Mexico NAFTA promotes-1

Mexico NAFTA promotes-1 - 18 lanuarv 27.1997 T he Nation....

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18 The Nation. lanuarv 27.1997 are supposed to bankrupt the system. With her $17,000 income, she is hardly the vision of Piiiera’s capitalist. Her front teeth are missing, she hasn’t gone to college and has had a hard life raising four children with apart-time husband. She knows nothing about the interlocking organizations conspiring to change Social Secu- rity, or about Kerrey’s Bipartisan Commission, and she couldn’t use the CD-ROM version of the commission report Kerrey keeps in his Lincoln office for constituents who might ask for it. Rodgers does know she is not a financial wizard. “For me, stocks would be a mistake,” she says. The nearly $6,000 in her employer’s 401(k) plan is invested in growth and emerging growth stocks. She was told the stocks would only go up. What happens if they go down? ‘Nobody told me that,” slie says. Rodgers also knows she needs Social Security. When the numbers are worked, she does better under Social Security thanunder aprivate system. No one tells her that either. She hears only that the system is broke. They tell her that on CNN. The privatizers have pushed such broad concepts, of course, but they’ve been short on the details, perhaps intentionally. Details don’t sell. “My own view is that privatization in the abstract is more attractive than when you look at it with all the details,” says M.I.T. economics professor Peter Diamond. Bill Crawford is one of those details. Crawford, a 34-year-old victim of cerebral palsy who lives in Lincoln, struggles to hold a cup of hot chocolate. He receives about $400 a month &om Supplemental Security Income, a welfare program administered by Social Security. He’s not en- titled to Social Security disability benefits because he has yet to accumulate twenty quarters of work history. Sometimes he works at Pizza Hut taking orders; if he answers enough phones, someday he may qualify. That’s one of his goals. The disability benefit pays more. “I want to work until I can’t work,” Crawford says. ‘‘I don’t think about retirement.” Sellers of privatization haven’t thought much about people like Crawford. “We’re seeing if it’s possible to cream money off the top to buy a private dis- ability account,” is the best that Cato’s Tanner can say. Although Tanner proclaims victory, there has really been no debate. The opposition got caught “flat-footed,” he says, and has been “left behind.” If broad public resistance to privatization is to matter in the political war ahead, defenders of Social Security- the unions, the A.A.R.P., public-interest groups-must do more than wish for a stock market crash, the strategy commonly cited right now. For privatizers, health care reform presents a cautionary tale. Eventually it was torpedoed by. slick appeals that frightened people into believing that the medical care they’d come to expect would disappear. Scare tactics to convince the public that Social Security is “broken” could backfire and doom the privatization cause as well. Opposition fi-om the grass roots is bubbling, waiting
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Mexico NAFTA promotes-1 - 18 lanuarv 27.1997 T he Nation....

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