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The SOTU Speech: Syria Is Next!

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Quite a powerful speech, especially the last part on foreign policy and freedom. Whose eyes could possibly remain completely dry when Mr. and Mrs. Norwood stood up to receive the praise of all America?

For the most part, it was a relatively predictable speech. But I believe I was able to discern a somewhat surprising clue about future US military action from it.

From here:

To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act — and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.

This begs the question: And what if they don’t? (And of course they won’t.)

I expect strong action will be taken against the pro-terror regime in Syria sometime during the next two years. Perhaps not an outright invasion, and almost certainly no full-scale occupation. But a government that sponsors terror against us and our allies cannot be allowed to do so without consequence.

Bashir Assad will not rule in Damascus as the “President” of Syria for long. You heard it here first.

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About RJ

  • Yup, Syria pretty clearly moved into to take the open spot in the Axis of Evil- and it couldn’t happen to a nicer regime.

    I note that he didn’t even mention North Korea in passing. Hmm.

  • RJ

    “I note that he didn’t even mention North Korea in passing.”

    From here:

    “We’re working closely with the governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.”

  • RJ
  • I got chills during that part of the SOTU, actually.

  • Good emotional rhetoric, to be sure. I know that Bush was standing on the bully pulpit itself, but I was hoping for far less rhetoric and for more reporting in specific terms of ‘this is where we are, this is where we are going’. Alas, this is the idealist in me. The Democratic response offered nothing more than rhetoric and platitdues either.

  • Sorry there RJ, the North Korea line slipped right by me.

    Really, just the thought of the situation in North Korea chills me. That’s some highly irrational, unpredictable psycho stuff for the world to have to deal with. That Dear Leader could go all “top of the world, ma” on us- with nuclear and who knows what else kind of nasty weapons.

    The hopeful side of that situation is that it seems, from my humble layman’s knowledge, that the NK regime could collapse from within much more readily than Saddam ever would have. A coup could be pretty nasty, but it’d beat having nukes flying around.

  • Well, he was damned specific about Social Security, causing the democrats to be struck silent, boo, hiss and shift uneasily in their seats. I liked the fact that he said that we’re going to let people eventually invest 4% of their 12.7% payroll tax and were definitely not going to raise the payroll tax and that was apparently the baseline for negotiations. If he can stick to that and actually pull it off, he’ll have a remarkable legacy.

    As for Syria, there are few countries whose borders are more wide open for punitive raiding, especially from Iraq, and the place just isn’t big enough to hide from us.

    I’m betting North Korea will effect regime change with a whimper and that some generals will make The Dear Leader disappear sometime in the next year or so. A leader who is strong and happens to be crazy can stay in power. A leader who is crazy and personally weak won’t last too long.


  • Eric Olsen

    there seems to be a consensus building that North Korea is about to fall apart, but that could go in any number of directions

  • Highlights:
    1) Called for fiscal discipline.
    2) Called for increased use of nuclear energy.
    3) Called for reform of immigration system and implementation of guest worker program (he will surely be beaten by his own party for this one).
    4) Used the bully pulpit of the presidency to call on Saudi Arabia and Egypt to move toward self government.

    1) Amazing amount of spin applied to the fiscal situation of social security.
    2) Call for fiscal discipline undermined by call to make tax cuts for the rich permanent.
    3) Argued for increase in domestic fossil fuel production from public lands.
    4) Support for constitutional amendment to institutionalize discrimination (under guise of “protecting marriage”).
    5) Saber rattling at Syria and Iran.
    6) Did not discuss the environment or climate change at all.

  • Eric Olsen

    good points Roy, I especially agree with your environmental concerns. I don’t have a problem with the sabre rattling since he also told our “friends” they better get their shit together and give the people a voice

  • Imagine what passes for a remarkable legacy- the ability to allow Americans to control 4% (!) of the amount they are taxed for Social Security.


    Wow, that George Bush is one major ass-kicker!

