Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Star Power of Slavery

Transforming Moral Problems Into Politics (Town Hall)

By Star Parker

Think of Star Parker as Peggy Noonan, only black. And an ex-Welfare Queen (those are Town Hall's words, not mine). And the author of Uncle Sam's Plantation and Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats instead of A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag and Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Because like Noonan, Parker can get a little, well, floaty at times. You'll see.
Am I pushing the envelope too far to suggest that there is common ground between the politics of slavery and the politics of Social Security?
Which envelope? The pay envelope? No. Suggest away and cash the check as fast as you can. Besides, saying yes at this point is simply not going to stop Star Parker.
When moral problems are transformed into politics, we can find surprising similarities in issues that otherwise might seem worlds apart.
Would it kill the suspense if I told you that the surprising similarities are between Social Security and slavery?

This past week I attended a conference at Washington's Cato Institute on Social Security reform. I moderated a panel examining the impact of personal retirement accounts on women, minorities and the poor.
Listening to the case for transforming Social Security to a regime of personal ownership is simple and compelling.
Social Security regime change -- of course! Every time I hear the phrase "regime change" I wince in the knowledge that the US Treasury is going to get socked for a few more trillions.
If we had to start from scratch, no one would want the system we now have.
What an incredible assertion. What an incredibly wrong assertion. I can name at least five people who want the same Social Security system that we have now. My suspicion is that there are a lot more than five, too.
This month is Black History month, so my thoughts float back to another time a few hundred years ago when America was bound in another system that had been around for many years and also needed changing. Slavery.
See, Parker can float like the Queen of the Dolphins. In the past few weeks, I've heard a lot of things about Social Security, but I never heard it linked to slavery before. A bravura linkage, Ms. Parker.
Slavery was the "third rail." Politicians had little interest in airing their views on this sensitive subject publicly. But debate was forced by this initiative from early American idealists…. Although there was general appreciation of the incongruity of a nation founded on the principles of freedom tolerating slavery, morality and ideals soon were obscured by concerns about perceived social and economic costs of freeing the slaves.
I never truly appreciated this before: We are a people enslaved by our defined benefit government retirement plan, shackled by guaranteed-for-life Social Security checks in our old age!
When we look back 200 years, we wonder how great men could have turned away their eyes. I wonder today whether the outcome of the great Social Security debate will reflect the ideals of a free nation or calculations of entrenched political interests.
My guess is that, as usual, it will reflect both.

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