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Social Security

A Tale of Two Citizens

As featured in the 
Labor Party Press


  Nancy McFadden
Congress’ last Social Security ‘reform’ cost ditch digger Nancy McFadden $10,352 in extra Social Security taxes.
Capitol Hill Shop Steward

Have you ever heard of Dennis Hastert? How about Nancy McFadden? Probably not. In case you missed it, Dennis just managed to get himself elected to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Needless to say, Hastert’s year is off with a bang.

As for Nancy, she works just a few miles down the road from Dennis, where she digs up and fixes water pipes for a living. She also pays her union and Labor Party dues. Nancy started off the year with a little surprise of her own. Only her surprise wasn’t as nice as Hastert’s.

But first, let’s introduce Dennis Hastert, who until this year held the title of Chief Deputy Republican Whip. He’s a relatively unknown, six-term member of the House of Representatives from an Illinois Congressional district that takes in a good chunk of territory just west of Chicago. Before getting elected to Congress, Dennis spent six years in the Illinois State House, and before that he was a school teacher.

Hastert’s elevation to the coveted Speaker position was pretty quick. First, Newt Gingrich decided to hang it up after the Republican electoral flop last November. Right after that, Louisiana Republican Congressman Robert Livingston was ready to pick up the Speaker’s gavel when it was disclosed that he had been quite a Casanova earlier in his career. Livingston quit the race, and the job fell into Dennis Hastert’s lap. Happy New Year, Dennis!

Since nobody ever heard of Dennis Hastert before all of this, and since he’s now the leader of the Republican majority in Congress, just who is he? How does he vote? Who bankrolls his reelection campaigns?

BUSINESS LOVES DENNIS

Here’s the scoop: Hastert’s election as Speaker earned him an article in the respected Congressional Quarterly magazine headlined, "Hastert wins high marks from the business community." CQ also says Hastert is "a solid conservative" who is "slightly to the right of Gingrich."

As for his scores with groups that rate Congress, Hastert racked up a zero on the AFL-CIO legislative scorecard for 1997, and he’s piled up a big 9 percent lifetime pro-worker rating from the federation. The United Auto Workers gave him a zilch for 1997 also. On the other hand, both the anti-labor U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business gave him perfect 100 percent ratings for 1997.

With a record that miserable, just who is financing this guy? You guessed it — big business. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that for the 1997–98 election cycle, Hastert raked in $62,200 from healthcare bosses, $59,990 from insurance kingpins, $48,099 from electricity moguls, $43,480 from telephone company bigwigs, $34,675 from greedy bankers, $28,100 from pharmaceutical outfits, $27,599 from entertainment operators, and another $78,400 from miscellaneous modern-day robber barons.

And in case you were wondering, Hastert managed to pick up $17,000 bucks in labor union PAC money, as of March 31, 1998. Yes, this guy gets some union money. After all, we had to buy that 9 percent lifetime rating! (For the sake of balance, I should point out that Hastert’s counterpart on the Democrat side, House minority leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri, also gets a wad of money from corporations — a lot more than he does from labor.)

Hastert’s new year started off with a nice fat 28 percent pay increase, boosting his annual salary to $171,500.

And now, how about our other solid citizen, Nancy McFadden? Well, she’s not so thrilled with the year so far. Like most working people, she’s had her fill of the Lewinsky and impeachment craziness. What she’s really worried about is Social Security and whether she’ll be penniless in her old age.

The drumbeat for Social Security "reform" is getting louder and louder. But as you may remember, this isn’t the first time Congress has gone after Social Security. Back in 1983, 185 Democrats and 97 Republicans voted to approve Ronald Reagan’s plan to raise the full Social Security retirement age from 65 to 67. Dems and Republicans in the Senate also went for the plan big-time.

As a result, Nancy McFadden now has to work until she’s 67. She recently decided she wanted to figure out just how much that "reform" is going to cost her. She calculated her gross income through 2029, when she’ll be 67, factoring in a 2.5 percent annual raise. (She prays that she won’t be laid off, downsized, or injured.) And she assumed that her 6.2 percent share of the payroll tax for Social Security won’t be going up.

If Nancy works until age 67, she will have to pay an extra $10,352 in Social Security taxes during those last two years. And if the politicians manage to jack up the retirement age to 70 — which many of them would like to do — she will end up working three additional years, paying in an additional $26,871 in Social Security taxes! At the age of 65, instead of collecting her hard-earned benefit and enjoying her retirement, she’ll be out in a ditch digging up pipes. And still pumping major bucks into the system. But not to worry. She assures me that by then her boss will have found an excuse to replace her with what he likes to call "the young and the beautiful."

MORE NICE NEWS FOR NANCY

Well, Dennis and his friends in both parties are now hoping they can deliver some more happy news for Nancy and her retirement plans. Last March, Hastert voted — along with practically every Democrat and Republican in Congress — to create a bogus Commission that would "study" the nonexistent Social Security crisis. The problem with the Commission is that nearly every group in the study team favors some form of privatization. Hmm. I wonder what they’re up to?

If Hastert and company can succeed in even partially privatizing Social Security, Nancy will have to spend the years leading up to retirement worrying about whether the stock market will drop and suck the life out of her Social Security check.

Now you know why Dennis is smiling, and Nancy is not. In 1999, he gets the Speakership and a gigantic raise. She learns she may still be working in a ditch at the age of 70, and paying an extra $27,000 to do it.

But Nancy hasn’t given up yet. After all, she is a Labor Party member. In fact, Nancy McFadden has a message for everyone: Get out there and build the Labor Party’s campaign to Save Social Security!

Chris Townsend is Political Action Director of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).


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