||Congress last Social Security
reform cost ditch digger Nancy McFadden $10,352 in extra Social Security
Have you ever heard of Dennis
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,
Hasterts 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
wasnt as nice as Hasterts.
But first, lets introduce Dennis Hastert, who until this year held
the title of Chief Deputy Republican Whip. Hes 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.
Hasterts 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 Speakers 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
Hasterts lap. Happy New Year, Dennis!
Since nobody ever heard of Dennis Hastert before all of this, and since
hes 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
Heres the scoop: Hasterts 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 hes 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
199798 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 Hasterts 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.)
Hasterts 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,
shes not so thrilled with the year so far. Like most working people, shes had
her fill of the Lewinsky and impeachment craziness. What shes really worried about
is Social Security and whether shell be penniless in her old age.
The drumbeat for Social Security "reform" is getting louder and
louder. But as you may remember, this isnt the first time Congress has gone after
Social Security. Back in 1983, 185 Democrats and 97 Republicans voted to approve Ronald
Reagans 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 shes 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 shell be 67,
factoring in a 2.5 percent annual raise. (She prays that she wont be laid off,
downsized, or injured.) And she assumed that her 6.2 percent share of the payroll tax for
Social Security wont 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, shell 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 theyre 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 hasnt 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 Partys campaign to Save Social Security!
Chris Townsend is Political Action Director of the United Electrical,
Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).