Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Table Talkers share distant and recent memories, and ponder the future of Social Security.

By Salon Staff

Published February 4, 2005 5:42PM (EST)


Bad Ideas

Lynn Marie - 08:28 a.m. Pacific Time - Jan. 31, 2005 - #583 of 621

When I was little (but maybe not little enough for such thinking), we lived in Navy housing in or near Groton, Conn. In the gray light of morning, the air would fill with creaky, industrial sounds. Now, I assume that we were near a dockyard and the sounds were the squeak and clank of cranes and shipping containers. Back then, I was certain that I was hearing the stars and planets roll from their nighttime locations to their daytime spots in the sky.

Mothers Who Think

Too Old to Crawl, Too Young for School: Toddler Talk

mariannefbs - 05:12 p.m. Pacific Time - Feb. 1, 2005 - #1219 of 1282

Bennett's first trip down the "big slide" at the park was really sweet.

So we go to their favorite park this afternoon.

OK, so picture a really, really long slide but one that is narrow, so you can't tumble down it.

I knew I could catch B. and he watched Sam go down it a few times. I put him down and he started walking up the (36 -- I counted) stairs toward the top.

Sam got really excited and ran back down the stairs to encourage him. So I'm watching them walk up the stairs together -- B. with one leg of his sweat pants hiked up to about his knee, and his diaper kind of saggy b/c he drinks more fluid than the average American adult per day. And B. is being cautious, holding onto the rail and taking it one step at a time.

Sam has his hand on B.'s back and is talking to him excitedly.

They get to the top and Sam (oh yeah, there are two slides right next to each other, connected, so you can hold hands when you go down) sits down on one slide and B. sits down next to him.

S. gives him the tiniest little push and then pushes off himself.

I'm at the bottom just waiting to see how B. is going to do. He had this funny little look on his face.

So he goes down the first half of the slide and he LOVES it and then goes over the bump and goes down on his back for the second half.

I caught him at the end and knew he'd either be terrified or love it.

I swooped him up and gave him a big hug ... and he laughed and wriggled down ... and went straight back up the stairs for another ride.

My baby. On the big slide.

White House

Paul Krugman Is a Wonderful Columnist

Ron Legro - 11:49 a.m. Pacific Time - Feb. 2, 2005 - #6007 of 6018

Wealth redistribution aside (although it's not even being debated, that's the real issue now, namely: In which direction should we redistribute? Up or down?), there's a bigger argument in favor of my point. So let me kick right into non-nitpick mode:

I contend that EVERYONE IN THE USA, without exception, gets something back from SS, regardless of how much if anything they pay in. I mean that in the very real sense that the program provides a base safety net that has stood the nation well economically.

Along with other New Deal measures and a few more enactments since, SS arguably has prevented a second Great Depression. I don't think it has eliminated the possibility of such a calamity, but it surely has greatly reduced the chances -- even given the Bush fiscal cock-up now well underway.

Yes, it's true: SS reduces uncertainty and anxiety throughout our society and so provides economic, well, SECURITY for everyone. And that's worth real money and nontangible benefits to our collective benefit, beyond the fund's actual payouts.

Now, some rich folks suffered in the last depression, but many survived quite well. Unfortunately, their country did not. Should they be concerned about that? Hey, the brilliance of S.S. is that we in the lower economic classes can afford to DEPEND LESS on the relative concern for our collective well being that the upper classes may hold. Bush's dude-ranch reformers are in reality (and this will upset the creationist crowd) a bunch of social Darwinists. The unspoken truth is that they could give a rat's ass about your well-being. Greenspan, Reagan and a Democratic Congress fixed S.S. in the '80s, and then these presumptive deficit hawks came along to promptly raid the cookie jar. Now they express their terrible worry that unless we DO SOMETHING, all we're going to find one day is crumbs. Gee, how did they calculate that?

Remember that great line from "Doonesbury," where the corporate guy is being led away in cuffs: "But, but ... the pension fund was just SITTING there!"

Old news, but Social Security was never meant as a do-all, and yet it's efficacy is now being hung on that very cross of gold. S.S. was conceived to help prevent what before its inception was rampant and gross poverty among our elderly. THAT IT HAS LARGELY ACCOMPLISHED, even among our lower classes.

People who think it has failed as a retirement investment plan are playing a shell game, because, after all, S.S. is not an investment account, it's an insurance plan. So if you believe privatizing S.S. will make you wealthier, get ready to reap the whirlwind.

If you never need S.S., great. If you do end up needing it, whether in your teens or your 70s, be advised that the Bush oil rig is about to start pumping, unless you speak up loudly right now.

Of course, the very concept of Social Security, not just its actual efficacy, is why conservatives since before its enactment have steadily worked to destroy it. Because, to the extent it has succeeded (and even Reagan for all his anti-gov rhetoric realized its importance), S.S. has been real proof that the best way to advance this society is by avoiding the tragedy of the commons, by doing something in our collective power to pinion capitalism's occasional lurches, throwing from the bus not the people who have the front seats, but mostly the ragamuffins barely hanging on to the running boards.

Anyone who takes time to look over the modus operandi of the Bush administration in mounting both the war in Iraq and now Social Security "reform" [more like "deform"] will, if they are objective, discern a common pattern:

Both actions are predicated on highly rhetorical, fearful scenarios. Both are predicated on faulty information, illogic and outright falsehood. And both are enabled by a president whom I am certain will someday be regarded as an incompetent twit and utter nincompoop; a president whose administration was based almost entirely on power, not the polity.

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