The Hightower Report

Social Security: It ain't broke, so don't fix it; and, productivity has gone up – so why hasn't your paycheck?


Wouldn't you be a little skeptical if you took your car in for a routine checkup, and the repair shop said it had found a mysterious and costly problem deep in the engine that "needs fixing" – even though you can't detect any problem at all?

Welcome to the shady world of today's Social Security mechanics, including politicos of both parties and a phalanx of banking lobbyists. They're telling us in the direst terms that there's a major problem deep in the Social Security system that must be fixed right away. The "fix" is going to be costly, they solemnly inform us – it'll require raising people's retirement age to as high as 70, cutting the monthly payments for retired workers, and even privatizing part or all of this public safety net for retirees. But we must accept these fixes, they warn, or the whole system will sputter and die.

BS alert, BS alert! Of all government programs – including the bloated, fraud-ridden Pentagon – Social Security is least in need of fixing. It's the most efficient program we have, requiring a mere 1% of its total budget for administrative costs. And even the political mechanics who want to mess with the program admit that Social Security is perfectly sound and capable of paying full benefits to future retirees through at least 2042. What insurance company or bank can make that claim? And with only minor adjustment, the system is solid through 2075 – long after most of today's "fixers" will be dead.

There is one fix, however, that would guarantee the soundness of Social Security in perpetuity: Raise the current $88,000 income cap so that the salaries, bonuses, stock gains, and other wealth of the elites are also subject to Social Security taxes – rather than keeping the burden solely on the wages of low-income and middle-class working folks.

To push for this simple and fair reform, call Campaign for America's Future: 202/955-5665.


If a thief broke into your home and stole a couple of thousand dollars that you'd carefully saved from your paychecks and stashed away over the last three years, you could call the cops and try to get your money back.

But who do you call when that thief is the CEO of your company? CEOs have been routinely stealing hundreds and even thousands of dollars from the deserved paychecks of each and every worker in America, pocketing much of this loot themselves and converting the rest to corporate profits.

The grand larceny of the CEOs is that they've been filching every worker's share of the enormous productivity gains that America has racked up since the recession officially ended in November of 2001. Productivity is the increase in products or services that each worker churns out – and Americans have been phenomenal at this, fueling an explosion of new economic growth.

The theory and promise of free enterprise is that if our workforce of millions of people becomes more productive, the workers will enjoy the bulk of economic gains generated by their improved output. Yet, in this current three-year burst of productivity, America has lost jobs, and wages have either stagnated or fallen. In other words, America's working families are being fleeced by the pin-striped thieves sitting high atop corporate headquarters.

Workers' share of the new income they've generated in this recovery is the lowest ever recorded, while the fat cats have hauled off the most on record. An in-depth analysis by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University finds that while the workforce usually is rewarded with 65% of the increase in national income, this time they've received only 38%. Profits go overwhelmingly to a few investor elites, who usually get under 18% of the productivity increase, but now they're getting more than double that.

This is a massive, historic level of theft, and the pin-striped dandies pulling it off ought to be wearing prison stripes.

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

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Social Security, Campaign for America's Future, productivity gains, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University

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