Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Fabrication of Spin

Harold Meyerson at WaPo spins the fantasy that Social Security is financially secure and accuses the President of achieving his goals by fabricating crises, such as Iraq and Social Security shortfall.

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.

Does this guy remember the "health care crisis," the "child-care crisis,"and other made up crises during the Clinton years (and beyond). Anyway, Clinton and many other top dog dems called Iraq a crisis during the late 90's, going so far as to calling Iraq a threat. Did Clinton make that up?

In fact, Social Security is on a sounder footing now than it has been for most of its 70-year history. Without altering any of its particulars, its trustees say, it can pay full benefits straight through 2042. Over the next 75 years its shortfall will amount to just 0.7 percent of national income, according to the trustees, or 0.4 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That still amounts to a real chunk of change, but it pales alongside the 75-year cost of Bush's Medicare drug benefit, which is more than twice its size, or Bush's tax cuts if permanently extended, which would be nearly four times its size.

In short, Social Security is not facing a financial crisis at all. It is facing a need for some distinctly sub-cataclysmic adjustments over the next few decades that would increase its revenue and diminish its benefits.

So Social Security will only be solvent for the next 37 years, but can last longer if we increase taxes and cut benefits. I suppose that a 37 year wait doesn't consitute "imminence" but Bush has never claimed that the SS collapse was imminent (where have I heard that before?). Bush is saying that we must do something to UPDATE the system before its too late (sounds familiar, again).

Politically, however, Social Security is facing the gravest crisis it has ever known. For the first time in its history, it is confronted by a president, and just possibly by a working congressional majority, who are opposed to the program on ideological grounds, who view the New Deal as a repealable aberration in U.S. history, who would have voted against establishing the program had they been in Congress in 1935. But Bush doesn't need Karl Rove's counsel to know that repealing Social Security for reasons of ideology is a non-starter.

This "crisis" appears to be what the Dems are all worked up about in the first place. They want social security to be around no matter what. They are still clinging onto their New Deal politics and mindset. They don't think that anyone should be able to question their great big government programs, regardless of its usefulness. The Dems are shuddering at the prospect that the wave they've been riding for 70 years is about to come to an end and with it their electoral viability. If Bush can revamp the nation's government retirement system with free market reforms then he will get credit for it, as will his Republican supporters. How long will the GOP be able to ride that wave is questionable, but should his reform become reality, the GOP will be riding the wave and the Dems will be stuck with their heads in the sand.I can't wait.