Monday, March 07, 2005

Is Bush Snorting Cocaine Again?

Take this quote from this recent Washington Post article:

Meanwhile yesterday, Bush warned that Democratic lawmakers may suffer
politically if they continue to oppose his plan without offering alternatives.
Americans are beginning to agree that Social Security needs revisions to
safeguard its long-term stability, he said, adding: "In my judgment, ultimately,
I think politicians need to be worried about not being a part of the solution."

So many things wrong in so little space...

For years and years Social Security has lovingly been known as "the third rail of American politics," that is to say, if you touch it, you get electrocuted. So here we have Bush, feet in a puddle of water, hand in death-grip on the third rail, hair standing on end, the smell of burning flesh wafting from him, saying to the Democrats, "It's gonna be bad if you don't grab this with me!" Uh, yeah. We'll be right there.

So, Bush asks, why are the Democrats "oppos[ing] [my] plan without offering alternatives?" Well, Mr. Bush, the reason is that your plan is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Democrats would offer alternatives if they agreed with you that Social Security is in "crisis" and will be "bankrupt" in 2018, both of which are factually false. This is kind of like having your spouse say to you, "You can't tell me we shouldn't blow up the house to get rid of the demons unless you have a better idea," when, of course, you know there aren't any demons in the first place!

"Americans are beginning to agree that Social Security needs revisions to safeguard its long-term stability"? This is true in the same sense as "Americans are beginning to agree that they want the government to give them random electric shocks throughout the day." Support for Bush's plans to "revise" Social Security has been dropping like a rock and fewer people think that Social Security needs any "revision" or "reform" than did when Bush started into this whole mess. In other words, this is an outright lie.

"In my judgment, ultimately, I think politicians need to be worried about not being a part of the solution." Solution to what? There isn't a problem! At the very least, the problem you keep blabbing about doesn't exist. And, even if there were a problem, I am happy that the Democrats don't want to be a part of "the solution" as you envision it, since you want nothing less than the abolition of Social Security.

You see, Mr. Bush, it's becoming more and more apparent even to those you tricked into voting for you last November that you aren't dealing with the problem of preserving the Social Security program for future generations by proposing solutions that will keep it viable and funded for the forseeable future. No, wrapped inside your rhetoric, what you are reallying trying to do is solve the problem that you and your cronies don't like Social Security because you're rich and don't need it by proposing solutions that will lead to its demise. They say you can't go broke underestimating the stupidity of the American people. But, just like you kept leading oil companies into bankruptcy while looking for oil in Texas, you, Mr. Bush, have actually managed to overestimate the stupidity of the American people. Bravo!


At 12:40 PM, Blogger R. Paul Wiegand said...

I always seem to be defending Bush on your blog ... I need to get out of that habit ...

At any rate, I am no more a fan of Bush's Social Security proposals than you are, nor am I a fan of the clearly manipulative and (at times) down-right dishonest rhetoric of the administration; however, there are a couple of reasonable rebuttal points for some of your complaints.

First, it isn't true that there's no problem with Social Security. There's no crisis, but the system is definitely headed (slowly) towards insolvency. It's not just conservative economists who say this, but also many progressive economists. Something has to be done, just nothing urgent, drastic, and immediate. Having said that, I think I agree with David Walker, nonpartisan head of the Office of Comptroller General, when he said, "The sooner you act, the less dramatic the changes that have to be made." (See WP March 9, 05). It's a question of priority, though.

Though I don't at all agree with Bush, I do believe that SS needs to be addressed at some point. Indeed, what I object to most about Bush's plan is that it neither fixes the problem nor is it appropriately prioritized -- it's his main domestic priority, and there are other things far more pressing at present (like health care).

The second point of contention with your remarks is regarding his comment that most people want to see something done about social security. Bush's statement says that Americans agree something should be done, not that they agree with his plan. As you say, his plan's popularity is dwindling ... and the number of "might-change-my-mind" people is far higher in the pro-private accounts than the anti-private accounts groups (See the recent Pew Research Center poll).

However, some recent polls may back up the general claim that we (as a nation) are in agreement that SS should be fixed. While Americans recognize that SS is not "in crisis", they consider it an important issue (See the above WP article) ... and most have the impression that the system is a good one, but is troubled (See the additional findings of the afore mentioned PRC poll). This may or may not mean that most Americans "agree that Social Security needs revisions to safeguard its long-term stability" ... but it is not an entirely unreasonable inference to draw. You might not draw that inference, but it is possible Bush's comment (in this particular, unusual case) is not an "outright lie."

