Bush: Social Security Shortchanges Black Seniors
Bush says Social Security shortchanges black seniors (LAT – Buffalo News)
Race became a significant factor in the debate over Social Security on Tuesday when President Bush told black leaders that the government retirement program shortchanged blacks, whose relatively shorter life span meant they paid more in payroll taxes than they eventually received in benefits. Bush’s comments came during a private White House meeting with 22 black religious and business leaders who backed his re-election last year – marking a new line of argument in the president’s attempts to win support for adding worker-owned investment accounts to Social Security. The conversation demonstrated the White House’s determination to build on outreach efforts to blacks that proved effective in battleground states last year, adding Social Security to a list of moral issues – such as opposition to same-sex marriage and support for faith-based social programs – that Republicans see as providing common ground with black conservatives.
White House officials did not release a transcript of the hourlong meeting, but several participants said Bush was adamant that his Social Security plan had special appeal to blacks – and that he intended to make that point in public. “He brought to our attention that African-Americans in particular need to understand how Social Security in its present condition affects the African-American community,” said Michelle D. Bernard, senior vice president of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, a Washington policy group.
Robert L. Woodson, who heads the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, said Bush’s remarks were well-received. “He feels that we need to have some options,” said Woodson, whose organization focuses on community revitalization efforts, largely in low-income areas.
Underscoring the rift among black leaders, the president’s remarks are likely to meet resistance today when members of the all-Democratic Congressional Black Caucus are scheduled to visit the White House. Caucus leaders contend that blacks rely disproportionately on disability and survivors’ benefits paid by Social Security, and that Bush’s changes would jeopardize the entire system – hurting black beneficiaries far more than the private accounts might help them. Furthermore, the White House’s opponents argue, the vagaries of the stock market could leave private-account holders with fewer benefits than the current system guarantees. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush did not support altering the disability-benefits or survivors’-benefits pieces of Social Security – only the retirement benefits.
The point on the racial disparity of Social Security retirement benefits has been made time and again, including by prominent liberal black leaders such as Jesse Jackson. For Bush to co-opt this as a major selling point of his reform effort is simply brilliant. Karl Rove at his finest, one presumes.
So, the Bush administration thinks it’s okay to use racial profiling to hand out government retirement benefits, but it’s not okay to use racial profiling to prevent terrorists from getting on planes?
Fair enough. Of course, the nature of racial politics has always been that it’s acceptable to point out disparities in one direction (i.e., blacks are underrepresented in elite medical school admissions) but not the other (i.e., blacks are overrepresented in prisons). One can get away with the latter to point out victimization, not problematic behavior patterns.