Bill Bennett on Social Security privatization: "[I]f the Democrats were doing it, it would be called positive affirmative action"


On the February 8 edition of FOX News' Hannity & Colmes, host Sean Hannity and nationally syndicated radio host and former Reagan administration official William J. Bennett forwarded the Bush administration's claim that African Americans are disadvantaged under the current Social Security system and that Bush's proposal for private accounts would address that purported inequity. Hannity asserted that African Americans are "hurt" in the current system because of a "disparity" in life expectancy; Bennett said that "if the Democrats were doing it [proposing private accounts], it would be called positive affirmative action."

But the Government Accountability Office (GAO, formerly the General Accounting Office) and two Social Security Administration (SSA) actuaries have undermined the claim that blacks suffer disproportionately under the current Social Security system, as Media Matters for America has documented. Economist Dean Baker further explained in a February 2005 Center for Economic and Policy Research report that, although blacks do have a lower life expectancy than whites largely due to higher mortality rates for black infants and youths, the "Social Security system as a whole gives substantially higher returns to African Americans than to whites":

Several studies have found that the progressivity of the [Social Security] payback structure largely or completely offsets the impact of shorter life expectancies, to provide a return to black men that is approximately the same as the return to white men. It is also important to remember that the retirement program is only one portion of the Social Security system. African Americans benefit disproportionately from the survivors and disability portions of the program, so the Social Security system as a whole gives substantially higher returns to African Americans than to whites.

Baker also debunked the Bush administration's claim that Bush's plan for private accounts would allow most blacks to pass on their retirement benefits to their heirs:

President Bush's plan would require workers to buy an annuity large enough to ensure that (when combined with their traditional Social Security benefit) they would have at least a poverty level income in their retirement. For most African American men, this requirement means that they will have to surrender their individual accounts, and will have nothing left to pass onto their children -- just as is the case with the current Social Security system.

Posted In
Economy, Social Security
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