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blackout in Alabama and Canned Cheers for Bush's Social Security Scheme

by Dave Lindorff Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2005 at 1:40 PM
dlindorff@yahoo.com

A slick suburban magazine in Montgomery, Alabama, touts the President’s Social Security wrecking scheme, but it seems to be only talking to white folks.

If you want to understand why the president's plan to destroy Social Security is moving ahead in Congress despite the lunacy and sophistry of its arguments, and despite polls showing widespread public skepticism, just read the cover story in the April edition of Montgomery Living, a glossy magazine published in Montgomery County, Alabama.

I received a copy of this magazine erroneously, I assume because I live in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where there is a magazine by the same name.

I thumbed through this misdirected magazine out of curiosity, and was immediately struck by what was missing: black people. Here's a picture magazine being published in a state that the Census Bureau tells us is 26 percent African-American (that's twice the percentage of black people in the general American population) and out of all the 146 people depicted in the editorial portion of the publication, only five are black--and all of those are way in the background.

Then I turned to the feature article, written by the magazine's editor, Jennifer Steward Kornegay. The cover headline was "A Presidential Occasion" and featured a photo taken from the floor of a towering, smiling President Bush reaching into a sea of (white) hands.

Inside, the headline was "Selling Social Security," and the article gave only the White House line. It began with a description of the 4000 people who had "anxiously awaited the arrival" of the president and who gave him a "thunderous applause" as he entered the sports hall of Auburn University "wearing an ear-to-ear smile." There was, of course, no mention of the fact that this audience, like the audiences at the 59 other stops on the president's Social Security road show, was handpicked using advance tickets provided by the state's Republican congressional delegation.

The article went on to quote the president as saying that while "Social Security was a good idea," now "the math has changed," and that "in 2029, the program will be 0 billion short." The article featured a box saying misleadingly that the cost of "fixing" Social Security in 2004 was .4 trillion, and that "every year we wait costs an additional 0 billion." The box also claimed, erroneously, that "Today’s 30-year-old worker can expect a 27 percent benefit cut from the current system when he or she reaches normal retirement age," a grim picture that, "without action" will "only get worse." (The truth: that prediction, cited ad nauseum by the president, is based upon an unreasonably pessimistic assumption by the highly politicized Social Security Board of Trustees of only 1.8 percent annual economic growth between now and 2040.)

The article then described Bush’s privatization plan for Social Security as "one key part of the president’s plan," though even the president himself has admitted that privatization does nothing to solve any projected shortfall in Social Security funding, and in fact worsens any problems by reducing the amount current workers pay into the Trust Fund, thus necessitating trillion in extra federal borrowing.

Finally, in a complete non-sequitor, the article quotes an unnamed "local financial professional" (who no doubt figures he or she has something to gain from privatization) as touting the pension plan for public employees in Galveston, Texas, who opted out of Social Security and who now instead pay into a local pension system. Since nobody is talking about fully privatizing Social Security, the Galveston public employee pension is as irrelevant to this story as GM’s pension plan. Further more, unlike the Social Security system, the Galveston pension plan has no disability provision, or survivor benefits, and thus is wholly different from Social Security. (As well, it is worth remembering that in severe economic downturns, municipalities like Galveston can go belly-up, taking their pension programs with them. And if Galveston's workers get laid off prematurely, they will not be able to just start working at another job and have their partially invested pension roll over into a Social Security account.)

All in all, the Montgomery Living article gave an entirely false impression of the popularity of the president's proposal, of the nature of the alleged "problem" facing Social Security, and of the nature of the president's proposed "solution."

No wonder people are confused.

At least Montgomery County's African-American citizens won't be snookered, though. If the Montgomery Living art director's choice of photos, and the accompanying advertisements' almost complete avoidance of black faces, are any indication of the magazine's target demographic, it's unlikely that they will even read this magazine.

For the rest of this column and other stories by Lindorff, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .

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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 30 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
the realer deal Sheepdog Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2005 at 9:18 PM
safe market Sheepdog Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2005 at 11:58 PM
Social security irony Conservatron Thursday, Apr. 14, 2005 at 12:21 AM
just one little thing Sheepdog Thursday, Apr. 14, 2005 at 12:28 AM
Goodbye SS Conservatron Thursday, Apr. 14, 2005 at 2:52 AM
uh, conservatron Sheepdog Thursday, Apr. 14, 2005 at 3:39 AM
Another feeble attempt to ignore the elephant in the room Conservatron Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 12:21 AM
And now, pravda Sheepdog Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 12:59 AM
Slow boat to China Conservatron Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 2:28 AM
hmmm... Sheepdog Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 4:47 PM
How about opening a window? CT Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 11:08 PM
free market? Where is it? Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 11:18 PM
the caring left CT Saturday, Apr. 16, 2005 at 12:24 AM
So your 'free market' is BS So... Saturday, Apr. 16, 2005 at 12:37 AM
fresca oh yeah Saturday, Apr. 16, 2005 at 3:23 AM
I should forget it, fresc CT Saturday, Apr. 16, 2005 at 3:59 AM
spell check- anon Saturday, Apr. 16, 2005 at 6:24 AM
It's amusing Sheepdog Saturday, Apr. 16, 2005 at 11:31 AM
It's a shame Conservatron, Your Ruler Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 1:23 AM
fresca on the contrary Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 2:07 AM
to be condemned by fresca. Sheepdog Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 5:29 AM
Now back to the Social Security issue Sheepdog Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 6:05 AM
fresca lol Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 10:51 AM
well, if I were a criminal Sheepdog Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 11:28 AM
the real o.c. PROTEST 1 Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 3:37 PM
The guy above needs some more drugs Sheepdôg Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 6:22 PM
i thought it was a fun story more rational Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 9:05 PM
this is BAD yorp Sunday, Apr. 17, 2005 at 9:59 PM

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