Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute and host of KBDI Channel 12's Independent Thinking, did not challenge guest Edward Crane of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute when Crane asserted on the October 30 edition of Independent Thinking that Chile's private social security system is “highly successful.” In fact, Chile's system has come under fire for failing to provide adequate pension coverage, and both candidates in Chile's most recent presidential runoff endorsed reform.
Appearing as a guest on the October 30 edition of KBDI Channel 12's Independent Thinking, Edward Crane -- founder and president of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute -- joined host and Independence Institute president Jon Caldara in advocating for a privatized Social Security system in the United States by claiming that Chile's privatized system is “highly successful.” However, as Colorado Media Matters noted in response to Caldara's similar assessment during his February 20 Newsradio 850 KOA show, the Chilean system has been broadly criticized by observers across the political spectrum inside Chile, with both candidates in that country's last presidential election endorsing reform.
In addition to allowing Crane's dubious statement, Caldara repeated the falsehood that progressive philanthropist George Soros “put together” Colorado Media Matters' parent organization, Media Matters for America. As noted on numerous occasions (here, here, and here), Media Matters repeatedly has debunked the claim that it has received funding from Soros, either directly or indirectly.
Responding to Caldara's question about "[w]hat went wrong" with President Bush's effort to privatize the United States' Social Security system early in his second term, Crane referred to Bush's tenure as governor of Texas and asserted: “I went down there [to the governor's mansion] with Jose Piñera, who is senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the architect of Chile's highly successful private social security system. And I watched Jose take George W. Bush step by step through the process.” Crane added that "[Bush] said, 'I agree with everything you said, Jose, but I don't think it's politically feasible.' "
Contrary to Crane's assertion that Chile's privatized system is “highly successful,” a January 10, 2006, New York Times article noted that dissatisfaction with Chile's pension system was a major issue during that country's last presidential election, and that both the Socialist and conservative candidates in the presidential runoff agreed that “the country's much vaunted and much copied privatized pension system needs immediate repair.” The Times further noted that José Piñera's brother, Sebastián Piñera -- the losing conservative candidate -- enumerated problems with the system during a January 4, 2006, debate with then-Socialist candidate, and current Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet:
But even advocates of an untrammeled free market, like Mr. Piñera, the conservative candidate, are jumping in with criticisms, to the surprise of some here. Mr. Piñera is the brother of José Piñera, the former labor minister who imposed the personal account system during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. In addition, Sebastián Piñera is backed by the large business groups that control the pension funds and have benefited from the expansion of investment capital the funds have provided.
“Chile's social security system requires deep reforms in all sectors, because half of Chileans have no pension coverage, and of those who do, 40 percent are going to find it hard to reach the minimum level,” Mr. Piñera said in a televised debate with Ms. Bachelet on Wednesday. “This has to be confronted now, and we agree with Michelle Bachelet and will, I hope, join forces behind this large undertaking.”
Similarly, an article in the International Herald Tribune reported on December 26, 2006, that the Chilean government recommended reforms to the flawed privatized pension system:
Responding to growing complaints that the privatized pension system here -- a favorite of free-enterprise enthusiasts around the world -- is failing to deliver adequate benefits, the Chilean government has recommended that it be supplanted by a system in which the state would play a much larger role.
From the October 30 broadcast of KBDI Channel 12's Independent Thinking:
CRANE: Show me a government social program that's worked. Not Social Security. I mean, that's a program that's got a $14 trillion unfunded liability.
CALDARA: So let's jump off on that. Now, one of the things that I was so encouraged when George W. became president, is he actually said Social Security reform. He actually talked about private accounts, so people could own their own retirements. And he still got elected. I found this really exciting; I figured, now's the time. If we can take off this issue -- remember, it was 10 years ago that we took on the issue of welfare and we handed it to the states. We had a victory with a Democratic governor, or Democratic president. Now's the time --
CRANE: After he vetoed it.
CALDARA: After he vetoed it two times before. But yes, give -- I'm willing to give him credit.
CALDARA: He signed it. Now's the time for Social Security reform. It didn't happen.
CRANE: Well, you know --
CALDARA: What went wrong?
CRANE: I was, in 1998 I was invited to the governor's mansion in Texas and I went down there with Jose Piñera, who is senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the architect of Chile's highly successful private social security system. And I watched Jose take George W. Bush step by step through the process. At the time, he was very skeptical. He said, “I agree with everything you said, Jose, but I don't think it's politically feasible.”
CALDRA: I'll give great credit to the Cato Institute. One, you've got just terrific senior fellows who've got great vision; they work so hard. And I don't know how you do this, but they're all pretty damn optimistic. Now, I'm not that optimistic. Now, I mean, I see the successes that we've had in the movement: for freedom, for liberty, for giving people ownership to the simple things in their lives -- including ownership of their education, their retirement, their transportation, their medical care. But I see that the left has been able to really take hold. Now, the left has done this in a wonderful way. They have a handful of ultra-rich folks who have put together a terrific left-leaning infrastructure. This is the George Soros folks who have been able to put together, you know, MoveOn.org and Media Matters and institutes for this and institutes for that, and the payoff is really coming. Now we're looking here in Colorado, a Republican state -- we're still overwhelmingly registered Republican; 200,000 more of us are Republicans than Democrats and 100,000 more of us are Republicans instead of unaffiliateds. But every level of government is now packed with D's.