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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Pressing His Luck

Check it out, before it goes down the memory hole.

The transcript doesn't quite convey how irritable and snippy Bush seemed at times, as if this was all just a huge intrusion. After all, the press conference was originally meant to address the administration's stunning lack of ability to even get Republicans behind this magical Social Security plan that is not "privatization", nor is it "private accounts" anymore, but we can't explain the details to you just yet, see?

So the marketing term for the time being is "personal accounts", until that falls on its face, and they have to pull yet another seemingly innocuous phrase out of their asses.

Every facet of this scam (and that's precisely what it is) has been handled as crassly and cynically as possible. Black people are encouraged to get on board because of their lower life expectancy (thus fewer retirement benefits); never mind that not only does an abbreviated life expectancy translate into more survivor benefits, but no one seems particularly interested in exploring the wheres and whys of blacks' life expectancy in the first place. (Hint: It's mostly economic.) Surely we can devote some of this money and energy into figuring out how to get them more in line with everyone else. But no one even bothers to ask the question.

And apparently Bill Clinton and Daniel Patrick Moynihan have been roped into support for privatization -- Moynihan posthumously, for added convenience and bullshit. What Bush fails to mention is that Clinton and Moynihan wanted to set up personal accounts on top of current benefits, using the budget surplus. You remember the surplus, don't you?

Then you have the notion that, because the system could be bankrupt in as soon as 40 years, it's an imminent crisis. Well, lots of things will bloom into full-blown crises in much less time. China plans on expanding its economy another 8% this year, after a 9% expansion in 2004, which is huge. This will translate into an even more accelerated use of fossil fuels. There is no debate about whether we face imminent supply and production catastrophes by the end of this decade -- it's going to happen, primarily because of China's rapidly increasing demand, and our absolute refusal to even pretend to conserve. China is already using its capital to secure oil supplies around the world -- Sudan, Iran, Venezuela. So just keep on driving your Hummers, folks. Anyway, why is this not being addressed as the actual crisis that it is? Indeed, what is our energy policy, aside from quietly opening up ANWR last week for some exploratory sampling?

Another imminent crisis involves China. China's (and Japan's) central banks have been propping up our Drunken Sailor In Chief by buying bonds and T-bills. China in particular benefits from this arrangement for now, because of the huge trade deficit. Basically, they're selling us cheap goods, and lending us the money with which to buy them. So are we doing anything to start rectifying the situation? No, we're getting in deeper. Most major oil-producing countries have already moved their reserves from dollars to euros, because of the dollar's slide against the euro. This has the concomitant effect of accelerating that slide, not to mention jacking up oil costs. Look for the chickens to come home to roost soon enough to cause a fairly major recession, if we're lucky. In the meantime, Bush's economic policy is to use accounting tricks to show deficit reduction -- if you don't count the money for the war (now yet another $80bn), and if you don't count the SS transition costs, which will be huge no matter how they amortize them. Try that sort of creative accounting with your home budget; just count the bills you feel like counting, and see how far that gets you.

There are more crises up ahead, which we'll discuss in the very near future. In the meantime, this morning's meltdown showed just how badly Bush functions when he's knocked off his talking-points rhythm, and why he is such an abject failure.

It's not even close anymore, folks. The honeymoon's over, and this factual perception will be cemented over the next few weeks, between a State of the Union speech that's guaranteed to be larded with yet more eye-rolling bromides about Freedom and Liberty, and a Potemkin election in Iraq that is almost certain to satisfy no one, and thus continue the inexorable slide into civil war.

As always, thanks again, values voters.

6 comments:

vonKreedon said...

Good catch on black male mortality transfering SS outlays to survivors.

Also, we already have government subsidized private/personal/ownership retirement accounts known as 401(k).

The deficit is the biggest threat to both the US and the world economy at this point. Perhaps the reason the Drunken Sailor wants to push the meme that SS goes bankrupt in 2040 is because he plans to deal with the deficit by not paying the SS Trustfund for all the T-bills. If that were the case then yes indeed SS would be bankrupt in 2040 when it started to need to cash the T-bills to pay benefits.

Heywood J. said...

vK: Actually I think it will turn out to be the other way around -- when the time comes, and China wants to cash in their chips, we'll pay them out of the already-raided [Darrell Hammond/Al Gore finger-quotes] "lock-box". This is the process of unlocking that box, and beginning the wealth transfer under the guise of marketing.
I believe that SS will mostly be preserved, if only because of sheer demographics. They roped in the AARP for their little Mediscare scam, and now the elders are doubly pissed. Nobody fucks with Grampa Simpson, Grampa does the....zzzzzzzzzz....

vonKreedon said...

I agree that the voting power of Boomers will ensure SS's solvency for at least the next 40 years, but that is the point at which the T-bills have to get cashed to pay for the much smaller Gen-X retirees. I don't know that they will have enough voting power to keep from having the T-bills used for something else, such as paying the Chinese for their T-bills.

But assuming that the world economy muddles along pretty much as it has since 1940 there is no reason that I have heard to believe that the SS system is in any kind of crisis.

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