The morning after George W. Bush won reelection in 2004, he famously bragged: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it."
So, after his January 2005 swearing-in, he traveled the country for six months arguing the merits of privatizing social security by allowing seniors to peg some of their retirement benefits to the stock market, which was on an uptick at the time.
It turns out Bush had far less capital than he thought. The war in Iraq had drained his clout, and his vague, non-specific pitch fell on deaf ears.
Republicans always push their stock market scheme for social security when the market is hot and citizen expectation is through the roof. The goal is to help the financial industry reap the investment fees from retirees... never mind that retirees are already free to invest in the stock market without risking their government safety net. Republicans want to transfer some of that safety net into the hands of Wall Street, plain and simple.
But they never bring this up during extended down periods in the stock market, do they? According to the Sept. 24, 2001 edition of the conservative Human Events, "the net worth of American citizens dropped by $1 trillion in the first few days after Wall Street reopened the stock market" following the 9/11 tragedy. Seven years later things are getting even uglier, and John McCain is on record: he favors private investment accounts that would allow retirees to gamble away a percentage of their SS benefits.
Granted, the system needs tweaking. For starters, the amount of income taxed for SS purposes should be raised beyond the current cap of $102,000. As it stands now, the wealthy don't pay SS taxes on annual income above that amount. It makes no sense -- and is unfair -- that high income earners pay a lower percentage of their income in SS taxes than the middle class. Also, it may be that benefits need to be trimmed for the wealthiest of recipients, and perhaps the retirement age should be upped slightly.
These are difficult calls to make, but all of them are doable to stabilize the system for the future. Besides, we elect and pay our politicians to make these tough decisions. It's their job.
In any event, shouldn't Hillary and Barack -- and every other Democrat -- be showing the risky nature of the preferred Republican plan at this very moment? After all, the stock market has dropped 2,000 points in four short months, more than after 9/11. It's regained less than a quarter of that, and the outlook going forward is not rosy.
If the Republicans had gotten their way, newly minted retirees who took a six month gander on part of their retirement nest egg last summer would be up the river right about now!
No doubt the dems are holding back; it's always a great general election issue against repubs, anyway. But the press should have no reason to hold back.
There is no better time to remind voters of the riskiness of the Republican plan than when the stock market is deep in the doldrums, as it is these days.