Saturday, April 04, 2009

Excerpt of the day

From Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy by Noam Chomsky

Sensible people will seek differences between the Social Security and health care systems that might explain the paradox [of why S.S. "reform" is an issue for some in politics, while health care isn't despite the success of Social Security and the inadequacy of health care.]. And they will quickly find critical differences, which are quite familiar in other domains: the paradox mirrors closely the “schizophrenia” of all administrations that underlines the “strong line of continuity” with regard to “democracy promotion,” to take one example. Social Security is of little value for the rich, but is crucial for survival for working people, the poor, their dependents, and the disabled. For the wealthy, it is an irrelevant pittance. But for close to 60 percent of the population it is the “major source” of retirement income, and the most secure. Furthermore, as a government program, it has such low administrative costs that it offers nothing to financial institutions. Social Security helps only the underlying population, not the substantial people. It is therefore natural that it should be dispatched to the flames. The medical system, in contrast, works very well for the substantial people, with health care effectively rationed by wealth, while enormous profits flow to private power for superfluous bureaucracy and supervision, overpriced drugs, and other useful inefficiencies. The underlying population can be treated with lectures on responsibility.

There are other sound reasons to destroy the Social Security system. It is based on principles that are deeply offensive to the moral values of the political leadership and the sectors they represent – not those who vote for them, a different category of the population. Social Security is based on the idea that it is a community responsibility to ensure that the disabled widow on the other side of town has food to eat, or that the child across the street should be able to go to a decent school. Such evil ideas have to be driven from the mind. They stand in the way of the “New Spirit of the Age” of the 1850s: “Gain Wealth, forgetting all but Self.” According to right thinking, it isn’t my fault if the widow married the wrong person of if the child’s parents made bad investment decisions, so why should I contribute a few cents to a public fund to take care of them? The “ownership society,” in contrast, suffers from none of these moral defects.

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