The Man With The Plan
Even his most ardent supporters would hardly place George W. Bush among History’s original thinkers.
Whatever practical or political success to come the President’s way in this life certainly derives less from sleepless nights, deferred vacations, or wee-hour confabs with any brain trust, than from (not necessarily in any particular order) breeding, backroom influence, good timing, shrewd advice, and dumb luck.
Election fraud, too, but I’m not trying to open any old wounds here.
He’s been lately playing the folksy troubador, selling his scheme to “fix” Social Security on forays throughout the land -in the face of polls showing the public’s skepticism for his “idea”, as well as plain talk from Republican members of Congress that his plan is all but DOA.
But Mr. Bush is nothing if not tenacious, and he and the Republican Free Marketeers who back him have shown a willingness to say ANYTHING –even to tell outright lies– to gain the triumph of their will.
While his opposition, in both the press and from the public, has been tepid by historical standards, he’s managed to embark upon offensive war against sovereign nations, has employed torture and indiscriminate bombing against civilian populations, and threatens to bankrupt the nation’s domestic economy in the name of fighting “terrorism” and spreading “democracy” across the globe.
Now that the war on terror has been institutionalized, and amidst popular distractions like the Inquiry Into Steroid Use In Major League Baseball, Terry Schiavo’s Right To Live (Die?), the Michael Jackson pedophilia trial, and the tribulations of Tom DeLay, Mr. Bush seems wild-eyed with desire to make privatization of Social Security the hallmark of his term in office.
Just today, Treasury Secretary John Snow and the Trustees of Social Security moved to stoke the flames of public fear by announcing that new analysis projects the program to begin paying out more than it takes in even sooner than had been previously projected. Never mind that the new “projections” have Social Security running a deficit in 2041 instead of 2042, the import of the Administration’s public relations onslaught is that Social Security MUST be fixed NOW.
From whence came such an idea?
How is it that Mr. Bush suddenly has THE way to ensure security and comfort for older Americans in perpetuity, and that his plan needs to be put on the fast track for congressional approval lest we risk an inability to ever “fix” the “problem”?
It turns out he’s actually just recycling the approach authored by a former member of the Pinochet regime in Chile.
Barbara T. Dreyfuss, in the March/April issue of Mother Jones links the intellectual underpinnings of Mr. Bush’s plan for privatizing Social Security to the thought and work of Jose Pinera, Chile’s Labor Minister under the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Now a paid consultant and author for the Cato Institute, Mr. Pinera was the architect of Chile’s failed private pension plan, begun in 1978, with his appointment to head the Labor Ministry. At the time, he wrote a new labor law for his country, guaranteeing for the first time “rights” to Chile’s long-oppressed workers, but which severely restricted their organizing, striking, and wage negotiating abilities.
Much like Mr. Bush’s plan to implement private -or as the P.R. campaign would prefer them referred to- “personal” savings accounts for American workers, Pinera’s plan in Chile was expensive, and was funded by slashing government programs, selling off state-owned resources, selling bonds to the new pension funds, and raising taxes.
In the end, more than half of the workers covered under Chile’s Private/State method must still apply for government subsidies to eke out a living in retirement, even after paying into their system for over 30 years.
Given we know the provenance of Mr. Bush’s “idea” for fixing Social Security, the costs of implementing it are as inescapable as the methods for funding them are predictable; and we have a fairly time-tested “projection” of the fruit such an idea will bear.
Will the American people be able to figure this one out?