Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"We're not fools"

Lame duck DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe sent out an email today, calling for all Democrats to "send a message to President Bush: It's time for him to stand up and tell America that tying Social Security benefits to race and gender is wrong."

Not unreasonable, but misleading. The quote refers to Rep. Bill Thomas' comments last Sunday, but takes them somewhat out of context. Thomas said that extending the retirement age for certain groups of people was tantamount to cutting their benefits, and argued that any proposal to reform Social Security would have to examine that phenomenon:

MR. RUSSERT: So if someone is a woman and they live longer, they would get less per year?
REP. THOMAS: It's not that you would do it; it's something that you need to look at. Because if you extend the age beyond 78, if you go to 80 or 82, all of those concerns about race, occupation and gender are exacerbated. And you shouldn't just extend the age without understanding the additional complications and unfairness that you're bringing into the system. That's the point I'm trying to make.

And who agrees with this assessment but NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, no Republican he (from 2000):

"The problem is if you are ... of African ancestry you don’t get to 65 that often. But if we’re not even getting to 65 and you want to take what little we have and tell us we can’t get it until we are 70, we want to say that we’re not fools and we’re not going to stand for that. Leave Social Security alone and don’t mess with the retirement age!"

The fact is, any meaningful reform of Social Security needs to consider the retirement age. People are living longer lives, and life expectancy in America will almost certainly rise over the next half-century.
Like I said, I don't know a whole lot about the mechanics of Social Security. But if the Republicans and the NAACP agree on the notion that race affects benefit payouts (even if they disagree fundamentally on the privatization of SS), it should at least be discussed. Tell me if I'm missing something.


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