When it comes to Social Security, the pugilistic presidential contender Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) is normally the one attracting all the attention. After all, he called the program all sorts of names: A “Ponzi scheme,” a “monstrous lie,” and unconstitutional. But the new GOP front runner — pizza mogul Herman Cain — seems eager to challenge Perry’s title as the world heavyweight champion fear-monger on the nation’s most successful economic program.
From 2005 to 2010, Cain wrote weekly commentary for his company The New Voice, Inc. He dedicated a few of his columns to register full support for President George W. Bush’s disastrous idea to privatize Social Security. Viewing Social Security as “immoral” and “oppressive,” he blasted Democrats for supporting “involuntary servitude” of African Americans through the Social Security and payroll tax system. From one column entitled, “Ownerships: An Unalienable Right”:
The 70-year-old Social Security structure and the 92-year-old income tax code thwart the natural, individual motivation of citizens to use their God-given talents to pursue happiness and their respective dreams. Any program that undermines an individual’s liberty to create ownership is, then, by its very nature, immoral. It took our nation nearly 250 years to end slavery and live up to the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. It should not take us another 250 years to cease the involuntary negative return most working people receive from Social Security, or the involuntary servitude imposed by the oppressive income tax code.
In another column entitled “Separate Water Fountains,” Cain said the Social Security system “by its very nature discriminates against black men and women.” With their “unconscionable” refusal to implement private accounts, Democratic “so-called black leaders” want to see “the next generation of Blacks remain in economic slavery on the Democratic plantation”:
It is now evident that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not apply to the Social Security system. Due to the rising retirement age, differences in life expectancy between Blacks and Whites, and mandatory payroll tax deductions, the system by its very nature discriminates against black men and women.[…]
Perhaps most unconscionable is the opposition to personal retirement accounts by the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, and many of our nation’s so-called black leaders. Personal retirement accounts would provide future generations of Blacks the retirement security their parents and grandparents never had.
Instead, black Democratic leaders are willing to see the next generation of Blacks remain in economic slavery on the Democratic plantation, so long as they can deny any Republican a perceived political victory.
Cain’s over the top rhetoric strongly suggests that he shares Perry’s belief that Social Security is unconstitutional. Under the 13th Amendment, “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
His claims are also wildly inaccurate. Indeed, the nearly 5 million African Americans who receive Social Security benefit more from this essential program than the average white American. Studies show that they “receive modestly more in Social Security benefits for each dollar they pay in payroll taxes than whites do” because of the progressive benefit structure and that they benefit more from SSDI because they are unfortunately more likely “to become disabled or die before retiring.”
Private accounts, however, would leave African-Americans worse off. As the GAO notes, they “are likely to disproportionately affect equity for minorities.” Because of the “gaps in earnings at younger ages and lower average pay than whites who have the same level of education,” minorities would be at a disadvantage in how much and when they could invest in the private account. Ultimately, “the risks would be more acute for African Americans than for whites, and the potential rewards likely would be smaller.”
As is often the case with Cain, the rhetorical glaze can’t hide the rotten consequences of his policies. And given the popularity of the program as it is, he’s unlikely to win over anyone by equating them with slave owners.