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The following article appeared in Left Business Observer #87, December 1998. It retains its copyright and may not be reprinted or redistributed in any form - print, electronic, facsimile, anything - without the permission of LBO.


The annual report of the Trustees of the Social Security System, the source of the projections quoted below, is here.

Antisocial insecurity

The worst thing about the Lewinsky affair is that it's interfered with the proper hatred of Bill Clinton. He's been indicted by the House for all the wrong crimes -- not for bringing about the end of welfare, or promoting mass incarceration, or killing Iraqis with sanctions and ordnance, or his terrible taste in music. But his enemies are so repellent that you don't want them to win anything.

But one of the best things about the Lewinsky affair is that it's keeping Clinton and Congress from doing what they'd like to do -- privatize Social Security. Elite debate has now come down just to the details, and the public seems to accept this as inevitable. A sizeable minority, charmed by the stock market's extraordinary performance over the last few years, even looks forward to the prospect, convinced they've found the key to wealth. LBO hasn't scrutinized the privatizers' arguments in four years; it's time for another look.

Folks on all sides of the debate accept the basic premise, that Social Security faces certain insolvency when the baby boomers retire. Compelling "facts" are trotted out to prove the point: the system