Defending Social Security means fighting war and poverty

Workers aren’t buying Bush’s Social Security privatization plan. San Francisco, March 31.

Photo: Bill Hackwell
While the anti-poverty program is cautiously initiated [and] zealously supervised, … billions are liberally expended for this ill-considered war. The recently revealed misestimate of the war budget amounts to tens of billions of dollars for a single year. This error alone is more than five times the amount committed to anti-poverty programs. The security we profess to seek in foreign adventures we will lose in our decaying cities. The bombs in Vietnam explode at home.
— Martin Luther King Jr., The Casualties of the War in Vietnam (Feb. 25, 1967

Just over one month prior to his famous “Beyond Vietnam” speech at New York City’s Riverside Church, Martin Luther King Jr. made this statement linking war abroad to domestic poverty. His message was clear: the U.S. government cannot have a war in Vietnam costing hundreds of billions of dollars while at the same time pretending to fight poverty at home.

King exposed the U.S. government’s lies to justify its imperialist war against Vietnam. Two years before that speech, in 1965, the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson had drastically escalated the Vietnam War.

Forty years later, the Bush administration is trying to sell similar lies to workers in the United States. But just like during the Vietnam War, the equation does not work. The government cannot honestly claim it is reducing or eliminating 150 much-needed social service programs and trying to privatize Social Security in order to balance the budget or reduce the $8 trillion national deficit when it is spending $200 million a day to occupy Iraq.

King’s thesis holds true today: U.S. foreign policy is not separate from domestic policy. We could go further: foreign policy is really an extension of domestic policy. Both reflect the interests of a small group of people in the United States—the capitalist class.
This class comprises less than one percent of the population, but they own or control 40 percent of the wealth. It is the only class that benefits from the occupation of Iraq, just as it benefits from cuts in wages and rising costs of housing and health care in the United States.

Marketing class warfare

To justify and “sell” these policies to workers across the country, the Bush administration carries out mass marketing campaigns not unlike those used to sell McDonald’s, Coke and other commercial products.

When asked why the White House waited until September 2002 to make its case for war in Iraq, Andrew H. Card Jr., Bush’s chief of staff, explained: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” (New York Times, Sept. 7, 2002) The Bush administration was waiting for the right moment to launch its campaign to convince the public that war was justified.

Now that the U.S. government has toppled the Iraqi government and occupied the country for over two years, U.S. corporations are free to exploit the land, resources and labor of Iraq to their benefit.

In that time, the justifications for war used by the Bush administration have been exposed. There were no weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons. There was no link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The deception was so blatant that even the bourgeois press could not go along with it.

These so-called justifications never really mattered to Washington. The distortions were carefully constructed to scare the public and market what the administration was trying to accomplish—control of Iraq’s oil resources.

To sell the war, Washington could not tell the truth. How could it tell soldiers’ families that their daughter or son, wife or husband would be fighting and possibly dying in a war to loot Iraq’s resources and privatize the oil, all to enrich executives and investors at Chase, ExxonMobil, Halliburton and Bechtel?

The Bush administration can never reveal its true objectives and interests. These are all aimed at making the rich even richer and keeping the working class poor. That’s why Bush now talks about the urgent need to “reform” Social Security, instead of admitting that his goal is to privatize and ultimately eliminate it to further enrich the ruling class.

The creation of a ‘crisis’

When Bush won his second term in November 2004, he and his aides began to assert that Social Security was in “crisis.” Just like the purported “grave and imminent danger” posed by Iraq, now there is a “grave and imminent danger” to Social Security.

The administration promoted its Social Security plan with a 60-day, 60-city tour. George Bush, Dick Cheney and U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary John Snow traveled from state to state, disorienting people to get them behind their plan. Although the subject and focus is different, this campaign is no different than the campaign to sell the war in Iraq.

Massive marketing campaigns like this are carried out to convince working-class people to go along with programs that are not in their interests. Indeed, the Bush administration’s Social Security plan is in direct opposition to the interests of the entire U.S. working class.

The administration says privatization is the only way to “save” the program. But privatization is no more about “saving” Social Security than the invasion of Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction.
Bush and his ruling-class allies are really pushing a scheme to channel hundreds of billions of dollars to big Wall Street firms like Charles Schwab, Wachovia Corp. and others. These corporate investment giants stand to make $940 billion or more in fees over the next 75 years if Bush’s plan succeeds. (AFL, March 29)

Social Security is not the only social benefit the capitalists are after. In the Bush administration’s second term, it is doing the same thing on the home front as it began to do internationally in its first term: the elimination of anything that stands in the way of maximizing profits for the capitalist class.

The administration has escalated its drive to demolish any domestic obstacle to profits. From attacks on Social Security to cutting funding for public housing and social service programs, the Bush administration seeks a massive transfer of wealth out of the hands of workers and into Wall Street’s coffers.

Overcoming ‘divide and conquer’

To carry out this program, the Bush administration is utilizing the tried and true capitalist “divide and conquer” strategy. It is promoting racism, dividing older workers from younger workers, dividing immigrants from citizens and fostering religious bigotry, sexism and discrimination against LGBT people.

All those who seek to defeat the Bush program should meet this challenge head on. A strong, united movement can defeat the right-wing assault by the capitalist class

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