The NAACP has weighed in on the great Social Security debate. And its predictable stand tells us, yet again, how out of touch this organization is today with the needs of African-Americans.
NAACP chairman Julian Bond called President Bush's proposal to revamp Social Security with personal retirement accounts an "effort to reward wealthy Americans at the expense of ... black working Americans." Another NAACP spokesman called the proposal "dangerous."
One hopes that the NAACP would see as its mission to seek every possible way to help build black wealth, to encourage black ownership and to strengthen black families.
Introducing personal retirement accounts would do every one of these things, yet the NAACP is opposed. Why?
How are the wealthy rewarded at the expense of working families by allowing these lower-income earners to save and invest part of their incomes that are now taxed into Social Security?
Those with high incomes already have pension plans, 401(k)s and IRAs.
An open and honest discussion would make clear that the personal-retirement-account idea is a window of opportunity for low-income wage earners to become savers and wealth builders. These accounts would make available low-risk investment alternatives that could easily double the retirement income of these working families.
Why isn't the NAACP working to shed the light of day on these possibilities? If the NAACP's own leadership questions these facts, why isn't it sponsoring open forums with credible spokespeople who do understand and are more than ready to make the case to African-Americans?
NAACP leaders are saying that personal retirement accounts are "dangerous," and yet they choose to not mention the major dangers to which low-income workers are exposed by not having Social Security changed.
The fiscal realities of the social system are no secret. There are no funds to pay obligations at retirement for today's young workers.
Because Social Security is funded exclusively by taxes, the only options to meet these future obligations are to increase the payroll tax that working Americans pay, cut the benefits they will get at retirement or raise the retirement age.
How are any of these options anything but dangerous for low-income workers?
Because of the intense opposition to President Bush's reform ideas on Social Security by groups like the NAACP and AARP (whose president is a black woman), options other than personal retirement accounts are now being discussed.