Friday, February 04, 2005

Bush and Social Security

Why is the Bush administration really interested in reforming Social Security? I think there are two reasons. The first is, as I mentioned in my last blog, is a diversion. The Bushies understand that it is easiest to govern in times of crisis and, if you need to manufacture those crises, well then, so be it. Once they are done with Social Security, they will move on to Iraq, again creating the impression that the regime there represents an imminent threat to U.S. interests and global security. By declaring a situation a crisis, they know they can get away with anything.

The second reason: ideology. It is a cornerstone belief of certain conservative ideologues that government is always bad. This leads automatically to the belief that Social Security nneeds to be eliminated since it fosters, in this view, a dependence on the government. These ideologues essentially see Social Security as welfare for the middle classes and they want to rid the middle classes of their dependence on it. At the same time, they believe -- instinctively rather than intellectually -- that giving people control over their money will automatically be an improvement over letting the government handle it.

Where is the proof for any of this? There is none. Also, on what basis have these ideologues concluded that Social Security in any way harms the economy or infringes on individual liberty? Again, there is no basis. We are seeing these ideologues make an argument based entirely on abstract principles, none of which, as far as I can tell, have any basis in reality. It is an ironclad faith -- a kind of secular messianism -- that empowering individuals to make decisions about their retirement accounts will allow a 1,000 flowers to bloom (to paraphrase Mao). I have no doubt such faith will prove in the end both delusional and disastrous.

Does anyone actually think though that Bush won't get what he wants on Social Security? Bush's track record with Congress during his first term was extraordinary -- the best since Johnson. Now with Republican control over both chambers (and a severely crippled if not moribund Democratic party as his opposition) his leverage and power in Washington has become even greater, unprecedented.

It is only the media, with its constant need to create false drama, that is positing trouble for Bush ahead. (The media needs false drama; the Bush administration needs false crises; their interests are one and the same). And the narrative the media has constructed here is absolutely preposterous. It goes something like this -- Bush did so well in his first term with Congress because his party was united against the opposition, but now that they have no opposition, the Republicans will fracture and implode. The logic here is so convoluted -- only reporters who spend their entire lives thinking about political strategy and reading tea leaves could come up with.

Permit me to offer a simpler interpretation -- Bush and the Republicans have more power than they did Bush's first term, they will do whatever they want, and get away with it. We can expect even more revolutionary changes this time around. Again, it's only because the media needs to fabricate a sense of suspense to get the public's attention that there is any issue here at all.


Blogger Brooklynlib said...

I think Goodman should give the media a bit more credit on the Social Security "crisis." Most reputable papers, at least, have made it clear that there is no crisis and that Bush's "solution" would, in fact, not solve anything, even using Bush's numbers. If the economy grows by Bush's estimate, than we don't need to solve anything with Social Security. It will solve itself. If the economy only grows at 3 percent (as most experts believe), even Bush admits that the private accounts won't generate any more income than the current system.

8:51 PM  

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