From the Sacramento Bee
To all the faithful, joyful and triumphant
Published 2:15 am PST Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Visions of sugar plums must dance through his head. President Bush was masterful in presenting a glittery world of fantasy at his Monday press conference.
He said he will “provide every tool and resource for our military.” Yet troops are scrounging scrap metal in landfills for armor. The Iraq effort remains plagued by insufficient troops for the post-invasion period. The military is even calling up 70-year-olds to keep the ranks filled. He seems to believe Iraqi resistance will one day miraculously disappear or that existing U.S. forces can carry on indefinitely without relief.
Bush said he will “maintain strict discipline in the spending of tax dollars.” Yet under Bush, the United States has had the highest deficits in American history. He's also racking up record-high national debt. The higher the debt, the higher the interest payments. In 2004, interest payments on the debt were the third largest item in the federal budget. His borrow-and-spend profligacy is crowding out other national priorities.
Bush said he believes Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is “doing a really fine job.” Yet Rumsfeld's performance can be summed up in his remark to the troops that “You go to war with the Army you have.” Rumsfeld seems to have forgotten that Iraq was a war of choice, not one that came to the United States as a surprise. All voices calling for better preparation and more troops in the post-invasion period were, and continue to be, squelched. Rumsfeld has held no one in higher command accountable for ongoing torture and abuse of prisoners of war, undermining U.S. credibility worldwide.
Bush dodged questions about plans for Social Security, saying such questions were merely attempts to “get me to negotiate with myself in public; to say, you know, what's this mean, Mr. President, what's that mean. I'm not going to do that.” In short, don't bother to ask the president to explain his policy.
He won't even address the basic issue of how diverting a certain percentage of money to personal investment accounts does anything but undermine Social Security. More important, he has yet to explain how a personal investment account is an improvement on the guaranteed benefit that Social Security currently provides all American workers. Bush takes as an article of faith that personal accounts will gain a rate of return “more substantial than the rate of return now being earned” in the Social Security trust fund. But what if workers happen to retire during a slump period? Since 1900, the United States has had three 20-year periods of zero or negative return on the stock market: 1901-1921, 1928-1948 and 1962-1982.
Bush may have a candy-coated view of the world that he wants to sell us, but a dose of reality is in order. Just because Bush says it doesn't make it so.