    It would be better still if, as a fiscal conservative, he would have argued that our incomes belong to us, and that we should have the ability to decide whether or not to participate in Social Security.

    Failing that, maybe let us control 100% of the forced 12.7% contibution. Or, failing that, maybe let us control 50%.

    But 4% of the 12.7%? What’s amazing to me is that of this MINISCULE percentage, the GOP thinks they’ve really accomplished somehing, and the Democrats howl as though the program is going to be eliminated.

    What fantasy!

  • Yes Monsieur Kole, I’m less than highly impressed with these outlines of Social Security reform. On the other hand, I could see these personal accounts as a toehold.

    The usual pressure to expand government programs could work for good cause here. Five or ten years out, as people start seeing a valuable portfolio accumulating with THEIR NAME on it, the people will clamor for more.

  • Alternately, five or ten years out, after experiencing a 30% correction in the market, a lot of people would conclude that they had just been screwed. Yes, if they hold onto their stock funds after the correction they may be okay, but my guess is that a significant portion of them will see a 30% paper loss and turn it into a 30% real loss by transferring their accounts from the stock funds to the bond funds. Amateur small investors have a bad habit of buying before the peak (because everybody is making money in the market) and selling after the crash (because they feel like they just got burned).

    What do you propose to do for the individual who buys high and sells low and thereby impoverishes his “personal” account? If the answer is “nothing” then there may be very real political consequences from that.

  • Roy, it might be technically possible for people to screw themselves in the market like that, depending on how things are set up- and they’d STILL be much better off than they are now.

    If by determined stupidity, someone managed to lose 30% of their retirement accounts in the market (unlikely), they’d still have 70% of their money- plus the chance for that 70% to make them some money.

    That is as opposed to Social Security as we now know it, in which you have NOTHING AT ALL no matter how smart you are. As it stands, every nickel everyone has ever in life paid in has been SPENT. There is, in point of fact, NO trust fund. Folks are now dependent on the ability of the government to extract money from current workers to pay current retirees.

    There’s no account with your name on it to which you have any legal rights. In fact, it is legally recognized that the government does not have any contractual obligation to pay you ANYTHING at all. Nor will they be ABLE to pay promised benefits.

    There’s no money there. That money that’s not there is not drawing any interest.

    There’s no sure thing in life, but long term investments in mutual funds are about as close to that as you can get financially. You’d definitely be better off taking your chances with the uncertainties of the market than the pure certainty of getting screwed by the current system.

  • Oh, but Al, I heard the SS fund actually has a surplus right now, in the billions of dollars – it says so right on the bottom of the promissory notes: Congress promised to pay it all back just before I retire. Really!

    The check’s in the mail.

  • Historically, the stock market index averages returns of better than 10% (I’m flying blind here, but I think it’s actually as high as 13-14%), and that includes the Great Depression and the recent bursting of the tech bubble.

    Sure the 4% of the 12.7% is a toe hold, but that’s the little toe, to be sure. The bluster over this amount is rather disproportionate to its value.

  • I posted on this in exhaustive detail on another thread, but you’re basically right, Mike. Even over the 30 year period of the depression the market went up an average of 10% per year, so the safety and superiority of an index-based fund over the current SS scam is indisputable.


  • Again, even if the market didn’t make you ANY interest, but just returned your principal safe and sound, you’d be ahead of what you’ve got now- which is JACK SQUAT.

    Did I mention that there is NO trust fund, and that Congress spends every nickel of SS taxes as quick as they take it in?

  • Math was never my strongest subject so correct me if I’m wrong.

    Assuming I made $50,000 a year, that means I’ll pay $6350 a year is SS. I would be able to put $254 a year into a market index fund.

    With an assumed increase of 10% a year, I’d have $25.40 per year return, if I stayed at the same payrate. Does that sound about right?

