Star Parker

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.

None of these ideas is a positive development for low-income workers. Some Democrats have suggested new retirement accounts in addition to Social Security. But low-income workers don't have extra cash to put into these accounts. And such "add-on" accounts do not address the dangers I mentioned above.

Because these "add-on" accounts don't help lower-income earners, additional proposals suggest government subsidies to the accounts of these workers.

Hasn't welfare hurt African-Americans enough? Blacks don't need welfare. Blacks need ownership, independence and freedom. We don't need more government. We need less.

The whole discussion about the Social Security crisis began because of the fiscal deficit of the system. Democrats' answer to a fiscal crisis is to create a new government spending program. And why are black Democrats at the head of the line?

Black-household wealth today remains around one-fourth the national average. The wealth gap between blacks and the rest of the nation persists. Yet the NAACP opposes policies and reforms, such as personal retirement accounts, that could help blacks catch up.

The NAACP was once at the vanguard of the civil-rights movement. That movement began because blacks wanted freedom. Yet blacks hear today from their leaders that they are incapable of being free, that they are incapable of taking care of themselves and their families, and that staying on the government dole is the only answer for them.

The prize blacks should have their eye on today is freedom, ownership and independence. If the NAACP can't provide the leadership toward these goals, we should find new leadership.


Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.