By Rich Miles
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.