The Hightower Report

A company that wants to get under your skin; and the Social Security hoax


SOCIAL SECURITY WORKS

Let me tell you a story of progressive progress.

In 1939, two-thirds of America's senior citizens lived their "golden years" in cold, hard poverty. Just a decade later, that percentage was down to half. By 1959, it was only one-third. Today, the number is less than 10%.

That's progress. What's progressive about it is that this decline in poverty is the result of the New Deal's passage of our nation's landmark Social Security program.

Yes, the very same program now under attack by Wall Street wolves and congressional opportunists of both parties who insist that Social Security is doomed to failure and facing an imminent financial crisis.

Horsedooties. First, this is a program that actually works, providing a modicum of income so our gray-haired citizens have a basic level of decent living when their earning years are over. Second, Social Security is a model of efficiency, requiring only a single percent in administrative costs. Compare that to the insurance corporations that suck out one-third of our health care dollars to pay for their corporate bureaucracies, executive salaries, marble palaces, and advertising.

But, no, cry the Chicken Littles, Social Security is going broke! Hogwash. Without changing anything, Social Security is financially sound for the next 40 years. Name me a corporation that can claim that!

Yet, the Bushites – on behalf of Wall Street finaglers – seek to privatize this public treasure, pushing people to put their Social Security nest egg into the stock market. Hello – these are the same investment geniuses who only three years ago would have advised you to invest in Enron – a stock that fell from $97 a share to 57 cents in only one year!

Wall Street hustlers, members of Congress, and other "reformers" already have their own golden retirements covered. I say no one should be allowed to "reform" Social Security unless they actually need it.


LETTING CONSUMERISM GET UNDER YOUR SKIN

Have you been "chipped" yet?

A company called Applied Digital Solutions wants you to undergo a surgical procedure to implant a tiny RFID microchip in your arm. Why would you want to do this? Because "Radio Frequency ID" chips will eliminate the heavy burden of having to carry credit cards and remember your ATM numbers. Instead, your arm becomes your card and ID number – simply run your arm under a scanner, and your embedded radio chip sends a digital signal to the computer, allowing you to complete your transaction. ADS calls its microchip "VeriPay."

There's only one rational reason that ADS executives think we'll submit to this: They're insane. Insane, but serious. They insist that this technological leap is needed because many people lose their credit cards. "VeriPay solves that problem," says a corporate PR flak, cheerfully noting that ADS' chip "is subdermal and very difficult to lose. You don't leave it sitting in the back seat of a taxi," he said.

Subdermal or not, your ID number still can be stolen by a geeky thief who rigs up a device to intercept your radio-transmitted number, then plays it back later to your ATM machine, emptying your account.

If your number is stolen, or if you simply switch credit card companies or banks, what are you to do? No problem says the PR guy: "If you don't want it anymore ... you can go to a doctor and have it removed. I call it an opt-out feature," he said gaily. Swell, instead of simply calling your credit card company to cancel your card, you'd have to call a surgeon. This is progress?

Still, ADS is banking on you to "get chipped," as they cheerily put it in a special promotion. To lure you, they're even offering a $50 discount to the first 100,000 people who sign up.

By the way, the honchos of ADS are such business geniuses that the company's stock plummeted from $12 a share three years ago to about 40 cents today. I wouldn't entrust two bits to them – much less my arm.

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

microchips, Applied Digital Solutions, RFID, microchip, Radio Frequency ID, credit cards, ATM, VeriPay, New Deal, Social Security

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