Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Josh Marshall nails the mendacious bastard in the White House:
Do reporters respond when the president tells flagrant lies?As with Iraq, there is enough reliable information out there on Social Security and enough people screaming the truth that there is no excuse for anyone to believe President George W. Bush. It's sad that I can write that - and scary that I have to. How did this nonentity become president - twice?
Bear in mind of course, as we've said again and again, if the US economy just keeps growing at the rate it has for the last hundred years or more, any problems are likely a good deal further out into the future.
So, what does this tell us? According to relatively pessimistic forecasts, two government agencies -- one of which is part of a Republican administration and the other under the oversight of a Republican congress -- say I'll get my full benefits for either the first five years of my retirement or the first fifteen years. After that, if nothing changes at all, I'll probably keep drawing three-quarters of my benefits. And even if I'm only drawing that three-quarters it'll still be more than today's retirees draw even in inflation-adjusted dollars.
This disconnect suggests one of three possibilities.
One is that the president has been briefed on certain highly classified budget projections which show a far more dire situation than the government's non-classified budgeting estimates would have us believe. We'll call this the secret evidence hypothesis.
Another possibility is that President Bush believes that the US government will default on the Treasury notes held by the Social Security Administration. Let's call this the Harken Energy hypothesis.
If it's neither of these we can only conclude that as he has done repeatedly before, this president is deceiving the people he has sworn to serve and defend in order to achieve a policy goal he cannot manage by honest means.
Indeed, it is still more cynical and deliberate than that. The president knows he can't say, "No one will get any benefits after 2030, so help me replace Social Security with private accounts." So, just as he and his associates did during the build up to the Iraq war, he uses paraphrases, work-arounds and slippery repetitons to communicate the intended falsehood while still providing himself with sufficient wiggle room to evade being tagged as a liar.
So here, for instance, he states that young people think they'll never collect Social Security benefits. Then he says that's "probably an exaggeration to a certain extent." And then he goes on to say that it's precisely the young people who are knowledgable about Social Security who think this. The clear implication, the meaning he intends to convey, is that this dire prediction is at least more true than not, when in fact, as we've noted, to the extent we can know anything about the future, it's not even close to being true.
Like I said, do reporters call him on it? Even toss a question to McClellan?
Late Update: According to the LAT, the president told one 27 year old at his Social Security event, "At your age [Social Security] will be bust by the time it comes for you to retire." And then later, "If you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s, and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act now."
It's certainly what he wants them to think. Chief Executive as confidence man.
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