by ROBERT L. BOROSAGE
[posted online on February 3, 2005]
"My fellow Americans, my invasion and occupation of Iraq has cost thousands of lives, wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and provided a recruiting boon to Al Qaeda across the world. It has left America more isolated and less respected than ever. The election went better than I hoped, but there's no way to get out without the country descending into civil war and no way to stay without the insurgency and our casualties growing.
"My tax cuts left the country with record deficits, the slowest jobs growth since the Great Depression and the greatest inequality since the Gilded Age. My trade policies have racked up the highest trade deficits in the annals of nations, and left us dependent on the willingness of the Chinese and Japanese governments to keep buying our bonds despite the continuing fall of the dollar.
"Wages are stagnant; health care costs are soaring and college is getting priced out of the reach of more and more working families. In response, I've blocked efforts to control the costs of prescription drugs, broken my promises on funding for schools, and just pushed through a cut in Pell grants to over one million students.
"Building on this record, I call now on the Congress to privatize Social Security. Social Security faces a potential long-term funding shortfall but my plan doesn't address that. I leave that to Congress, requiring only that the solution involve cuts in guaranteed benefits, not increases in revenue. My plan is to borrow some $4.5 trillion more dollars over the next twenty years to finance the setting up of private accounts for people under 55. These accounts will be voluntary, but everyone will get benefit cuts--even those on disability or survivors of those struck down early in life--whether they opt for private accounts or not. Government will manage the millions of accounts and limit your investment options to protect you from getting completely fleeced by Wall Street.
"Incidentally, the money won't actually be yours. It's a loan that must be repaid in full at 3 percent interest when you retire. If you make more than that--and frankly most of you won't--you will be required to turn most of what's left into an annuity that will pay out an annual sum each year to keep you above destitution. Anything left beyond the payback to government and the destitution annuity, you can keep. Don't plan a cruise on it.
"This plan, as I said, does nothing to solve Social Security's long-term problem--which, frankly, isn't all that bad, but provides a handy excuse for privatization. It really is designed for political purposes. It dismantles a Democratic big-government program that works well in providing a safety net for seniors and insurance for the disabled and survivors, and replaces it with an annual report about what you have in a private account brought to you by the good graces of George Bush and the Republican Party. We hope to create a generation of thankful voters--at least until they reach retirement and realize that their guaranteed benefits have been cut and the money isn't really theirs anyway. May God Bless America."
In his state of the union address, President Bush called for an "open and candid" discussion of Social Security, but as the above suggests, this President is not about to level with the American people. So calling for "courage and honesty" in a speech that exhibited neither, the President laid down his priorities for his second term.
What ails America? By the President's account, our economy is hobbled because the rich have too little money and corporations are too accountable. Our healthcare system is broken because too many people have insurance and citizen juries give too many victims of malpractice recompense for their injuries. Social Security is in trouble because benefits are too high and too secure. Marriage is threatened most by gays who want to get married. Our
Constitution requires amending to enshrine bigotry and save it from the activist liberal judges that dominate our courts despite seventeen years of Reagan and Bush appointments. Our military is too weak, even though we already spend nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on our military.
Bush will roll the dice. His ruinous first term policies, his razor thin re-election margin, his declining popularity do not deter him. He will seek to do "big things." But the boldness of his ambition is matched only by the wrongheadedness of his priorities. He called, as Presidents do, for Americans to dream. But Bush's dreams, if passed into law, will be America's nightmares.