    If so, why did the son of a Bush even say anything about it…It doesn’t matter much. I know the return rate will compond with future deposits, but 4% really sounds like peanuts. If SS is such a dead horse, why not give us the entire 12.4% back to do with as we wish?

    In the words of Vinnie Barbarino “I’m so confused!”

  • RJ

    Isn’t the 4% taken out of the 12%? IOW, leaving 8%?

    Or is it really 4% OUT OF the 12%? IOW, less than half a percent?

    I believe the former is correct…


    “I expect strong action will be taken against the pro-terror regime in Syria sometime during the next two years.”

    Discounting the idea that Syria may think it is in its best interest to stop supporting or harboring terrorists, I still doubt it will be military force that will be used.
    Syria is already acting both nervous and conciliatory in this regard. Two years ago when we were not on their borders, the Syrian regime could laugh at threats, now the US is right next store, and while the fighting is still going on, the long term outcome for any Syrian backing of fighters in Iraq is looking worse every day. Add to that the diplomatic use of carrot and stick, and I think another solution is much more likely. If you look at it like this, the US is already taking action against Iraq.


    d’oh, I meant to say “…he US is already taking action against SYRIA”

  • It’s 12.7%. The amount we’d get to use for an investment account would be 4 of those 12.7% not 4% of the 12.7% which would indeed be nothing.

    And Bush DOES want to give it all back to us, but he knows he can’t pull it off. Frankly even giving us back almost a 3rd is ambitious. Rumor has it he’ll settle for 2% and will probably have to.


  • “And Bush DOES want to give it all back to us, but he knows he can’t pull it off”

    He sure acts like he can pull it off. Cut taxes and spend boys!

  • Regarding SS privatization scheme: has anybody figured out where the $2,000,000,000,000 ($2 trillion) transition costs are going to be paid from? Shall we just add it onto the federal debt?

  • Presumably from the same place as the $11 trillion we need to spend to preserve the current system.


  • $11 trillion? I’m more than a little curious what your reference for that number is.

  • That figure comes from the 2004 Social Security Trustees Report. It’s the total projected cost to fulfill the obligations of the current system if no changes are made.

    I think Bush made a very poor argument for his position, because it’s abundantly obvious that there’s going to be an enormous cost to keep the system going whether we reform it or not. His presentation would have been much stronger if he had pointed out that the cost not to reform the system will actually be even more eventually than the cost of reform.

    Remember, all the money that was put into the fund isn’t there and will eventually have to be paid back. The caveat on the $11 trillion figure is that it could be paid out over a period of 78 years, whereas Bush’s $2 trillion cost would have to be paid much more quickly to make the transition from one system to another.


  • The $11 trillion is a fake number used by Bush and Cheney in their fear campaign – it’s a projection into “the infinite future” and has no credibility whatsoever (ask any economist).

    Over the next 75 years, the Trustees project a shortfall of $3.7 trillion, a number that totally disappears if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire as they will do under current law.

    Even the $3.7 trillion is questionable, but it’s based on the usual time frame used by Trustees historically. This time, the Trustees are using pessimistic growth and productivity numbers.

    The bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office, projects that the fund will not hit zero until 2051 and then will still be able to pay out over 80% of today’s projected benefits.

    The Trustees, on the other hand are mostly appointed by Bush and project an earlier crossover (2042) and lower payouts (73%). Even the Wall Street Journal has labeled these pessimistic.

    Either way, it’s a problem but not a crisis.

    Don’t let the spinners stampede you.

  • I figured that number was based on a very high spin rate.

    Speaking of spin, the SS Administration uses an average GDP growth rate for the next 75 years of 1.9% annually, as opposed to a growth rate of 3.4% for the last 75 years. This results in the shortfall the administration is acting all panicky about.

    Problem is, if that growth rate for GDP comes to pass, it really throws into doubt whether stock market returns for the next 75 years will be anywhere near as strong as they were for the past 75 years.

    If the SS Administration were to make their projections based on a 3.4% annual GDP growth rate for the next 75 years, there would be no solvency problem whatsoever.

