Presidential Candidate Herman Cain says Privatize Social Security like Pinochet; Press Bends over Backwards

Presidential candidate Herman Cain, speaking Monday at CNN’s Republican presidential candidates’ debate in New Hampshire, spoke thusly of privatizing Social Security:

“I support a personal retirement system option in order to phase (out) the current system. We know that this works. It worked in the small country of Chile when they did it 30 years ago. I believe we can do the same thing.”

He advocates a “Chilean model” of Social Security privatization. What Cain leaves unmentioned is that fact that Chile “30 years ago” was Chile in 1981, under the boot of the fascist government of General Augusto Pinochet, who died with 300 charges of murder, torture and kidnappings unanswered for. At first glance, it may seem rather obvious that name-checking a fascist state as a success story and as a model for the United States’ Social Security is questionable at best, particularly when the callous move by the Pinochet government was nicknamed “the Mother of all Privatizations.”

In Cain’s world, as well as the world of his supporters, if we could just find the thousands upon thousands of Chilean people who were “disappeared” we could give them a savings passbook. There were those who sought to detach the economy of fascist Chile from the rest of its governmental system, in bullheaded defense of such statements.

Before any leftist media source had even picked up the story, the reactionary rag Investors Business Daily was quick to apply a fresh coat of whitewash to the statement, as if already in anticipation of a rightful backlash.

Herman Cain proposed privatizing U.S. Social Security and cited Chile’s success. But like cuckoos popping out of clocks, the media smeared Chile as a “dictatorship” (1).

Like magic, putting quotation marks around the word makes it disappear, much like the tens of thousands of Chileans under Pinochet’s jackbooted rule. The article went even further however:

What’s infuriating here is that Pinochet, whatever his merits or faults, is completely irrelevant to the issue (1).

How it’s possible to detach a military leader of an entire country from the economic policies he enacted under his own dictatorship is anyone’s guess, and in any case it’s doubtful they would parrot the same line about “Reaganomics.” As well, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Cain’s economic views that apparently the only example of the kind of privatization of Social Security that he wants for the United States is a military dictatorship famous for torture in a country that currently has a very large portion of its working class living on around $2 a day.

Due to the use of language, Cain was easily made the “victim” of his own public statements, and those who questioned applying a carbon-copy of fascist economic policy to the United States of America were suddenly the “aggressors.”

The article was lavish in its praise of the fascist regime in Chile, calling the statement by Cain “bold” and reassured readers the solution was “known to work,” presenting it as a foregone conclusion. The article went so far as to say Cain was having the “Pinochet canard hurled at him” and he was being “roundly ridiculed.”

Quite an odd claim to make, since a pedestrian Google search turns up precious little results for such an outrageous and insensitive statement, except the IBD article itself, callously titled, “Social Security Reform Gets Pinochet’d.”

Cain’s Track Record: Nothing to Brag About

Such public statements are par-for-the-course for Herman Cain, a Tea Party mainstay at more than 40 rallies, not well known outside Tea Klux Klan circles. Aside from his obvious role as a token to whom the Tea Klan can point to as one-man proof that they are not a racist movement, he is mostly known for his Islamophobia.

In March 2011, when asked if he would appoint a Muslim to his administration, he replied, “No, I will not … There’s this creeping attempt, there’s this attempt, to gradually ease Shariah Law, and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.” He went even further, claiming that “many of the Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country.”

This still wasn’t enough, as Cain continued, “I want people in my administration that are committed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, I don’t want any inkling of anybody in my administration who would put Sharia law over American law. I have not found a Muslim that has said that they will denounce Sharia law, you know, in order to support the Constitution of the United States.”

The statements (surprise!) generated controversy, but Cain stood by his chauvinism, saying “being politically correct isn’t something I’m going to spend a whole lot of my time worrying about.”

Of course, hard rightist Newt Gingrich defended him, comparing Muslims collectively to Nazis: “We did this — we did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country.”

Cain’s other political stances leave much to be desired. Noting that he is against abortion in all cases, even rape or incest, Cain noted, “it’s not Planned Parenthood. No, it’s planned genocide. You can quote me on that.” Cain has been a consistent supporter of bank bailouts as well. “Owning a part of the major banks in America is not a bad thing,” he said in a 2008 editorial. “We could make a profit while solving a problem.” Asked to own up to it by his own side in 2011, Cain replied, “I don’t have any regrets . . . I studied the situation. I didn’t have trouble with the idea; I had trouble with its implementation.”

Behind the Hype

Cain’s main credentials as a Tea Party favorite for President in 2012 come from his former status as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza chain, which he saved from financial ruin, or so the legend goes. On his campaign trail, Cain continuously promises to “run the country like a business.”

The real story is not so cut-and-dry:

When he became CEO in 1984, Cain did make immediate changes. He closed 20% of the company’s restaurants, and fired between 300 and 400 people. To further save costs, he cut expensive toppings and salad bars and abolished deep dish pizza (despite his avowed preference for deep dish over thin crust pizza in Monday’s debate).

But it’s not clear, Businessweek writes, how much Cain’s cuts actually benefited the company.

While Cain regularly claims he took a business leaking $8 million annually and turned a $4 million profit two years later, those figures are not available publicly and Cain has refused to release company records from the relevant years (2).




Further reading on Chile & Pinochet:

Chile’s Retirees Find Shortfall in Private Plan

Cold War Killer File: Augusto Pinochet

Chile’s Privatized Social Security System: Behind the Free-Market Hype, A Scam

Augusto Pinochet & the Realities of the Free Market in Chile

Another Milton Friedman Chile quake aftershock

Categories: Chile, Economic Exploitation, Economics, Economy, Elections, Government, History, Imperialism, International, Labor, Racism, Reactionary Watch, U.S. News, Workers Struggle, World History

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