Thursday, April 28, 2005

Speaking Bush

"Bush" is my shorthand term for the language that our president uses. It takes some translating and decoding into plain English. We got another load of Bush tonight when the president gave what one news source called "one of his rare prime time news conferences". They are rare for a very good reason, and that is to save all of us the torture of listening to a full hour of Bush. My head swims.

A nice make-up job, isn't it?

Bush spent the time selling two of his projects: the energy bill and the idea that Social Security needs to be all changed around. On the energy bill he forgot to mention that most of it consists of big paybacks to his faithful donors in the energy industry. On the proposal to change Social Security he decided to appropriate a Democratic proposal which would let the retirement incomes of the poorest rise faster than those of the other earners:

Bush said a system in which benefits for low-income workers "grow faster than for people who are better off would solve much of the solvency problem" facing the government retirement program.

"I propose that future generations receive benefits equal to or greater than the benefits today's seniors get," he said. But a White House fact sheet suggested changes that include lower benefits than currently planned for all but lower-income future retirees.

Everything that was wrong with these projects is still wrong after Bush's news conference. For example, he exaggerated the problems in the Social Security system by giving statements like this one:

And to compound the problem, there are fewer people paying into the system. In 1950, there were 16 workers for every beneficiary; today there are 3.3 workers for every beneficiary. Soon there will be two workers for every beneficiary.

Indeed, but worker productivity has risen so much that the real burdens on workers don't correspond to the numbers given here.

He also refused to consider making payroll taxes payable on incomes above the current annual 90,000 dollar limit; the rich must be protected. But not the middle classes: the progressive indexation proposal would give them lower rates of return than the ones from the current system.

Then he went on to say this:

In a reformed Social System, voluntary personal retirement accounts would offer workers a number of investment options that are simple and easy to understand. I know some Americans have reservations about investing in the stock market, so I propose that one investment option consist entirely of treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Remember that only a few weeks ago he argued these bonds to be worthless pieces of paper, held in a filing cabinet somewhere in Virginia? Which is it?

Most of the other things the president said in Bush were either already known or waffle-waffle. Though it is interesting that he seemed to make faces at the religious right:

Bush disagreed with the contention of the conservative Family Research Council that his judicial appointments were being held up in the Senate because of their religious faith. "I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated," he said.

This was either a lapse on his parts or an indication that he has no need to pander to them now that he won't need their votes.