E.W. Jackson used an anomaly in Social Security history to score an oversimplified and essentially dishonest political point. Typical of the new conservative, Jackson either ignores history, is uninterested in facts or context, or is ignorant. In this respect, “the media” swims in the same cesspool.
“In Galveston, Texas, they have allowed people to privatize part of their Social Security. And people are building wealth.” – E. J. Jackson
Impracticable Economic Deceptions (IEDs) are the currency of the “free market” right and sustain the Tea Party utopian ideal. The Republican Party has propagated these myths with passion. The origin of the species can be traced to the less evolved and more transparent supply side Laffer curve which has sired many well-camouflaged mutant and hybrid economic myths. These IEDs have been deployed along the path to our future and threaten to devastate any hope for the American dream.
Jackson’s pointless point about the Galveston pension system is instructive. First, it is about the shorthand that the right uses constructing mantras that appeal to the under and misinformed. Next, Social Security, like health care reform, suffered obstruction and practical implementation issues from its inception. What Jackson has helped fashion by planting Galveston in the heads of the thankfully few Virginians who heard or read about the Republican debate is a piece of an horrific IED: privatizing Social Security.
As we have witnessed in the health care debate, obstructionists motivate by fear, creating the first line of defense against progress. They hold the line while those who really have a vested interest in the status quo assess the facts and how change serves or threatens their interests. In the case of Social Security one of those interests was public employee pension plans that were already in place when FDR proposed a safety net for the elderly. Exceptions to participation in the proposed broader federal scheme were set in place in part to grandfather pension plans that were already established; their constituency already protected from penury. For various reasons, among them equal protection, a door was left open to state and local governments allowing them to opt out of the grander federal scheme for some time. That door was slammed shut during the administration of none other than Tea Party icon Ronald Reagan.
Bishop Jackson’s sin is either one of omission or one of commission. It really doesn’t matter. Both are just as egregious. Returning to the first point, this new reactionary shorthand is a more insidious replacement for dog whistle politics. Where the dog whistle was a message meant by the sender to be clearly received by a hateful constituency yet provide credible deniability, this new shorthand is often just a mantra that does not require either to know what the other is thinking or understands because neither knows what they are talking about anyway and it doesn’t matter that those outside the constituency hear it because it is senseless. It plays on ignorance more than hate but still uses fear born of ignorance. In this particular case, Jackson could have chosen, say, the Massachusetts state pension plan, but that might have drawn attention to the fact that some housekeeping has been required since Willard left office (he abetted an IED) and that Willard did not implement a privatization scheme despite his state’s plan’s disassociation from Social Security.
When Jackson dropped his little factoid about the Galveston pension plan, he was willing to imply anything his audience wanted, so long as they saw him sharing a mutually suffered injustice. Neither he nor his audience has a clue what either understood except that there’s something people in Galveston have that they don’t and they want everything anyone else has.
So, let’s review what those Galvestonians have. They have a pension plan that is not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, something you’d expect a conservative to hold in high regard. They have a plan that favors executives (familiar?). They have a plan with no cost of living adjustments. They have a plan that excludes them from receiving social security benefits if they haven’t worked in the private sector for the required 40 quarters; and if they have, their contributions will provide them either a meager social security benefit or a meager public pension or both. They have a plan that allows them to fall victim to their own demons: cash it out, fritter it away by design or deception, leaving them absolutely penniless in old age and on the dole, drawing from the government they didn’t trust with their pension.
And here is what Politifact delivers: a shallow analysis that lets Jackson slide on this cheap tactic. Instead of wasting their time confusing facts with truth, when Jackson mentioned Galveston, they would have been better of asking “So what?” But that would have required they know what any of them was talking about and that is not important in today’s conservative movement or mass media.
Side note: Jackson cancelled a Meet and Greet today in Virginia Beach due to “unforeseen circumstances.”