman Sachs. Hello. These are the very firms now in the headlines and appearing before Congressional investigators for having been in cahoots with Enron, WorldCom, and the other ponzi schemes that bilked workers and investors out of billions of dollars.

George might be a fuzzy-headed market ideologist who still believes in laissez-faire fantasies, but these fund managers are cold-eyed opportunists who know that they would reap huge annual fees if only they can get their hands on our Social Security funds.

Bush's privatization push is stupid, but stupid is no barrier to this president. To stop his stupidity, call Campaign for America's Future: 202/955-5665.


Congress Does It Again

Just when you thought that Enron, WorldCom, and all the other corporate jerryriggers of the financial system had plumbed the depths of personal greed ... along comes Congress.

In a tricky maneuver that would make an Arthur Andersen executive envious, the House of Representatives quietly passed House Resolution 448, which reads: "At any time after the adoption of this resolution, the speaker may, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the house resolved into the committee of the whole." Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo, and shazam! What this bit of gobbledegook did was to raise Congress' pay by $5,000 each, lifting them to $155,000 a year.

Here's the trick. In 1989, Congress awarded itself an annual cost-of-living pay increase, making it part of the appropriation bill for the treasury department. This pay hike is automatic, unless some member offers an amendment to delete it, which then requires a direct up-or-down vote on accepting the salary boost. Such a vote is politically messy, especially in election years, hence, HR 448. Under this procedural move, no amendments can be offered to the treasury department's funding bill.

In other words, this sneaky resolution says to members: "No, you can't say no to a pay raise." I bet you wish you could get a deal like that!

But Dick Armey, the Republican majority leader who helped rig the system with HR 448, is indignant that anyone would criticize the move: "The Congress didn't vote themselves a pay raise," he explains. "What Congress did was not vote away their diminished cost-of-living increase. We just simply did not deny ourselves that normal increase in our cost of living that every other worker in America not only expects, but insists upon."

What a bozo! Either these guys are completely clueless ... or they think we're stupid.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, Social Security, Enron, WorldCom, Budweiser, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, privatization, Congress, pay raise, Arthur Anderson, House Resolution 448, HR 448, Dick Armey

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