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January 26, 2005

Bush Plays the Race Card on Social Security

In a meeting with black leaders, most of them religious, Bush pushed his ban on gay marriage, but also promoted a favorite theme of conservatives that since blacks die early, they really don't get full use of social security, so private accounts would give them cash to leave to their heirs when they're dead.

This AARP page explains how this newest Bush line is based on bad statistics that ignores how much african americans benefit from social security. The basic part of the statistical game is that blacks have a lower life expectancy largely because of childhood mortality rates, but here's the bottom line:

  • An average white male has a life expectancy of 16.3 more years at age 65.
  • The average black male has a life expectancy of 14.5 more years at age 65.
  • At age 65, the difference in life expectancy between white and black males is less than two (1.8) years.

    And even this difference doesn't pay attention to the ways african americans benefit from the present system. Much obscured in the present debate is that social security is more than a retirement system; it also a life insurance policy for survivors, and African American children represent close to 23 percent of those receiving surviving child benefits.

    Since social security is mildly redistributive -- benefitting poor retirees more than wealthy seniors -- african americans inherently benefit from that aspect of the program. The "nest egg" of a minimum wage worker would be pathetic under Bush's plan, far less after his proposed benefit social security cuts than the present system.

    As I wrote on this issue back in 2002, if Bush is going to acknowledge the racial disparity in lifespans, maybe he should be less worried about social security privatization and more upset AT THE FACT THAT AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE DYING EARLY! If conservatives were really concerned about equity (rather than stockbroker profits from privatization) maybe they should support universal health care and the end of racist discrimination in health care.

    Posted by Nathan at January 26, 2005 07:23 AM