McCain Disagrees with McCain, Joe the Plumber on Social Security
One day after failing to repudiate Joe the Plumber's slanderous claim that Barack Obama represents "death to Israel," John McCain will share a Miami stage with his ersatz working man. As it turns out, Florida is a fitting location for their next joint appearance. No doubt, the elderly voters there will enjoy the spectacle of John McCain's retreat on Social Security, which he recently called "an absolute disgrace" and his new domestic policy adviser/plumber Joe Wurzelbacher blasted as "a joke."
McCain's U-turn on Social Security has already begun. Already trying to conceal his support President Bush's failed attempt the privatize the program, McCain on Tuesday told Fox News' Sean Hannity that he stood behind today's Social Security safety net:
"Now, of course we have an obligation to take care of citizens in our society who can't care for themselves. That's why we have those programs, those Safety Net Programs. But you know, the Safety Net Program, a lot of Americans pay in to Social Security, they pay in to a number of those programs. So the point is, yes, a society and government takes care of citizens who need our help. That's what America is all about."
Sadly for McCain, that's a far cry from the wisdom of Joe the Plumber when it comes to Social Security. In an October 16 interview, Wurzelbacher raged against Social Security.
"Social Security is a joke. I have parents. I don't need another set of parents called the government...Social Security, I never believed in, don't like it."
If that sounds a lot like John McCain from just a few months ago, it should. After all, back in July McCain said pretty much the same thing.
As Mother Jones first reported, John McCain during a Denver town hall meeting attacked Social Security, the very program responsible for dramatically reducing poverty among the elderly, for working exactly as designed:
"Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed."
Appearing on CNN later, McCain only compounded his error. Sounding like a rabid laissez-faire ideologue, an ignorant hack or more likely both, McCain told John Roberts:
"They pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees. That's why it's broken, that's why we can fix it."
As an amazed Jared Bernstein of the Economics Policy Institute put it, "It's like he's saying, 'I just found out that taxes come from people...that's a disgrace.'" MoJo's Nick Baumann summed it up nicely, "McCain is saying, again, that the problem with Social Security is that Social Security is Social Security."
All of which explains why John McCain is now a staunch, if sometimes bashful, proponent of Social Security privatization. In June, Mr. Straight Talk proclaimed at a New Hampshire event, "I'm not for, quote, privatizing Social Security. I never have been. I never will be." Sadly, McCain and his advisers like ousted HP CEO Carly Fiorina are on record declaring fidelity to the idea of diverting Social Security dollars into private accounts. On November 18, 2004, for example, McCain announced, "Without privatization, I don't see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits." (Video here.) And in March 2003, McCain backed his President, declaring, "As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it - along the lines that President Bush proposed."
On the same day Joe the Plumber echoed McCain's disdain for Social Security, a new analysis by the Center for American Progress found that a hypothetical retiree "with a private Social Security account invested in stocks - along the lines of the plan envisioned by President Bush and supported by John McCain in 2005 - would have lost approximately $26,000 if he or she had retired on Oct. 1, 2008, after 35 years of contributions to such an account." And in other news that same day, the Social Security program labeled a "disgrace" by McCain announced that benefits will rise by 5.8% this year.
Given John McCain's hostility to Social Security, America's retirees current and future will do much better under Barack Obama. But that should come as no surprise. After all, so will Joe the Plumber.