In his commentary entitled “Unsocial Insecurity” (New Yorker; Jan 34-31) Hendrick Hertzberg asks why the White House seems determined to fix the Social Security system when it is, in fact, not broken. One possible reason he gives is that privatization will spur young people to think like investors, thereby augmenting Republican rolls. He offers a second more cynical explanation—that privatization would transfer vast amounts of money to Wall Street and swell party coffers with stockbroker’s contributions. The third reason he explores is ideological, the Republican belief that it is good to save, be self reliant and plan ahead; that privatization will encourage “wholesome” Republican values. All three explanations are probably true to some degree.
But I believe Hertzberg overlooks a far more cynical, arguably malicious, motive that drives this administration. The Bush regime wants a huge deficit to “starve the beast” of government. Privatization would create an additional trillion-dollar deficit. I believe that the Iraq war waged for fictitious reasons, this imaginary social security crisis-and-fix, as well as Bush’s huge tax cuts all serve the same purpose. If the goal is to get rid of most social welfare programs, outlandish tax cuts and huge expenditures are a far more efficient approach than piece-meal cutting. Even more sinister, I believe it is understood by the architects of these policies that the poor and the enfeebled will be the ones to suffer (and even die). Such suffering would not be an unintended consequence. They see cutting off the poor and infirm from government assistance as key to creating the better society they envision; their aim is to free society of the drag imposed by those who, in the eyes of the increasingly ruthless right, don’t pull their own weight.
The designers of the White House policies—the so-called “neo-cons”—are clearly imbued with an ideology that can only be described as Nietzschean/Malthusian. “Why spend billions yearly on welfare programs which encourage passive insufficiency, don’t help anyway and only prolong the agony of the unfit?” they ask. “Cut the funding and let nature take its course. Many will see the light, smell the coffee and pull themselves together and become productive citizens. As for the rest, whatever happens will be the result of their own freely made choices. American is a land of opportunity where anyone can make it if they try. So let the chips fall as they may.”
The most extreme and never openly expressed view of these conservative extremists is: Let those who are self-destructive, undisciplined, and willfully unproductive perish—let them die—if they so choose, while we invest in the talented, self reliant and productive. In this view Rowanda, Bosnia, the AIDS epidemics, the tsunami, and de-funding social services are just natural and inevitable Malthusian phenomena that serve to selectively depopulate a world that is failing to allow the talented their proper place in history. When GWB boasts that he will spend his capital he quite literally means that he will give his political base—the Uber privileged, the economic elect—what he takes away from the poor and needy.
Dr. (and Mrs.) Claude Steiner PhD