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Bush is "all in" on Social Security, plays his Andy Card on Fox News

Reported by Chrish - March 7, 2005

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was a guest on Special Report 3/4/05, hosted by sub Jim Angle. After an intro that included propping up Bush (..."Bush has taken an enormous risk at the outset of his second term making controversial overhaul of SS his chief domestic goal") and putting down Democrats (..."Democratic opponents couldn't be more determined to stop him") (again failing to recognize the Republican members of Congress who are not on board for this proposal), Card was given free reign to stump and sell the plan, or rather, stump and sell the idea of a plan.

Card did a whole lot of talking and Angle did a whole lot of nodding about "the plan". What we heard reiterated was that there is "a problem" (nine times) and the prez has said "all options are on the table" (except, Andy said in the previous paragraph, "one thing you cannot put on the table is increasing the tax rate that would be paid by people who are contributing into Social Security." Any increase in that rate, while acceptable to most working Americans, would be unacceptable to their corporate employers who would have an exponentially larger expense, and Bush adamantly will not increase taxes on his corporate contributors.)

"The Democrats" want to take the "privatized" accounts within Social Security OFF the table, and then talk. They are supportive of personal investment accounts in addition to traditional SS, which is essentially what we already have in IRAs and 401Ks. Card seemed to support this in his closing arguments, ("So you need to complement Social Security with a personal retirement account.")

Angle brought up the solvency issue, which is really where the whole problem lies. Card avoided the question, saying instead " you shouldn't just fix Social Security, the system, you've got to fix the retirement system...", and when Angle called him on it with "Sure. But you're offering half a plan. You're offering the personal accounts... Card fell back on blaming... "The Democrats are saying they don't want to have you fix your retirement; they just want to fix Social Security." (NOW who's in favor of more big government?!)

Angle, to his credit, dogged him with "Right. I understand that. But when would you anticipate someone -- the president, one of your allies on Capitol Hill -- someone coming up with a plan that addresses the solvency problems?"

Card answered "Well, there are many plans that we know could address the solvency challenges, and there are also plans that will help complement the ability for a retiree to have a benefit that they can live on. And we think that all of those plans should be on the table, and we should start to have a debate."

Angle asked some decent questions and Card had some predictable non-answers. My only observation of usual Fox bias was the respectful way in which Mr. Card was treated - Republicans and especially White House employees are not interrupted, cut off, or treated rudely. You can read the transcript <"a href="http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,149493,00.html"> here .

Comment: Card sounded like a broken record (as does Bush) with nothing of value to say. What he is describing is what we currently have - a safety net that will provide a subsistence income for those too poor or too foolish to plan ahead and save, and complementary voluntary savings options encouraged by tax incentives.

The real problem is one of solvency. Where will the funding for future retirees come from, if there are less workers paying in? Mathematically, we'd either need to increase the source of funds or decrease the outlay. Ideally we would not have given the "surplus" to the rich in the form of "tax relief"; we would have invested it and used the income to shore up the future SS outlays. (Dang, I sure wish we had a president who could a.~ do math and b.~ plan ahead. Everything this guy touches turns to broke.)
Diverting funds from SS will only hasten and amplify the problem. There are several rational options: raise the tax rate on workers and employees, something Bush has taken OFF the table, declaring it not an option. Raise the income cap and let the people who earn more annually pay in a little more. Or we can raise the minimum wage. This is the meatball option; it appears it rolled OFF the table, onto the floor, and right out the door. All three options will be fought tooth and nail because they will end up costing corporate America, and they don't want to enrich their employees, they want to enrich their stockholders.

This whole "partial privatization" proposal is nothing more than a big juicy bone or (as Senator Byron Dorgan called it) "a big wet kiss for Wall Street", which will only hasten the underfunding crisis. Americans realize that it is on a par with the Medicare "reform" that sent billions to Big Pharma and the medical/insurance complex, and the Iraq invasion which has favored Cheney's Halliburton with billions . This time it's personal.

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