Friday, December 17, 2004

December 16, 2004

The Shoot Ducks, Don't They?

Social Security – Republicans never liked it, but they were never in a position to do anything about it, until now. Even when it was passed into law, a time when the nation was in deep depression, millions of Americans were standing in breadlines, beggars in tattered Brooks Bros suits panhandling on city streets, even then Republicans didn't like it. Social Security was not a safety net they said, it was socialism. Government had no business taking care of people. Government’s only job was to defend the country and maintain social order. Taking care of the poor and unfortunate, Republicans huffed, was a job for churches and charities, not government.

Of course, that was before George W. Bush introduced “compassionate conservatism.” What is it? Well, you can think of compassionate conservatism as a kind of political duck blind -- a way to avoid scaring the ducks off -- until it’s too late.

The duck hunters are gathering today for day-two of the President’s two-day choreographed economic conference. It was billed as a “dialog on the economy,” but it was really just a monolog. Old Soviet politicians would have been swept into fits of nostalgia watching yesterday’s proceedings. Speaker after speaker lauded the administration’s tax cuts and plans to privatize social security. Not a single opponent spoke because none were asked to speak. All that was missing yesterday were the little red cards Soviet legislators used to raise in machine-like unison when it came time to vote the straight party line.

Here's what's really going on. After nearly three quarters of a century Republicans have finally snuck into positions where they can begin a stealthy dismantling FDR's Social Security. It begins with Bush’s partial privatization, but it will not end there. Diverting a portion of worker’s Social Security taxes to private accounts will begin the process of starving the already stressed S.S. trust fund. Already saddled with nearly $11 trillion in unfunded liabilities, bleeding another $2 trillion (the cost of private accounts) will only weaken it further -- and that’s the whole idea.

Since Bush has already pissed away the Clinton $5.6 trillion surplus, we will have to borrow the $2 trillion. That will add to the deficit. Understand the deficit is plays a key role in all this. Think of the deficit as a ravenous tumor. As it spreads throughout the economy the deficit will eventually force yet another reappraisal of both Social Security and Medicare. Both programs will be deemed far too expensive for a nation mired in debt, debt that by that time will have re-ignited inflation and ruinously high interest rates. At that point the now free-borrowing, free-spending Republicans will suddenly become deficit hawks. The country is broke, in debt up to our eyeballs. Cuts in government spending will the required.

And, that’s right where the neo-cons want us, with a national treasury s
o short of funds that all government can afford are only the handful of things they believe government should pay for. Social programs, they says, will be taken care of by the private sector as more and more government operations are privatized. Faith-based charities, they assure us, will fill the gaps by taking care of the elderly and poor.

And if you believe that... I guess you livc in a red state. The most charitable thing I can say about that theory is that it is a gamble. Not a gamble for the wealthy but the other 95% of Americans.

And, an unnecessary gamble. Despite what the Bushites claim, there is an easier, quicker and safer way to fix Social Security – simply do not make permanent the tax cuts on the top 1% of earners. That would do it. But he won’t for the very reason it would fix Social Security, and fix it is not the real goal here.

That is not to say that he will have an easy or risk-free job in this regard. Social Security remains the third rail of politics and, with the Baby Boomers out here, (myself included) representing a large and dangerous voting block, Republicans knolw they have to treat the dismantling of Social Security like defusing a bomb -- one sloppy move and it could all blow up in their faces.

That’s why we heard Bush “quip” yesterday that he was not going to send any specific proposals to The Hill, "We don't want to negotiate with ourselves," Bush said, “we want to dialog with Congress on ways to do this.”

Though delivered with a smirk and a chuckle, the sentences was pregnant with meaning to those who can translate it:

Translation: We know that this will inflict real pain on real people – benefit cuts, high retirement ages, etc - so we want those proposals to come out of the legislative sausage machine, not the White House. That way we can pretend to oppose them then “reluctantly” accept them as part of a large reform package that voters cannot figure out no matter how hard they try. That worked on Medicare reform so that’s what we want to do this time too.

So, the idea is to slowly strangle Social Security and Medicare as we know them, without leaving finge
rprints on the bodies.

Does all that sound just too Machiavellian for you? Could Karl Rove and fellow neo-cons really be that skilled, sneaky, stealthy, cunning?

Hmmm. I wonder. Let me think…… WMD……. Dems snookered into voting for the tax cuts…. Dems snookered into voting for Iraq War…… Dems snookered into voting for No Child Left Behind…… Dems loose Nov election…..

Yep fellow ducks, they sure as hell are.

Ready Shoot, Aim

Is it just me or do I see a pattern here?

First we attack Iraq before weapons inspectors are done inspecting. Then we send troops into war before they are properly equipped. And now we are deploying a so-called missile defense system that does not work. Remember SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative, AKA “Star Wars?”) Reagan dreamed it up and over the past twenty years or so we have dumped billions of dollars into it. The program slowed during the Clinton years but GW Bush revived it, ordering that, ready or not, we would start deploying anti-ballistic missile missiles this year. And, so we did. Several are already all fueled up and in their silos somewhere in Alaska. By deploying the anti-missile missiles Bush hopes to make the crazy little bastard who runs North Korea think twice before launching a nuclear-tipped missile in our direction.

Well it turns out Weird Leader (N.Korea's, not ours) won’t have to think twice. In fact he may not have to think about it all. Because yet another test of the interceptor missile failed – big time – yesterday.

While many earlier tests at least flew but failed to hit their targets, this one did not even get off the ground. Like an old Chevy pickup on a winter morning, the thing wouldn’t start when they turned the key. GRRRRRRRRrrrr….. GRRRRRRRRrrrr……. The only glow at that launch pad was from the red faces of the generals and defense contractors standing around staring blankly at their shinny, 100 foot tall, $85 million lawn ornament.

Yesterday’s test was the first full test of the system in nearly two years. So many of the earlier tests had embarassed the program's supporters they stopped testing. The Missile Defense Agency attempted to test the new/improved system several times this month, but scrubbed each one for a variety of reasons.

But never mind that the system can’t hit incoming missiles, or even get off the ground sometimes… Bush continues deploying them.

White House to Fearless Leader Kim: “If you are planning to toss a nuclear missile our way could you call first?”

Remember the soldier who asked Rummy why his unit heading for Iraq had to dig around in the Kuwaiti trash to find steel to bold to the Humvees? Well guess what. After that embarrassing little moment the unit’s entire fleet of Humvees were fitted with armor within 24 hours.

But before you rejoice for the soliders hear this. Humvees were never designed to carry all the weight the armor adds. Therefore they are breaking down in record numbers. Axles, drivetrains and suspension system are simly collapsing under the added weight. During a normal year the military sends 300 Humvees to the factory for major overhauls. Right now there are over 8700 Humvees on the list for rebuilds. So, while the Pentagon just authorized another $4 billion to armor up vehicles in Iraq, that will be just the beginning.

It would be cheaper to just melt them all down and use the metal to build a whole new fleet of vehicles.

On the Twin Watch -- Jenna Bush announced yesterday that she’s getting a job. She will teach at a Washington, D.C. charter school. No need for armor there. That leaves just one Bush daughter to decide if she will support her father’s war by joining the Army and fighting for her country. So far 150,000 other people’s kids have, 1200 of whom died for their dad. Wonder what sister Barbara will do. Stay tuned.

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