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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The President of Fabricated Crises

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/12/2005 01:41:00 AM


Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post had a commentary last Saturday where he explained to us that Bush Paints His Goals As "Crises" and Steve Soto at the Left Coaster had a good analysis of that piece. Today Harold Meyerson of the Post tells us Bush is the President of Fabricated Crises.
Some presidents make the history books by managing crises. Lincoln had Fort Sumter, Roosevelt had the Depression and Pearl Harbor, and Kennedy had the missiles in Cuba. George W. Bush, of course, had Sept. 11, and for a while thereafter -- through the overthrow of the Taliban -- he earned his page in history, too.

But when historians look back at the Bush presidency, they're more likely to note that what sets Bush apart is not the crises he managed but the crises he fabricated. The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. To attain goals that he had set for himself before he took office -- the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the privatization of Social Security -- he concocted crises where there were none.
Just like the WMD "crisis" in Iraq the Social Security "crisis" has been manufactured out of necessity. The American people and a majority of lawmakers would not have agreed to the war without a crisis. Bush knows that the lawmakers won't touch Social Security unless they and the American people can be convinced there is a crisis. It's not working this time. The American people and the lawmakers of both parties know the truth.
In fact, Social Security is on a sounder footing now than it has been for most of its 70-year history. Without altering any of its particulars, its trustees say, it can pay full benefits straight through 2042. Over the next 75 years its shortfall will amount to just 0.7 percent of national income, according to the trustees, or 0.4 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That still amounts to a real chunk of change, but it pales alongside the 75-year cost of Bush's Medicare drug benefit, which is more than twice its size, or Bush's tax cuts if permanently extended, which would be nearly four times its size.

In short, Social Security is not facing a financial crisis at all. It is facing a need for some distinctly sub-cataclysmic adjustments over the next few decades that would increase its revenue and diminish its benefits.
The only Social Security Crisis is a political one.
For the first time in its history, it is confronted by a president, and just possibly by a working congressional majority, who are opposed to the program on ideological grounds, who view the New Deal as a repealable aberration in U.S. history, who would have voted against establishing the program had they been in Congress in 1935. But Bush doesn't need Karl Rove's counsel to know that repealing Social Security for reasons of ideology is a non-starter.

So it's time once more to fabricate a crisis. In Bushland, it's always time to fabricate a crisis. We have a crisis in medical malpractice costs, though the CBO says that malpractice costs amount to less than 2 percent of total health care costs. (In fact, what we have is a president who wants to diminish the financial, and thus political, clout of trial lawyers.) We have a crisis in judicial vacancies, though in fact Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block just 10 of Bush's 229 first-term judicial appointments.

With crisis concoction as its central task -- think of how many administration officials issued dire warnings of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein or, now, by Social Security's impending bankruptcy -- this presidency, more than any I can think of, has relied on the classic tools of propaganda.
Indeed, it's almost impossible to imagine the Bush presidency absent the Fox News Network and right-wing talk radio.
Meyerson gets right to the meat with this statement."For the first time in its history, it is confronted by a president, and just possibly by a working congressional majority, who are opposed to the program on ideological grounds, who view the New Deal as a repealable aberration in U.S. history,...". That of course is the key, they quite simply want to reform Social Security out of existence. There are two reasons that they really hate Social Security, it works and it's efficient and there is that nasty little fact that the system has been buying treasury bonds to build up a needed surplus and about 2018 the system will start cashing those bonds in. Those pesky New Deal programs are bad enough but one you owe money to is abhorrent. Make no mistake, that's what "Social Security Reform" is all about. Not paying back the money owed to the Social Security system. Meyerson ends by explaining what Bush's place in history will be.
We've had plenty of presidents, Richard Nixon most notoriously, who divided the media into friendly and enemy camps. I can't think of one, however, so fundamentally invested in the spread of disinformation -- and so fundamentally indifferent to the corrosive effect of propaganda on democracy -- as Bush. That, too, should earn him a page in the history books.
The creator of crisis and the propaganda chief, that's George W. Bush.