|DILEMMA FOR THE PIRATES|
by: Ed Henry
The United Nation's Chief Weapons Inspector, Hans Blix, has finally screwed up enough courage to condemn the U.S. invasion of Iraq—a year after the fact. Now he tells us that the invasion was illegal. Where was he when we were relying on him to tell us that there were no "weapons of mass destruction" pointed at us? Where were these strong statements when it would have counted, when he had everyone's attention, when it would have meant something more than today's back page news?
Could it be that otherwise good minds and responsible people bend to political pressure and bend to the point that they just can't say "no" to their sponsors or authority figures? Are they afraid to go against stronger wills? Do they lack the courage to take on authority? Are there subjects that are simply taboo? What ever happened to the idea that the truth would win out and set us free?
On June 19, 2001, at a luncheon speech to the Coalition for American Financial Security, former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill started a furor when he mentioned in his abbreviated way that the Social Security trust funds held "no viable assets." The Cato Institute, the right wing think tank, immediately praised him for his honesty and for months the controversy raged—right up to the horrors of 9/11. It was front page news. People even began questioning and laughing about the value of federal trust funds—the real issue and a flagrant scam that goes far beyond the supplemental retirement system.
Yet, once he resigned, the same man teamed with Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Ron Suskind to come out with a book titled "The Price of Loyalty" where the dramatic episode of trust funds and the statement he made repeatedly isn't even mentioned. Not even a passing glance in a 331 page book that reads like a Hollywood gossip columnist's report of insider happenings. Why?
In fact, the Social Security trust fund issue didn't raise its ugly head again until Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, and a slew of other publicly held private sector companies were accused of fraud. As one example, people like Walter Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University came out with articles proclaiming that "Washington fraud and deception of a much greater magnitude doesn't make the headlines because fraud and deception in government is standard practice ... Washington politicians have for decades been doing precisely what Enron has been accused of doing ... concealing debt with accounting tricks."
Before the public could blink, the "War on Iraq" and "weapons of mass destruction" was the major topic and the trust fund issue was buried once again.
On a smaller scale, we are today faced with the Social Security issue once more. This time, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve has told the House Budget Committee that reducing benefits is one way to reduce deficits. We also have President Bush, faced with fading popularity, desperately starting to mumble once again about "private accounts" for young entry level McDonald's workers and his major opponent reminding us that Bush promised not to touch Social Security money.
In other words, we are once again hearing ridiculous, unnecessary, and innocuous proposals and ideas that are on a par with the "lock-boxes" that occupied so much of Washington's time and efforts when real trust funds have always been, by their very nature, lock-boxes.
Any time Social Security is brought to the forefront the public's attention and response is overwhelming. Yet, the loyal media seems incapable of asking the right questions and the Beltway Bandits themselves, now seeking election and re-election, stumble over their own lies and spin stories in futile attempts to cover up a crime for which they have no defense. No one will attack the subject head on and honestly. They all hope it will remain a minor issue, relegated to the back burner, or a subject to which they pay lip service but continually manage to avoid.
President Bush would like to make his income tax cuts permanent. The problem is that he cannot explain the rationale for doing so without explaining where surpluses came from, and he doesn't want to do that because the great bulk of any surplus this country has ever enjoyed has always come from entitlements like Social Security.
For instance, in fiscal 2000, the year of our greatest surplus of $237 billion—only $87 billion came from income tax overcharges. The rest came from 24 different entitlements ($149.8 billion) with Social Security leading the pack with payroll tax overcharges of $94.5 billion that year.
In January of 2001, shortly after his inauguration, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) presented testimony that predicted the $87 billion income tax surplus was going to grow to a surplus of $1.6 trillion over the next decade. This is the money Bush cut and the democrats want back. But the same testimony showed entitlement surpluses reaching something like $3.4 trillion over the same ten year period.
Further complicating the subject is the fact that average people don't understand how we can have surpluses and huge deficits at the same time, but that's exactly what is happening. Last year, fiscal 2003, the Bush administration ran up the national debt $555 billion while, at the same time, Social Security produced a surplus of $82 billion, despite high unemployment. Surpluses are not gone, they're just hidden and not talked about. It depends on whether they use what's called "the unified budget" accounting method, a method which is not in favor when deficits exceed surpluses.
Talking heads of television and respected debate monitors simply do not know the proper questions to ask or are not permitted to do so. For instance, none of these so-called watchdog newshounds would ask a politician how the Social Security trust funds (Federal Old Age & Survivors Insurance and the Federal Disability Insurance) became 22 percent of the national debt. Nor will they ask politicians to explain what "off budget" revenue is in any detail.
Every member of Congress and the administration knows thoroughly the scam they've been pulling. Not only do we have confessions from the horse's mouth, but both the House and the Senate have Budget, Finance, Ways & Means, Tax and other committees detailing and predicting Social Security and other entitlement surpluses. They also have the General Accounting Office (GAO), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Office of Management and Budgets (OMB), and of course the U.S. Treasury to help them with constant reports to every representative in Washington.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the likely candidate to run against Bush, is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, the Subcommittee on Health Care, and the Subcommittee on Social Security and Family Policy. Therefore, the Senator knows about the $270 billion Social Security surplus Congress and the Bush administration have stolen during the last three years, a crime that makes Enron look like pikers playing in the same sandbox. He's a leading member of the Beltway Bandits.
Do you hear Senator Kerry saying anything at all about reforming this fraudulent trust fund rip-off? Do you believe that the scam will change under a Kerry administration?
And the really sad part is that the outsiders like Howard Dean, Ralph Nader, or any of the possible third party candidates who are not yet guilty of theft and fraud also haven't the guts, know-how, or inclination to tackle the scam where 42 percent of the national debt, including Social Security's trust funds, is absolutely fraudulent and serves no purpose other than to double tax us plus interest, a demonstrable thing that's already happening with some of the lesser bogus entitlement trust funds such as the Unemployment trust fund.