D.C. LYM Breaks the Axioms of the Impact of Social Security on African-Americans
March 3, 2005 • 8:00PM

by Kesha Rogers

A meeting held on March 1 by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies here, addressed the impact of Social Security on African Americans. The members of the panel included Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Dean Baker (Center for Econ Policy Research), Horace Cooper (National Center for Public Policy Research), Robert Johnson (BET, former member of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security), and Maya Rockymore (Congressional Black Caucus Foundation). The panel engaged in an open discussion with those both in favor of privatization and those greatly opposed.

Congressman Rangel took the floor first, going after President Bush on his statements that blacks will benefit from private retirement accounts because their lifespans are shorter than whites, and therefore, they lose out on Social Security. Rangel said that he was black. and planned to live to a ripe old age, and that Bush should be promoting programs to insure that the longevity gap is closed, instead of trying to exploit it. He also stated that most blacks cannot afford to invest in private accounts, as he discussed the breakdown in employment.Fairy Tales

Rob Johnson of BET had a different take on the discussion. He believed in the fairy tale that blacks should be included in the "wealth factor." He told the story of how he had invested in the stock market and made a fortune. If more African Americans invested as he had, this would make them wealthier, he claimed, something that Social Security could not provide.

Rangel seemed to be pulled into the insanity for a moment, stating that investment in private accounts was good as a back up saving plan, not as a replacement of Social Security. He failed to address the financial crisis and the fact that the markets are bankrupt.

Throughout the discussion, the tension rose, and became more heated during the question-and-answer period. After the insanity expressed by a number of the panelists on the need to invest in private accounts, Kesha Rogers put on the table the question of George Shultz. She asked the panel if they were familiar with the policies set forth by Shultz in 1971 under President Richard Nixon to destroy Bretton Woods. She then noted that there was too much emphasis on monetary value. She said that we had to look at the impact of 30 years of collapse of our nation's infrastructure, and that there had to be a solution put forth that would create jobs and rebuild our nation.Austerity or Jobs

The moderator noted that it was a good point made, and asked the panel if they wanted to take it up. There were various responses from the panel, including one from Cooper of the National Center for Public Policy Research, whose only answer was more austerity—exactly the economic insanity that has led us into this crisis. Rockymore of the CBS Foundation cut him down, explaining that the floor had fallen into the basement, and there was no place else to cut.

One of the panelists addressed Roger's question, by agreeing that the collapse of jobs, means that job-creation should be addressed. She also said that Social Security is the only security that people can depend on, and that it must be kept intact. LYM member Neil Martin conveyed, in his question to Cooper, that Cooper had just implied job creation did not improve the economy and Social Security. Neil said that free trade had looted countries and not created wealth. When you go to a grocery store, money is not on the shelf, food is, and it is because of production. This Social Security privatization is the method Shultz will use to deal with an economic collapse. You will not admit this, but your policy is to help the bankers and screw the people. Cooper's lunatic response was that manufacturing does not create wealth.

In the discussions following the panel, Rogers spoke with a member of the panel who was anti-privatization. She gave her a copy of the Shultz pamphlet. She stated that Rogers' question changed the course of the discussion. Dean Baker also received the second edition of the pamphlet, and admitted that there was not enough emphasis on going after Wall Street. Cooper received one on the way out the door. Kesha told him he was wrong and that he should stop hanging out with Arnold Schwarzenegger.