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Hullabaloo


Friday, February 27, 2004

 
The Price Of Allowing An Idiot To Be President


Ron Suskind has a mind blowing article up on Slate called The Free-Lunch Bunch - The Bush team's secret plan to "reform" Social Security.

During the 2000 campaign, candidate George W. Bush seemed particularly confident about his ability to pay for Social Security reform. Despite independent estimates that creating the kind of "voluntarily" private accounts he envisioned could cost more than $1 trillion, Bush consistently took the position that he could reform Social Security for free, without undermining promises to baby boomers anticipating retirement over the next several decades.

Why was Bush so sure of himself? According to documents unearthed yesterday from the trove of 19,000 files given to me by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, and a bit of additional probing, candidate Bush and later President Bush believed in the "Lindsey Plan." These documents show us what the president thought about Social Security reform at the only moment over the past three years—the fall of 2001—when he was fully engaged with this issue.

Larry Lindsey, Bush's tutor on economics during the campaign and later chairman of the White House's National Economic Council, devised a scheme based on creative accounting principles. Essentially, it proposed that the government would issue substantial new debt to sustain old-style benefits. This debt would be serviced and paid down by confiscating revenues from the higher returns from those opting for new-style personal accounts

For the first nine months of the administration, this was called the "free-lunch" plan—a painless way to convert to a blended, private-accounts model. Inside of the Treasury Department and the Council of Economic Advisers, however, officials were befuddled by it. Lindsey seemed to have never called upon analysts inside the Social Security Administration to run the traps on his idea. Treasury and CEA did—and the numbers didn't even come close to working out. But that didn't stop Lindsey, or the president, from believing in and promoting the "free-lunch" plan. These two memos on RonSuskind.com, which have never before been released, show what Bush and others in the White House were actually thinking about Social Security reform.

[...]

In the post-9/11 environment, the report vanished with little notice. But should the president take Greenspan's recent suggestion and instigate a debate about Social Security again, we will now have some idea what he means by "reform."


Junior's courtiers are magical thinkers. Bush himself is not nearly intelligent enough to understand this stuff and he trusts all the wrong people. His vaunted instinct is nothing more than emotional responses to appeals to his vanity. How is it possible for one administration to find an important position for every single nutjob in the party?

Oh that's right:

(This discusses foreign policy, but the total cock-up in economic policy is the result of the same forces.)

...Cheney was put in charge of the presidential transition (the period between the election in November and the accession to office in January). Cheney used this opportunity to stack the administration with his hardline allies. Instead of becoming the de facto president in foreign policy, as many had expected, Secretary of State Powell found himself boxed in by Cheney's right-wing network, including Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Bolton and Libby.

The neo-cons took advantage of Bush's ignorance and inexperience. Unlike his father, a Second World War veteran who had been ambassador to China, director of the CIA and vice-president, George W was a thinly educated playboy who had failed repeatedly in business before becoming the governor of Texas, a largely ceremonial position (the state's lieutenant governor has more power). His father is essentially a north-eastern, moderate Republican; George W, raised in west Texas, absorbed the Texan cultural combination of machismo, anti-intellectualism and overt religiosity. The son of upper-class Episcopalian parents, he converted to southern fundamentalism in a midlife crisis. Fervent Christian Zionism, along with an admiration for macho Israeli soldiers that sometimes coexists with hostility to liberal Jewish-American intellectuals, is a feature of the southern culture.


Let's face it. He's a childlike man who is manipulated by people who make him feel powerful.






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