David Gelernter, who recently became a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wasted little time in spreading misinformation on Social Security reform. In his April 29 column, Gelernter claimed that President Bush's plan for Social Security would let workers invest only 4 percent of their payroll taxes into private accounts, and that Democrats are lying when they say Bush wants to privatize Social Security. Both claims are false; the Bush plan would permit workers to invest nearly two-thirds of the payroll taxes they currently pay, and Bush himself has announced his intention to "privatize" Social Security through private accounts.
Gelernter asserted that Bush wants to let Americans invest "4% of your payroll taxes in a private account instead of handing over every cent to the government," and then incredulously asked, "How on Earth could anyone be opposed in principle to letting taxpayers manage a minuscule fraction of their own money (their own money, dammit!) if they want to?" In fact, the allowable amount of payroll taxes a worker could invest is significantly more than the 4 percent Gelernter claimed -- it's actually closer to two-thirds. Under the current Social Security system, workers pay half of the 12.4 percent payroll tax -- 6.2 percent of their salary -- and employers pay the other half. The Bush proposal would let workers invest up to 4 percent of their salary (or 64.5 percent of what's currently taken out of their paychecks for payroll taxes) into a private account. This is significantly more than, as Gelernter wrote, "4% of your payroll taxes."
Gelernter went on to attack Democrats as liars for claiming that private accounts for Social Security are synonymous with privatization:
[Democrats] say "Bush wants to privatize Social Security" -- as if government were going to wash its hands of the whole mess. The technical term that logicians use for this rhetorical gambit -- applying a correct word for one part of a proposal to the proposal as a whole -- is "lying."
But Bush himself equated private accounts with privatization while running for president in 2000, stating: ""What privatization does, it allows the individual worker his or her choice to set money aside in a managed account."
Gelernter used these faulty arguments to help convey the point of his item: "Democrats habitually treat voters like children." He concluded by writing, "Democrats are professors in disguise. ... Professors see the world in terms of experts and students: 'We are smart; you are dumb.' That's the Infantile American Principle in a nutshell." Gelernter himself is a professor of computer science at Yale University -- a fact noted in his April 29 column.