Thursday, January 20, 2005

That's Why They Call It Gambling

By Rich Miles

January 20, 2005

Attention Young People!

I’m not quite sure what that means, since no one has actually put forth a plan, but it would be safe to say it includes those in the range of -30 to about 45. That’s right – MINUS 30. People who won’t be born for 30 years. That’s the age range I’m going to address here. You older kids, help the little ones out, OK?

There has been a lot of talk about “reforming” Social Security lately, and I’m writing to you young folks because, if what President Bush says he wants to do comes to pass, you will be the key to how the reforms will work. And folks like me – over that age range – are pretty worried about it. So I’d like to cut through the massive numbers of numbers, and offer some observations that I feel certain the White House will not provide for you. Forgive the somewhat brusque prose about to come. There’s a lot to say.

The President says, based on projections that virtually no one else can see, that the SocSec program is “in crisis”. What he doesn’t tell you is that his projections for the economy’s growth if we DON’T change anything is only about ¼ of the projection of economic growth if we do it his way. It can’t be both ways, but he’s trying to tell you it can be, and will be.

Bush wants to set up privately held accounts which will require a huge amount of borrowing to get started. We’re already in deep debt due to his tax cuts, and the costs of this start-up exceed the projections for what will happen if we do nothing all the way up to 2042.

He wants all of us to become savvy investors – to pay close attention to how the stock market works, and know when it’s time to adjust or increase or decrease the investments in our private accounts. If you don’t do this, you’ll get about the same return from it that you will if no private accounts are ever set up, and even if you do pay attention, it might not be any better. Are you willing to put in that amount of effort to learn about markets and then monitor your account, for an iffy return?

He also doesn’t mention that the only people – the ONLY ones – who are guaranteed to come out better in a privatization plan are the people who administer the plans – the stockbrokers and fund managers, who will take their account maintenance fees no matter whether your investments go up or down.

But the best part is this: in the guise of creating an “ownership society”, what he’s really saying is, if you choose the private account and it goes belly-up, or you become disabled before you retire, or anything else unexpected happens – you’re on your own for the retirement income that would have been produced by the account. You will, by most estimates, still get some kind of reduced benefit from the government, but your private account is yours – for good or ill.

Are you willing to run that risk? Are you willing to support the President in dismantling pretty much the only social program ever created in this country that WORKS? Are you willing to let him bribe you into gambling with not only your future, but that of your children, and your parents, and your brothers and sisters?

Remember the old adage – “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” And this plan – as vague as it remains to this date – doesn’t even look that good.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Logic 101

by Rich Miles

January 7, 2005

In Washington state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi led his Democratic opponent by 42 votes on Election Day. Despite state law mandating a recount because of the closeness of the result, Rossi claimed victory, and resisted the recount even in the face of numerous reports of voting and vote counting irregularities. A win by 42 votes was just fine with him, thank you very much, the people have spoken, let's move on. And in the inevitable recount, when his opponent drew closer, he continued to insist that "the voters had spoken", and no further recount was needed. Finally, when a third recount, conducted under closer scrutiny than the first two, gave his opponent a victory, he decided that recounts weren't such a bad thing after all, and indeed what was needed was not a recount, but a revote.

In Ohio, now known as the "Florida of 2004", more than 40,000 reports of voting and vote counting irregularities were received by election authorities. Some reports suggested at least the possibility that these irregularities, if corrected, could have resulted in a victory for John Kerry, which would have meant a John Kerry presidency. Despite all these indications, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who like Katherine Harris of Florida in 2000, was the state chairman of President Bush's reelection campaign, has actually gone so far as to defy a legitimate court subpoena in order to avoid having all the voting irregularities in Ohio cleared up.

And in Kentucky, the Republican-controlled state Senate, under the banner of "the will of the people", has refused to invalidate the election of a state senate candidate, despite a very clear constitutional provision making her ineligible even to run in the election.

So what have we learned from all this?

In the study of logic, for those of you who didn't take that very popular course in school, there is a thing called a "syllogism". In short, a syllogism is a line of logical argument that can be stated in the form "If A and B, then C”. I mention this because, in the three examples above, we have a perfect syllogism:

- People who don't wish to have all the votes counted in an election, or who are willing to overlook the law as long as it benefits THEIR candidate, are not really interested in the "will of the people" so much as they are interested in pulling a fast one on the people.

- Republicans, far more often than Democrats, don't wish to have all the votes counted, and are willing to overlook the law to their candidates' benefit.

- Therefore, Republicans are trying to pull a fast one on the people.

This has happened too many times now for it to be coincidence. In nearly 100% of the disputed cases relating to the 2004 elections, Republicans have wanted NOT to count all the votes, and Democrats have wanted to count them as accurately as possible, despite considerable resistance including a Republican congressman actually saying on the floor of the House of Representatives, that people who question the vote in 2004 were "aiding the terrorists".

So again, what do we learn from this?

It seems clear to me. How democracy can ever be served by NOT counting the votes in any election for any office, or by not insuring that the election was conducted as freely and fairly as possible, or by not espousing a thorough investigation of any irregularities, is a concept I simply cannot understand.

"The people have spoken"? "It's time to move on"? "Get over it"?

Not just yet. But thanks for your concern.