Wednesday :: Jan 19, 2005

Bush's Next Big Bet


by Mary

Was it only two years ago that we wondered what George W Bush would say in his State of the Union address? And remember, that was before one soldier died in Iraq for the lies that Bush told. During that SOTU, Bush laid out the case for war against Iraq IF Saddam continued to refuse to disarm. Today, we know that Saddam had no weapons and nothing to disarm. And even then, the Bush administration knew that Saddam had not been trying to seek nuclear material in Africa and that the aluminum tubes could not be used in making enriched uranium. Bush manufactured a crisis based on lies and today we are paying for it in blood and treasure.

This year, Social Security is the target for the Bush campaign. And this manufactured crisis is based in as much reality as all those WMD that Saddam had. During the runup to the war, Bush and his henchmen were blatant in their lies. They were proud of the fact that Bush was so good at disseminating propaganda.

Both presidents [Reagan & Bush], schooled in the discipline of message, can sound to those who listen for a living as if they have been programmed by some attending Svengali.

''This business of saying the same thing over and over and over again -- which to a lot of Washington insiders and pundits is boring -- works,'' Deaver said. ''That was sort of what we figured out in the Reagan White House. And I think these people do it very, very well.''

Even then in the midst of planning to start an illegal and unnecessary war, Bush's goal was to attack Social Security. Once again here was an area that he believed he could go where Reagan feared to tread.

If people basically trust Bush when he professes humanitarian concern on subjects like welfare, prescription drugs, education and retirement -- and so far most seem to trust him -- then he can bring about changes that would have frightened the electorate in Reagan's day.

The best example of this is Social Security. Before he was elected president, Reagan proposed allowing individuals to ''opt out'' of Social Security. But when, soon after taking office, he sent Congress a proposal to slash the retirement program, the plan hit a buzz saw. He never dared offering legislation to privatize Social Security, although the idea was discussed.

Martin Feldstein, who was chairman of Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, said they couldn't figure out a way to do it without arousing a panicky backlash among elderly voters. When Feldstein worked with candidate Bush on the design of his tax and Social Security proposals, though, he was impressed that Bush had discerned a new political opportunity that may outweigh the fears of the elderly. Polls showed that younger and middle-aged voters were comfortable with individual retirement instruments like 401(k) programs. Moreover, the anxiety about whether Social Security will be around when they retire, which has always been seen as an argument for shoring up the status quo, is in Bush's mind an argument for inventing something new.

Thus while the administration is still debating the timing of an assault on Social Security -- are voters ready for it before 2004? How big a setback was the implosion of Enron's retirement plan? -- the president no longer regards Social Security as the lethal ''third rail'' of American politics. It is likely to be one of the big bets of his presidency.

Indeed. Bush likes to bet big. And he is marshalling all the forces that he controls to take this program out once and for all, including using our tax dollars and the civil service to help him get his way.

So it is up to us, those who care, to stop him from destroying Social Security.

To do this The Left Coaster is joining with other progressive blogs to do battle to save Social Security. On our right sidebar we've added a new icon that will take you to the There Is No Crisis site where you will find a number of tools that we can use to fight this battle. Check it out. Find out how you can help. And let's make Bush rue the day he ever decided to touch the third rail of American politics.

Mary :: 12:22 AM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!