The five W's and the bonus H swirled through my head in the aftermath of the latest GOP candidate debate and the heated exchange between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry over Perry's views on Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. What I found especially frightening was the enthusiastic applause from the audience for Rick Perry as he proposed, essentially, to dismantle Social Security.
WHO are these people? Are they independently wealthy trust fund babies? Do they think they will never grow old? Do they imagine that their fluctuating 401K's will support them adequately -- if they're lucky enough to have them -- and a job? Do they have well-off extended family from whom they can expect support in their dotage? What are they thinking??
WHAT happened to the third rail of politics -- the safety net for the hard-working middle class? The people doing the political posturing about Social Security being such a drag on the economy and the people -- like the President -- so ready to bargain and chip away at the social safety net that we middle class taxpayers have worked and paid for all these years are set for life. They'll never have to worry about paying for food and shelter as they age. They seem tragically out of touch with the rest of us.
WHEN did people start to ingest corporate Kool-Aid and turn on each other? Why can't we stand together and fight for what is legally and ethically ours? We've paid into the system for 30 or 40 or more years. It's true that some will get more from Social Security than they paid in. But a lot will get less -- much less. I have many friends -- as well as my parents -- who died before they collected a dime of Social Security. Those of us lucky enough to survive to retirement aren't getting charity: we're collecting on the social insurance for which we have paid. The current political climate seems set on playing one generation against another in an effort to distract us from the inequality and injustice of corporate welfare.
WHERE did all the money go that was supposed to prepare Social Security to thrive through the retirement of the Baby Boomers? I remember a substantial increase in payroll taxes during Reagan's first term with the express purpose of building a reserve. What happened to that? If it was depleted by government borrowing, hard-working, payroll-tax paying citizens are owed a big payback. (And if, as Perry said later, that his objection is to the government's sneak theft of the Social Security reserve funds, I can agree with that. But that isn't what he was saying earlier.)
WHY is Social Security even an issue in the debate when we have two costly wars ongoing, incredible tax breaks for the rich (whose personal wealth has climbed to breath-taking heights) while the increasingly productive middle class has seen wages stagnate -- for those who still have wages at all?
HOW are we going to regain sanity and come up with real solutions to our financial challenges minus political posturing and bipartisan rancor?
At this point, I only have questions.