Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

September 19, 1997

R.C. HENARIE, retired secretary-treasurer of Multnomah Typographical Union No. 58, warns that privatization proponents are waging a stealth attack on the Social Security program.

The privatization pirates want to turn over the billions in the Social Security trust fund to the sharks of Wall Street who regard unemployment of working Americans as good news. As The Nation magazine has pointed out: "Social Security privatization is not so much a movement as an attempted bank heist, robbing Americans of perfectly good social insurance." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the United States' most visionary president, started the Social Security system 62 years ago to enable Americans to retire with a pension and with a measure of dignity. Back then, in the depths of the Great Depression, pensions were unheard of.

THE STEALTH ATTACK Henarie referred to is taking place at the state level. He called attention to a report from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which said:

"...The latest privatization victory was in Oregon, where the State Legislature passed a privatization resolution urging Congress to enact an amendment to the Social Security Act. This amendment would permit Oregon to drop out of the national Social Security system and run its own retirement program...

"THE OREGON RESOLUTION was passed very quietly. The (1997) Legislature took a major step toward privatization, but most voters had never even heard about it...

"The pro-privatization Oregon resolution was proposed and passed largely at the urging of the Oregon-based Cascade Policy Institute, a libertarian think tank which regularly works with the Cato Institute. The measure was adopted by the state assembly after only two committee hearings and little public attention...apparently nobody was there to argue the other side...

"And Oregon is only the most recent state to fall to privatization. Colorado, Delaware and Georgia passed similar resolutions calling for some type of privatization of 'advance funding.' And more states could follow soon, just as easily and just as quietly.

"These resolutions could spell disaster for Social Security beneficiaries -- and also for the states themselves, most of which cannot bear the financial burden of Social Security. In Oregon, Social Security paid more than $347 million to beneficiaries last year. Where will the money come from to pay benefits to current retirees if Oregon drops out?"

THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE to Preserve Social Security and Medicare went on to say, Henarie reported, that the Cato Institute, its Wall Street backers and ideological allies want to persuade enough states to pass privatization resolutions so that those states' senators and representatives feel enough pressure to support Social Security piracy on a national scale in Congress.

Most Americans, Henarie told the Northwest Labor Press, are opposed to privatization of Social Security. He pointed to a poll by Peter D. Hart Research Associates which said that "...Americans reject the privatization plan by a decisive 59 percent to 35 percent."

The Hart report also said: "...The entire conventional media portrayal of generational attitudes toward Social Security -- the resentful young and the greedy elderly -- should be turned on its head. An accurate portrait, instead, would feature generous and supportive young people, and reasonable and responsive seniors."

THE POLL NOTED that many people "are concerned about receiving future benefits, but believe that the answer is strengthening Social Security, not abandoning or replacing it." Those who advocate privatizing or semi-privatizing Social Security prey on that concern in pushing for radical changes to let Wall Street glom onto the multi-billion-dollar trust fund. Just think of the commissions that vast amount of money could generate for financial middlemen.

Henarie, who worked as a printer at the Portland Oregonian newspaper prior to the 1959-1965 strike, served on the board of directors of the Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. during most of his years as secretary-treasurer of Typographical Local 58. The printers' local, which is now part of Portland-based Communications Workers Local 7901, was one of the founders of the Labor Press back in 1900.

CASCADE POLICY INSTITUTE, which promotes both Social Security privatization and contracting out the work of public agencies, is part of a spidery network of right-wing think tanks in the United States and Canada. Of those organizations the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has said:

"...Behind them are rich corporations and moneyed interests that stand to rake in big profits. Their purpose is to reduce the ability of government and unions to restrain the actions of big business, and ultimately hand governance over to the private sector...

"The think tanks grind out proposals, policy papers, and model legislation and create a network of lawmakers who will make their ideas law..." The AFL-CIO said the biggest are the Heritage Foundation, founded by the anti-union Coors beer family, and the Cato Institute, an anti-government group founded by the California Libertarian Party.

PORTLAND-BASED Cascade Policy Institute operates out of a downtown office building and its front-man is ex-stockbroker Steve Buckstein. Cascade is so Toryish that one of its staff members recently espoused the extremist idea that public libraries should be financed by user-fees, instead of being supported by taxes. The Portland Oregonian newspaper (owned by one of the richest families in the U.S., the New York Newhouses) thought so much of the Cascade idea that it turned over most of its "reader forum" page to it.

The late steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie, would be shocked and appalled. Carnegie, whose name still is synonymous with capitalism, gave away millions to establish public libraries.

Some of Cascade's funding has come from Lake Oswegoan Mark Hemstreet, owner of the anti-union Shilo Inns, and Loren Ernest Parks of Hillsboro, who owns a non-union high-tech medical equipment manufacturing plant in Aloha.

Cascade's political buddies, in addition to State Senator Gene Derfler of Salem and other GOP legislators, also include William Lee Sizemore and Frank Eisenzimmer of Oregon Taxpayers United. Cascade endorsed the OTU/Hemstreet/Parks Ballot Measure 8 in 1994, aimed at cutting public employee salaries, pensions and benefits.

Cascade has also endorsed Eisenzimmer/OTU/Sizemore ballot measures targeted at drying up tax revenues for public schools, police and fire protection, libraries and other government services. Eisenzimmer, the Boring businessman who started the Oregon Taxpayers United, picked Sizemore as its mouthpiece in 1993. At that time, Sizemore, whose forays into business had resulted in thick U.S. Bankruptcy Court files, was a tax delinquent.

Eisenzimmer, whose wealth derives from his Cascade Athletic Clubs, had teamed up with another exercise club operator Don McIntire to dream up 1990's property-tax limitation Measure 5. That began the process of cutting revenues for public schools and government services, giving businesses at least 60 percent of the tax breaks.

Anti-government fever runs off the charts in the Eisenzimmer/Sizemore/McIntire crowd. So much so that earlier this year when the Republican-controlled Oregon Legislature was papering over the defects in OTU's Measure 47 and turning it into Measure 50, millionaire McIntire objected to some of the changes and was quoted as saying that he and others aligned with him "were ready to bring in the Ryder truck."

That was a reference to the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building explosion that murdered 169 children and adults. Does that mean that convicted mass murderer Timothy McVeigh is wall-poster material for some anti-tax, anti-government extremists?


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