And they wonder why they cannot get the African American vote in substantial numbers.
But the claim that blacks get a bad deal from Social Security is false. And Mr. Bush's use of that false argument is doubly shameful, because he's exploiting the tragedy of high black mortality for political gain instead of treating it as a problem we should solve.
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."
In fact, the actuary said, "careful research reflecting actual work histories for workers by race indicate that the nonwhite population actually enjoys the same or better expected rates of return from Social Security" as whites.
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.
Once again, in addition to its pathetic nature, the main problem with Bush's argument is that instead of saying "hey let's look at why African American men don't live as long as others, but let's just accept that and move on to a sloppy political argument."
It's disgusting, not as disgusting as starting an unnecessary war and then pretty much losing it and killing tens of thousands in the process, but pretty damned disgusting.