Dubya Watch
"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want,
and deserve to get it good and hard." -- H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I feel the same way. Reuters reports from Europe:
The rest of the world will be watching with anxiety when President Bush is inaugurated Thursday for a second time, fearing the most powerful man on the planet may do more harm than good.

Many world leaders, alienated by Bush's go-it-alone foreign policy and the U.S.-led war in Iraq, would have preferred him to lose the U.S. election last November. Since his victory, they have been urging him to listen and consult more.

Mistrust also runs deep among ordinary people. Some 58 percent of people surveyed in a British Broadcasting Corporation poll in 21 countries said they believed Bush's re-election made the world a more dangerous place.

Time to go to the mattresses. I've decided to start a new blog dedicated to one of the most important political issues facing us this year. I call it The War on Social Security, for that's what it is: a deceptive attack by conservative idealogues to effectively destroy one of the best social programs ever created. They hate the idea of government being involved, and want individuals to assume responsibility. The buzz phrase is "the ownership society." What this phrase really means is "you're on your own."

It's one thing for them to have this opinion; while I don't agree, I don't question its validity. What inflames me is that they are cloaking their plans in the guise of "saving" Social Security. They've tried for 70 years now to convince Americans that Social Security is bad. Unsurprisingly, the public has never agreed. So now they're perpetuating a sneak attack that begins by peddling the myth that the program faces an imminent crisis.

I say it's time to go to the mattresses on this one. We need to tell all our Senators and Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats (for there are a few who appear willing to cave in on the issue) to reject the Bush Administration's plans for Social Security. Bush means business, and he wants action this year. We need to stop him, and pressuring Congress is the only way it can happen.

I can foresee that the issue of Social Security will be dominating my attention in the months ahead -- along with some personal issues, anyway -- and rather than have it swamp this page, I decided to give it a separate one. So please read The War on Social Security, not because I have any unique insights, but because I'll be trying to link to those who do ... and to the accurate facts, which are going to be in short supply from this administration.

Friday, January 14, 2005
"The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency." More on the previously noted tendency of George Bush to label things as a "crisis" in order to get his way:
Some presidents make the history books by managing crises. Lincoln had Fort Sumter, Roosevelt had the Depression and Pearl Harbor, and Kennedy had the missiles in Cuba. George W. Bush, of course, had Sept. 11, and for a while thereafter -- through the overthrow of the Taliban -- he earned his page in history, too.

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.

And from a different article in today's Washington Post is the clearest possible explanation of what's to come:
President Bush plans to reactivate his reelection campaign's network of donors and activists to build pressure on lawmakers to allow workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in the stock market, according to Republican strategists.

White House allies are launching a market-research project to figure out how to sell the plan in the most comprehensible and appealing way, and Republican marketing and public-relations gurus are building teams of consultants to promote it, the strategists said.

The campaign will use Bush's campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support -- contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away.

Monday, January 10, 2005
They hide the cost of what they've already done. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that, over the next 75 years, Bush's tax cuts (assuming they're made permanent) and Medicare drug benefit will cost five times more than the Social Security shortfall that he's trying to scare us with:
The President has suggested or implied that Social Security presents a greater budgetary problem than Medicare or his tax cuts, and that the Medicare prescription drug bill will help to reduce the overall cost of Medicare by averting unnecessary hospitalizations. Analysis conducted by the Social Security and Medicare Trustees and actuaries, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Government Accountability Office, among others, show that such views are mistaken.

The reality is that the Social Security shortfall, while sizeable, is not gargantuan, and it is not necessary to alter Social Securityís basic structure to close the shortfall. Both rising health care costs, which drive much of the projected growth in Medicare costs, and the long-term cost of the Presidentís tax cuts pose much larger budgetary problems.

(via Talking Points Memo)

Sunday, January 09, 2005
Every issue is a "crisis." Yesterday's Washington Post points out how Bush calls an issue a "crisis" to try and get what he wants:
Warning of the need for urgent action on his Social Security plan, Bush says the "crisis is now" for a system even the most pessimistic observers say will take in more in taxes than it pays out in benefits well into the next decade.

He calls the proliferation of medical liability lawsuits a "crisis in America" that can be fixed only by limiting a patient's right to sue for large damages. And Bush has repeatedly accused Senate Democrats of creating a "vacancy crisis" on the federal bench by refusing to confirm a small percentage of his judicial nominees.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
How they'll gut Social Security. Today we get some insight into the Bush Administration's plan to destroy Social Security, courtesy of the Washington Post:
The Bush administration has signaled that it will propose changing the formula that sets initial Social Security benefit levels, cutting promised benefits by nearly a third in the coming decades, according to several Republicans close to the White House.

Under the proposal, the first-year benefits for retirees would be calculated using inflation rates rather than the rise in wages over a worker's lifetime. Because wages tend to rise considerably faster than inflation, the new formula would stunt the growth of benefits, slowly at first but more quickly by the middle of the century. The White House hopes that some, if not all, of those benefit cuts would be made up by gains in newly created personal investment accounts that would harness returns on stocks and bonds.

Josh Marshall has the real story:
After 1980 we started borrowing money big-time to finance our deficits -- in large part because of tax cuts on high-income earners. However you want to slice it, we started spending substantially more than we were taking in in tax revenue.

So where'd we borrow the money?

This is from memory, so I may have the numbers a bit off. But I believe about $4 trillion of that debt was borrowed on the open market -- individual Americans have them in their investment portfolios, or pension funds hold them, or the Chinese, Japanese and the Saudis and others have them in bonds.

But about $3 trillion of those dollars we needed to fund the 1980s and 1990s deficits we managed to borrow closer to home. We borrowed it from the Social Security (and a few other government) trust fund(s).

Almost the entirety of President Bush's Social Security phase-out plan comes down to a simple proposition: finding out how not to pay it back.

Now, admittedly, this is an approach that the president is rather familiar with from his own business career at various failed energy companies. But it is, in so many words, a straight up con -- one of vast scale, and one which virtually no one in the media ever frames in just these terms.

Web paulmurray.net
Cost of the War in Iraq
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