Friday, May 20, 2005

Bush Floats Above the Fray

This column was originally published in the Kentucky section of

By Rich Miles

May 20, 2005

President Bush is on the 78th day of a 60-day nationwide roadshow to promote his Social Security plan, but other political issues and stories seem to have stolen the spotlight.”

So began an article in the May 20th issue of the New York Times – an article that raises the question, “What the hell is he thinking?”. Consider the following:

The National Review, in its May 22 issue, goes all the way over the line from denial into delusion with its cover story, “We’re Winning”, about how America has finally learned the “art of counterinsurgency” in Iraq. Meanwhile, the death toll of civilians, Iraqi government members, police and security forces, not to mention U.S troops, in the past 30 days approaches 500.

The generals in charge in Iraq are on the verge of having to defy their SecDef and C-in-C about the possibility of troop drawdowns, because we simply cannot do it without major bloodshed, much of it American blood.

Genuine loonies in the radical religious Right, like James Dobson, Frank Pavone, Randall Terry et al., continue to scream for the quid pro quo they think is theirs because of the electoral victory they “gave” Bush back in November, and are the prime movers in keeping the nuclear fires burning in the U.S. Senate.

Despite repeated warnings from virtually every reputable scientist in the country, Bush continues to ignore the dangers of global warming, and stands by his position that “there’s not enough proof that global warming exists”.

Despite repeated warnings from virtually every reputable economist in the WORLD that our huge federal deficits are almost certain to cause a major economic catastrophe for the U.S. in the not-too-distant future, Bush continues to insist that his tax cuts and budget priorities are the right way for us to go, and that if we’ll all just be patient, the deficits will go away all by themselves.

Tom DeLay gives delusional behavior a bad name almost every time he opens his mouth, and still refuses to see that there are a lot of Republicans in the “liberal” conspiracy that is trying to call him to task for his arrogance and misfeasance (and perhaps malfeasance).

China, which owns a lot of our debt paper, is about to eat our lunch in oh, so many ways, and North Korea is on the verge of telling us, in a big way, that we can stick our self-righteous attitudes about who can have nuclear weapons where the sun don’t shine.

Here in Kentucky, the Belly of the Right-Wing Christian beast, our governor, Ernie “I can be just as arrogant as the President” Fletcher, the one who campaigned (and apparently won) on the promise to “clean up the mess” in our Capital, is daily becoming more embroiled in a case that, if it goes as it appears to be going, will lead to his indictment, along with that of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of state workers and political hangers-on.

And the Senate (remember the Senate?), in a controversy publicly all but ignored by the president, but privately encouraged by him and his imp of Satan Karl Rove, is about to implode over 7 people – 7 judges, out of more than 200, who are so far out of the mainstream that they look left to see Attila the Hun.

But rather than address any of these deeply troubling issues in any serious way, rather than even stay in Washington long enough to try to address them, our beloved leader continues his barnstorming tour to convince Americans of the need to dismantle – yes, that’s the right word – virtually the only government program EVER in our history to work almost precisely as planned, despite ample and repeated polling numbers showing that, the more he tells us about his plan, the less we support it. And he continues to blame the Democrats for their refusal to play his game.

A mental image comes to me….of Bush floating above us, fluffy clouds all around, looking down at what he has wrought, very pleased with himself, because he is working so hard to “fix” Social Security. And right there beside him, slightly smaller wings and a few feet below him for appearances, Karl Rove takes notes on how he can consolidate his power, reward some more campaign contributors and corporate CEO’s, and keep the clouds in place so Bush can’t see the real damage. Not that he’s shown any evidence he would alter his actions if he did see it.

I don’t know how much more of Bush’s leadership we can stand. Please, Mr. President, don’t help us any more, OK? Leave government to the professionals, and go chainsaw something at the ranch.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Best Part About Being President

By Rich Miles

May 3, 2005

You know what must be one of the best things about being the president?

I think it’s that, once you manage to get elected, or Karl Rove manages to get you elected, you can then spew all kinds of nonsense, and misleading information, and even outright lies – and people have to take you seriously!

They have to listen to your loony ideas about “fixing” Social Security, and your flimsy rationale for sending the nation to war, your fantasyland budget, and your excuses for why nothing that goes wrong is ever your fault. They have to nod wisely, and debate your ideas as if they actually make sense. Because you’re the Preznit!

Man, that would be so cool! If I were president, I bet I could even get the First Lady to believe that it is vital to national security that I play online poker till 2:00am.

I’m not the president, of course – wouldn’t have the job. But the guy who IS president: he’s the man who has (with the collusion of a spineless and ethically-challenged Congress) racked up massive budget deficits by recklessly cutting taxes no matter the cost to the country, and getting the country into an optional war at the cost of 1600+ lives and $300 billion so far, and who now wants to destroy the only government program that is solvent and self-supporting, in the interest of saving it from a crisis that most experts believe doesn’t exist, and the rest believe is 35 or more years away.

So for all of you who support this idea, I ask a question: have you given serious thought to what Bush’s “personal accounts” plan will mean if it goes as wrong as his opponents believe it will?

Consider: If all of the things the opponents of Bush’s plan say can go wrong DO go wrong, what we’ll have in 40 years or so is a lot of really poor old people without enough combined income from their “personal accounts” and their 401(k)’s and their savings to live on.

I don’t mean live comfortably – I mean live at all, because they will rely so heavily on “market forces” to make them rich that they won’t make proper plans for what to do if they don’t.

And if there’s one thing no politician is going to allow to happen, it’s for a lot of poor, hungry old VOTERS to realize they made a mistake back in 2005, and start to vote the current set of rascals out of office – so to avoid that, they’ll enact new benefits, and the folks who chose to have personal accounts because it was part of their “ownership society” will be right back where they started: receiving a bare-necessity government benefit to supplement what they didn’t save for themselves.

And the cost to the government will not be less – it will cost massively, mind-boggling more to enact this new plan from scratch instead of leaving the current one in place.

Now, never mind how likely this scenario is. Based on my research, I believe it’s the MOST likely one, but nothing is certain in life except death and Republican tax cuts. We all know there are such things as “market cycles”, bulls and bears, booms and busts, and even the people who make their living predicting these things really can’t guess very accurately when they’ll happen. But no matter how likely it is, the real question to ask is: do you want to bet your old age on it?

There seems to be a consensus that Social Security needs some tweaking to make it solvent into the indefinite future. Several tentative proposals have been put forth, none so far that has the pizzazz to garner bipartisan support. But what President Bush proposed in his April 28 news conference is yet another hit to the middle class in the guise of “protecting” the poor, and if the critics are even half-right, it will mean no less than the complete dismantling of Social Security, in such a way that an awful lot of middle-class working people who have paid into the system all their working lives are not only going to have reduced benefits – they may have virtually no benefits at all, after a lifetime of promises that they would.

So to those of you on either side of the SocSec discussion, I urge you – when a genuine plan is put forth, no matter by whom or by which party, read the fine print, of which I can assure you there will be a LOT. I know it’s a lot more attention than Americans are used to paying to the workings of their government – but it’s not going too far to say that some day, your life may depend on it.