Actually, where I would object to Bush is in his statement that liberals aren't offering ideas on their own. Actually, there are many ideas (both good and bad) from the liberal camp, he merely discounts them entirely if the ideas involve a tax increase. His SotU address was very annoying in that way because he basically said, "I am willing to entertain any idea, as long as I don't disagree with it." From this he jumps to: "Hey, at least I'm proposing ideas ... where are the liberals?" That's very annoying.

Here are (some of) the liberal ideas: Raise the retirement age, reduce or eliminate benefits to those who clearly do not need it, and increase payroll taxes somewhat. Bush can say he wont do this, but it is unreasonable (and inaccurate) to say that we haven't proposed ideas ourselves. Moreover, our ideas actually address the solvency problem.

Bob Pozen, a moderate Democrat who was on Bush's SS commission actually has a plan (albeit, a 75 year plan) to restore solvency to SS ... he even supports private accounts (more or less) ... yet Bush totally ignores this (See WP Op-Ed March 9, 2005). Liberals have ideas for addressing the problem, and our ideas aren't based on hyper-melodramatic scare tactics.

So I definitely agree with the spirit of your post (as always).

At 1:52 PM, Blogger mooglar said...

From what I understand, there is actually only a problem with Social Security under the Social Security Administration's model that uses the most pessimistic prediction of the economy's performance over the next 75 years. Under the middle-of-the-road model and the model where the economy does really well, Social Security is actually still solvent in 75 years.

According to what I heard on NPR, the "pessimistic" model, in the past, has always turned out to be too pessimistic. The middle-of-the-road model has turned out to be the most accurate.

As such, I think it is much less than clear that there is a problem with Social Security. I think there is, at worst, a potential problem.

You are correct that a lot of moderate and/or progressive economists think there is a problem. However, from some looking around I have done, I think that this view is actually not the consensus of the moderate/progressive economists as a whole, but that Bush is controlling the story so that the ones who don't think there is a problem are not getting media coverage because they are seen as being too far outside where "the conversation" is taking place. In other words, I think the Republicans have convinced the public and the media that there is a problem to the degree that those who don't think there is a problem are not even on the radar anymore.

As to your second point, I think you are being a little too charitable to el Presidente. He is not trying to "revise" Social Security to guarantee its long-term stability. He is trying to phase Social Security out. That is what he means by "revise" Social Security. As you note, he has said he will "consider any plan [he] doesn't disagree with," which means he will consider exactly one plan: His plan to phase out Social Security. Since there is only one possible way of "revising" Social Security under the Bush regime, he is intentionally attempting to equate the public's desire for Social Security to remain solvent with his plan to phase Social Security out. He is intentionally making the case that the American people want to phase out Social Security, which they don't.

It is, perhaps, not an outright lie as you note, but it is just as bad. Bush is trying to use the desire of the American people to save Social Security as evidence that it is time to dismantle it. That is disingenuous in the extreme, and perhaps worse than an outright lie, in my opinion.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger R. Paul Wiegand said...

I realize there are competing views of the predictions of the solvency of the SS system, and I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of all the arguments. Nevertheless, from what I understand, it seems likely that the system may very well have long-term solvency problems. I will checkout the NPR story, though (even though I'll have to use the evil RealNetworks spy-ware to do so...8^) ). Thanks for the reference.

One way or the other, we agree that it is not a major issue at the moment, and certainly not a crises. And we also agree that the administration's rhetoric regarding this issues is very disingenuous.

As for your reply to my second comment, you wrote: "He is not trying to 'revise' Social Security to guarantee its long-term stability. He is trying to phase Social Security out.", About this we have absolutely no disagreement; this is almost certainly what he is doing. I hope I did not imply otherwise.

I was only meaning to address the specific comment that most Americans believe SS needs some kind of fixing. I was reading your post to suggest that Bush was lying when he said this, when ... actually ... he may very well be correct.

Of course most Americans also believe his plan won't work, and many of those who agree with his plan say they "might change their mind" in the future ...

I don't give President Bush much credit on anything, and I was not trying to defend Bush's position or rhetoric ... I was simply responding to those two specific points.


Post a Comment

<< Home