Thursday, February 10, 2005

Bush Plays the Race Card

NEWS FLASH: "... Blacks Die Earlier!" .... Oh, Really?

Since the Administration's whole talk of privatization has backfired, they've turned to the two tricks available in their hat: race card or fear.

Editor's Note: I've been fuming about this insanity since the pre- State of the Union Press Releases.... We will return to the Lindsey- Watts' info soon.

Little Black Lies

Published: January 28, 2005

Social Security privatization really is like tax cuts, or the Iraq war: the administration keeps on coming up with new rationales, but the plan remains the same. President Bush's claim that we must privatize Social Security to avert an imminent crisis has evidently fallen flat. So now he's playing the race card.

Let's start with the facts. Mr. Bush's argument goes back at least seven years, to a report issued by the Heritage Foundation - a report so badly misleading that the deputy chief actuary (now the chief actuary) of the Social Security Administration wrote a memo pointing out "major errors in the methodology." That's actuary-speak for "damned lies."

Here's why. First, Mr. Bush's remarks on African-Americans perpetuate a crude misunderstanding about what life expectancy means. It's true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years - but that doesn't mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years' worth of Social Security benefits. Blacks' low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African-American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years - not that far short of the 16.6-year figure for white men.

Second, the formula determining Social Security benefits is progressive: it provides more benefits, as a percentage of earnings, to low-income workers than to high-income workers. Since African-Americans are paid much less, on average, than whites, this works to their advantage.

Finally, Social Security isn't just a retirement program; it's also a disability insurance program. And blacks are much more likely than whites to receive disability benefits.

Put it all together, and the deal African-Americans get from Social Security turns out, according to various calculations, to be either about the same as that for whites or somewhat better. Hispanics, by the way, clearly do better than either.

So the claim that Social Security is unfair to blacks is just false.


Jackson businessman James Wolfe once heard a comedian joke that the age to receive Social Security should be moved back to 29 for blacks since they're not living long enough to the required age of 65 to receive benefits.

But the issue is no laughing matter for Wolfe.

He has served for the last four years on the state's Minority Health Advisory Council. The council's goal is finding solutions to resolving health disparities among minorities.

The disparity issues are something "none of us can afford to give up on," said Wolfe, a Jackson radio station owner, minister and city councilman.

African-Americans, on average, die five years younger than people of any other race in America, Wolfe said, largely because many black people have been unable to afford good health care.


Social Security is an INSURANCE plan, not strictly a RETIREMENT plan. If black working men die between 50 and 65, their dependents receive survivors benefits. For someone who dies at 50, the private account would not have enough time to accumulate the compounded earnings required to offset the survivor benefits. This aspect of SSI is conveniently ignored by the Heritage analysis and was a problem that the Bush SS commission noted. The commission could not resolve how to cover the benefits of the disabled or resolve issues surrounding survivors’ benefits.

Bush's Social Security pitch is as racist as the day is long. You die earlier so support me? So why do blacks die earlier? Maybe if we spent a trillion on universal health insurance that wouldn't be the case.

Blacks die earlier than others, so private accounts are better, because they will be able to profit from their early demise by wealth transfer. Translated, that would be, "I'm saving, because I'm going to die earlier than the schedule says."

Does that mean that blacks should get an earlier retirement age?


When examining the longitudinal life expectancy data for blacks and whites observe how projections indicate that black females in the year 2050 will have reached the life expectancy of white females 50 years earlier, in 1996, and that in 2050 black males will only have reached the life expectancy of their white counterparts 70 years earlier, in 1980.

Life exp in: 1900 1996 FEM/MALE BL/WH
BL MALE 32.5 66.1 1900= 1.03;


MALE 1900=.70

MALE 1996=.89

BL FEMALE 33.5 74.2
WH MALE 46.6 73.9 1900=1.05;


FEM 1900=.69

FEM 1996=.93

WH FEMALE 48.7 79.7

Those who do die "prematurely," before old age, increasingly die of man-made (and, hence, theoretically avoidable) reasons, such as by accident, homicide, suicide, or lethal lifestyles.

The Inequalities Revealed By Death

As mentioned elsewhere, death is the barometer by which we measure the adequacy of social life, such as when we compare cross-cultural death and life expectancy rates to gauge social progress, compare national homicide rates to infer the stability of social structures, or compare death rates of different social groups to ascertain social inequalities. Some death statistics to ponder:

  • The results of a 7-1/2-year study of 3617 Americans (reported in the June 3, 1998 issue of JAMA) found that those whose annual income was below $10,000 had a death rate 3.22 times greater than those making $30,000 or more. Even after controlling for smoking, drinking, exercise, and overeating, the death rate was still 2.77 times higher.
  • A 2001 Scottish study found younger heart attack victims from the poorer parts of town were twice as likely to die reroute to hospitals than their affluent counterparts.
  • According to the May 2001 report of the CDC, between 1991 and 1997, black women died of pregnancy related complications four times more often than white females (29.6 deaths per 100,000 births vs. 7.3 death for whites and 10.3 for Hispanic women).
  • Black infant mortality is 2.2 times that of whites, and blacks lead in 14 of the 16 leading causes of death (W. Michael Byrd & Linda A. Clayton, An American Health Dilemma).
  • Blacks are 40% more likely to die of stroke than whites (CDC, Feb. 2003).
  • A number of studies show racial minorities are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, hazardous wastes, and pesticides (key concept: ecoracism).
  • In 1990, 55% of the men residing in Bangladesh lived past age 65, compared to only 40% of the men in Harlem.
  • In the Washington, D.C. area, Latinos are three times more likely than other residents to be struck and killed by a car.


In 1993 there appeared in Times Square an electronic billboard tallying the number of gun-related homicides in the United States, where crude homicide rates are the third highest in the world--4 to 73 times the rate in other industrialized nations, according to researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics. Between 1976 and 1993, more of Americans were murdered in their native land than died on the battlefields of World War II.

According to a study by Child Trends, the infant homicide rate in the U.S. had been increasing over the prior three decades and in 2002 reached the homicide rate of Americans 15 to 19 years of age. Whereas in the 1950s students got under their desks in nuclear war "duck-and-cover" drills nowadays, in the wake of the school shootings around the country, students now use their desks in rehearsing protective strategies against attacks of their classmates.


Considering Bush's Iraq duplicities, should we be surprised by his statements on fighting juvenile crime:

"Now we need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail. Tonight I propose a three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs." – President Bush, 2/2/05


The White House has "proposed a 40 percent cut in federal juvenile justice and delinquency prevention funding, which supports anti-gang programs in communities across the country. That's on top of a 44 percent overall reduction in delinquency-fighting and anti-gang funds since 2002." – Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 6/1/04


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