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Bush’s press conference

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Nothing really newsworthy took place. He only re-stated the same positions he’d been talking about for months on end. The only real news was means-testing, which is not the kind of thing that’s going to make most people go ‘hooray!’

This press conference was a waste of broadcast television time, really. It should’ve been paid for as a political ad, because that’s what it was: Bush’s free advertising.

Bush has only called eleven press conferences during his presidency. Compare that with 30 and 70 in the last two presidency. Jay Rosen has some theories as to why this is the case.

From The Nation:

He also advocated–in the only substantial news of the evening–means-testing cost of living adjustments for Social Security benefits, raising the prospect of real cuts for a majority of future beneficiaries. He tried to sugarcoat this hard-to-swallow news two way. First, he vowed that future recipients will receive benefits equal or greater to those being handed out today. But that was spin, for this carefully constructed explanation ignored the need to boost benefits to keep pace with inflation. Equal benefits would mean reduced benefits in real terms. Second, he suggested those who opt for a private account would end up making enough to compensate for the cuts, but polls show that a majority of Americans do not buy this argument. It may make policy sense–though not political sense–to turn Social Security into an outright welfare program: benefits for those who need them, less or none for the well-off. But Bush’s vague proposal won’t sell on Capital Hill or beyond.

Social Security is difficult to change, because the ones that care about it are the ones that don’t want anything to change until after they’re dead. I don’t really understand why Bush is trying to take this on anyway — as I said earlier, it seems to me that he simply picked the biggest, most intractable problem he could find and decided to pounce on it. But he didn’t really look before he leapt. It’s hard for people to look forward to 2040, which is when Bush predicts that the current program will go bankrupt. In public discourse, the simpler argument usually wins. In the past Bush has had the simpler arguments. For example: the terrorists have attacked us, so we must attack the terrorists. People are willing to accept that, and the Democrats cries that it’s more complicated than that largely went ignored.

But it’s harder to distill this into sound-bites, especially when a large portion of the voters are mortally afraid that their checks are going to get taken away. Bush’s reassurances seem hollow.

From a political stand-point, this means testing is also very trouble-some. He’s now basically proposing cutting the benefits of the wealthy and middle-class. That’s his base; that’s where he gets his money. Other Republicans are less than thrilled.

Ultra-conservative Sam Brownback, from my home state of Kansas, has said that he’s “not sure that’s the way we want to go.” And of course the Democrats are not suddenly going to start cheering Bush on for helping the poor.

Here’s a chart from Political Animal that shows the effect of Bush’s proposal on income replacement:

That doesn’t look like the kind of thing that Republicans normally support.

Cross-posted to Leoniceno’s Corner

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  • Eric Olsen

    thanks L, very helpful, much appreciated. I have post-election political malaise right now.

  • He didn’t pick it because it was the biggest, hardest issue to tackle, I suspect he picked it because it is the single greatest abuse of the taxpayers in our current system. Nothing is more inequitable or inefficient or in need of rectifying.


  • Sorry, Dave, SS is not the hardest issue. Medicare & Medicaid are far more dangerous, although at least in today’s news, his answer is to cut benefits for the poorest (Medicaid.)

    Helluva compassionate conservative.

    I don’t know why he took on SS. Makes no sense to me. Especially because he chose a “solution” roundly condemned as unnecessary by both sides of the debate.

  • Demi

    I’m game, but markets are cyclic. I would just hate to retire in a down year. But people do that all the time, right?

    Perhaps the idea is to educate American’s in how to save money, not suck the withering government titty.

    I never was a big fan of womb to tomb democracy, nor am I endeared to the nanny state.

    Personally, I hate paying taxes to a government that insists on spending those dollars in ways I do not agree with, secondly I hate paying county taxes for schools which my children will never go to, thirdly I want to invest the money I pay to the SS and not have goverment dipping into “contingency” funds every time they come up short, from… you guessed it…. spending money foolishly.

    I have greater respect for my finances than the government ever did, I should control it. I WANT SOME CONTROL HERE!

    Politicians…. RACA! I SPIT ON YOU!!!!

    There I feel better now.

  • I suggested this means test to a millionaire friend of mine about 10 years ago and he almost chewed my head off..one thing I learned about rich ppl ..they are greedy…some ppl call them just conservative..

  • >>Sorry, Dave, SS is not the hardest issue. Medicare & Medicaid are far more dangerous, although at least in today’s news, his answer is to cut benefits for the poorest (Medicaid.)<< The reason he picked SS over medicaid is that SS impacts more people. While some are concerned about medicaid, they're poor and don't vote. On the other hand just about everyone is concerned about Social Security. Unfortunately most of the public appears to be so painfully ignorant (based on recent polls) that they don't understand SS well enough to realize why it needs fixing and what aspects of it actually need to be fixed. SS will always, I fear, be an issue that the Democrats win on, because no one seems to understand it so emotional, meaningless scaremongering about it works very well. Dave