"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Focus on real crisis: Tax cuts, not Social Security, are the culprit
A Register-Guard
A Register-Guard Editorial
December 18, 2004

Even if President Bush could snap his fingers and magically "fix" Social Security tomorrow morning, the nation would still be facing a fiscal crisis.

Social Security "reform" is really an ideological issue dressed in financial clothing. That's why President Bush is adamant that widely accepted common-sense strategies such as raising the income cap on Social Security taxes are out of the question. He has no intention of pursuing any course that would leave the existing Social Security system fundamentally unchanged.

Because it's really an ideological issue, supporters of Bush's Social Security privatization plan are as impervious to factual critique as were supporters of his Iraq invasion. Bush backers believe that he is right about the need to radically transform government entitlement programs.

OK. Let's not argue about Social Security here. The biggest contribution a quick fix for Social Security could make to the nation's long-term financial health would be to force the Bush administration to stop using it as a diversion to avoid the real problems: a disastrous budget deficit, devastating future increases in the cost of Medicare and Medicaid and the draconian cuts to domestic spending that will be required if Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are made permanent.

Speaking of the deficit, none other than President Bush got right to the heart of the matter when he said at his economic summit last week: "We have a problem. Are we willing to confront the problem now, or are we going to pass it on to future Congresses and future generations?"

Never mind that he was really referring to Social Security. His comments apply perfectly to the federal deficit, which he had a large hand in creating.

Recognizing the negative effect the ugly deficit numbers could have on his re-election campaign, Bush announced a goal last February of reducing the federal budget deficit to 1.6 percent of the gross domestic product in five years, by fiscal year 2009. That would involve cutting 2004's $413 billion deficit, which equals 3.6 percent of GDP, by more than half.

But the president's actions fail to back up his words. A conservative analysis of Bush's current fiscal policies by the Brookings Institution indicates that the deficit will remain at about 3.5 percent of GDP every year for the next decade.

That's the good news. The bad news is that as the health and retirement costs of the baby boomers begin to mount, the deficits will balloon steadily, reaching 7 percent of GDP over the next 75 years.

Remember, this is the deficit - the amount expenses exceed revenues. As a percentage of GDP, the costs of providing Social Security to retirees and health care to Medicare and Medicaid recipients is projected to rise from 8 percent in 2004 to 23 percent by 2075.

Bush's frontal assault on Social Security also pushes debate about making his tax cuts permanent into the background. Realistically, his re-election and Republican victories in Congress appear to guarantee that this gargantuan redistribution of wealth to the wealthy is a done deal.

What does that mean? The Brookings report says that paying for the full tax cuts in 2014 would require an 11 percent reduction in all government spending (other than interest payments). Specifically, that translates into a 45 percent cut in Social Security benefits; complete elimination of the federal part of Medicaid; or a 75 percent cut in all domestic discretionary spending (such as for environmental protection, education and health research).

The Brookings analysis doesn't mince words: "These figures suggest that the tax cuts are simply not affordable and therefore should be substantially scaled back or repealed altogether."

The American people are being misled by the Bush administration. There is most certainly a real fiscal crisis on the horizon, but it has almost nothing to do with Social Security.

Commentary:I'm now putting Bush's lies about tax cuts and deficits under "impeachable offenses" because there appears to be no willingness by Bush or his congress to undo this disaster. Any president willing to borrow money and give it away needs to be sent a message--be irresponsible with our nations finances and you'll be impeached.