W's Secret Social Security Plan

Why soon-to-be-retired folks who don't enjoy dog food should be worried

| Thu May 18, 2000 3:00 AM EDT

Guess what? George W. has a secret plan to save Social Security. Politicians love secret plans. All the excitement of actually taking a stand without any of the messy details. Silly old specifics are for kids. And election years have a way of bringing out secret plans like mushroom spores after a spring rain in Iowa.

The reason those secret plans are so darn popular is because they are usually a response to a pent-up outcry. You know, issues that people are really really worried about. Kind of a "Hey. Hey. Hey. We're serious this time. We want something done about this." And the secret plan is a "Hey, I hear ya and I got this great idea. But I don't want them to get a hold of it." The problem is often so complex that a campaign manager would rather have his candidate photographed naked under a goat at a Junkie Hookers for Satan convention than get involved in a point/counter-point discussion on the particulars of a plan in the middle of an election.

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But the really big secret about secret plans is that most of the time they end up working. Because the people aren't kidding around anymore. And the candidate who becomes the officeholder realizes it. He had better do something, anything, to shut the whiny people up for crum's sake. So he gets his best people on it, and they all brainstorm some action so the people will shut the hell up, and the big business guys won't slip him evaporated slices of Antarctica when he comes begging for re-election money in one or three or five years. Something, as they say, that everybody can live with. Then he implements the secret plan. And it works, kinda.

Johnson's secret plan was to end poverty, and well, at least he managed to isolate it by color. Nixon had a secret plan to end the war, and it worked pretty well. Turns out his plan was to let the Vietnamese win. One can only guess that Ford's secret plan was to remain upright, in which he was successful 98 per cent of the time. Carter kept his secret plan secret, which was totally wrong. And Reagan and Clinton never needed secret plans. They had good hair. I expect a secret plan from Al Gore any day now.

We all have secret plans, and we respect them. Secret plans to get rich. Secret plans to get promoted. Secret plans to spend weekends in Napa with both of the twins Playboy keeps using as centerfolds.

Bush, however, has slipped by just releasing something his aides called "guiding principles" on his secret Social Security plan. They involve allowing people to invest their retirement money in the stock market. Big mistake. Now annoying people like me can ask questions. For instance:

  • What percentage of our Social Security payroll taxes will be available to double down on a pair of fives at Fitzgerald's Casino in Reno?
  • Which companies will be authorized to handle the negotiations, and will their connections to Neil Bush be hidden or overt?
  • How soon before we baby boomers are forced to live on dented cans of dog food?
  • How late into my nineties would I have to wait until drawing Social Security?
  • What happens to people who totally blow their stock market payroll tax investments on secondary Bolivian ferret belly futures? Do we get to buy them out and can them as dog food?
  • How much weight would I personally have to gain to make sure not to fall through the holes in the safety net?
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