Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Haves and the Have Mores

There are many priceless scenes in Fahrenheit 9/11. Here is one of them:

“This is an impressive crowd -- the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite -- I call you my base.” -- George W. Bush


Anonymous said...

This is a good example of Michael Moore's distortions. George Bush said this at a catholic charities fundraiser, the Alfred Smith memorial dinner, which is well known as a forum for political debate and JOKES. This was in the 2000 election race, and Gore was also present at this dinner. Gore poked fun at himself by saying he would always keep social security in a lockbox, medicare in a walk-in closet, and lettuce in the crisper!! George Bush poked fun at the media's portrayal of his base as the rich - which is not the case. This is when he quipped "some call you the elite, I call you my base." That's why all the laughter. It was a JOKE! Michael Moore is talented at one thing for sure - distorting reality to fit his conspiracy theories. He put just enough of the clip in his movie. He didn't tell you what the event was, or the historical significance of it, nor did he show a clip of Gore at said event making jokes also.

Yoshie said...

Bush's remark was a joke, but the joke is funny because it tells the truth wrapped in humor, and the same goes for Gore's joke that you quote, which tells the truth that the idea of putting Social Security -- a pay-as-you-go system -- in a lockbox is a fiction:

[Q.] But if the government has to raise money to pay the SSA in the future anyway, then what’s the point of collecting these surpluses today?

[A.] Good question. From a purely economic perspective, there is no point. The federal government is collecting surplus payroll taxes and then spending them, and will have to raise revenue somehow in the future to pay Social Security benefits. The bonds in the trust fund do nothing to alter this.

Realize that the bonds are non-negotiable, and SSA cannot redeem them for cash unless Congresses allocate money for this purpose. But if future Congresses choose not to repay Social Security, they can simply raise payroll taxes or cut benefits and avoid altogether the need to redeem the bonds. Understanding this, some Democrats have insisted in recent years that Social Security surpluses be used exclusively to repay debts that the government currently owes to the financial markets. This is the idea behind the so-called Social Security "lockbox."

In fact, it makes absolutely no difference to the trust fund whether the surpluses are used to repay public debt, cut taxes, or pay for expanded federal programs, any more than you, as a depositor, need concern yourself with where a bank lends your deposits. But the defenders of the trust fund apparently feel that using the surpluses to repay debt will harden the federal government’s commitment to the security of future retirees. If the money has purportedly been "saved" in a rhetorical "lockbox," the reasoning goes, it will be pretty hard for opponents of Social Security to turn around 10 or 20 years from now and argue that benefits need to be cut.

Now look at this from the perspective of anti-government Republicans. They oppose higher taxes, have little faith in the ability of government to cut spending (and plenty of ideas on how to raise spending for defense and corporate subsidies), and object to the government borrowing cash from the financial markets. They are also none too keen on the idea of workers retiring into extended periods of idleness. Back in the 1930s, when Social Security was established, conservative business groups vehemently opposed it. They gave their support grudgingly, and only when then-President Roosevelt assured them that the system would be funded entirely by payroll taxes on working stiffs. General tax revenues, which are paid largely by upper-income groups, were never to be tapped for Social Security.

But if governments of the future are to honor the commitment implicit in the trust fund, then general revenues will have to be tapped. Real resources will need to be transferred to retirees, above and beyond the 12.4% payroll tax, so that retirees can survive without a paycheck. The amount needed is not that large, but it’s large enough to worry those corporate and wealthy taxpayers who neither need nor want Social Security and who are likely to be asked to foot the bill.

This is why proponents of privatization are claiming that the Social Security trust fund is on the verge of collapse. The trust fund was designed to solve a potential economic problem -- transferring resources to seniors in the future so that American workers can continue to enjoy retirement -- with a political accounting device. Privatization boosters are today exploiting the contradictions inherent in that accounting device to attack Social Security and to justify regressive policies such as raising current payroll taxes or cutting current benefits. (Ellen Frank, "Social Security Q&A," Dollars & Sense 238, November-December 2001,

The Wiz said...

"Many a truth is told in jest"
-William Shakespere