    Nobody supporting privatization has yet produced projections of economic growth for the next 75 years that result in 1) Social Security becoming insolvent AND 2) personal savings accounts performing adequately to make up the difference.

  • Hal: The $11 trillion is a fake number used by Bush and Cheney in their fear campaign – it’s a projection into “the infinite future” and has no credibility whatsoever (ask any economist).

    This number did not originate with Bush and Cheney and it is not an ‘infinite’ projection. It’s a 78 year projection and originates with the Social Security Trustees Report. The ‘infinite projection’ claim is pure spin from the democrats.

    Hal: Over the next 75 years, the Trustees project a shortfall of $3.7 trillion, a number that totally disappears if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire as they will do under current law.

    This makes no sense at all. There’s no relationship between the Bush tax cuts and funding social security. The expiration of the tax cuts will do nothing at all to the shortfall in social security.

    Hal: Either way, it’s a problem but not a crisis.

    Any time my money is being wasted by the government it’s a crisis.


  • Roy: Nobody supporting privatization has yet produced projections of economic growth for the next 75 years that result in 1) Social Security becoming insolvent AND 2) personal savings accounts performing adequately to make up the difference.

    The point you all seem to be missing is that it doesn’t matter whether the system is solvent forever. As it stands right now the system is unfair and disastrously inefficient. We can do better for our retirees if we’re allowed to try something new rather than sticking with the old, inefficient system out of pure fear.


  • No, Dave, it is what they call the “inifinite horizon” projection and actuaries say it’s not just useless, but misleading. Note that this was not added until 2003, when we started hearing Bush talking about his “privatization” plans.

    It’s spin.

    Nobody uses it except Bush and
    Cheney to mislead.

    Oh, and you, of course.

    Pure crap.

  • Actually, Hal. The $11 trillion number is quite conservative for the cost of continuing the current system. I’ve seen estimates as high as $30 trillion for the ultimate bailout of the system. The point is that the $2 trillion to transition to a privatized system is an ENORMOUS savings over what it will ultimately cost to keep the current inefficient system afloat. The actual total cost the SSA Trustees estimated to bail out the current system is $27 trillion over the next 75 years. That’s more than double the $11 trillion Bush and Cheney have talked about.

    What you don’t seem to realize is that for most working people today the system is already a failure. Anyone currently under the age of 40 is going to pay more into the system than they will get out of it, and the younger they are the more dramatic the disparity between what they will pay and what they will receive. Those who retire in the next couple of years will get the equivalent of 2% interest on the money they paid in. Those a bit younger will more or less break even, and anyone under 40 is just going to lose money on the deal.

    You knowk, it’s not the end of the world to admit that Social Security is a disaster and we don’t have to let it keep limping along when we have perfectly reasonable alternatives available.

    I strongly suggest that you read this rather well researched and fully documented article:



  • An observation:

    The result you get for the projections for the next 75 years depend A LOT on what assumptions are made regarding economic growth, population growth, social trends, etc. over that time period.

    For instance, the Social Security Administration projects a GDP growth rate of 1.9% over the next 75 years. Using this assumption to make a projection creates a solvency crisis for the system. That is WAY below historical averages.

  • In response to comment 34, the Heritage Foundation supports economic freedom at all costs and I believe would fall into the category of organizations that are idelogically opposed to the entire principle of Social Security. Therefore, I find their suggestions on how to save or improve the system a little suspect – the wolves guarding the henhouse so to speak.

  • The proponents of the privatization scheme like to talk about how these accounts will be inheritable (is that a word) and can be passed to heirs if their is money in them upon the beneficiaries death.

    I am wondering what the rules for this inheritance will be: Will this be taxed as income for the recipient, will the recipient receive it all as a lump sum, will they be required to put it in their “Personal Savings Account”, etc.

    Another question: what will happen to the non-retirement functions of the Social Security system – disability insurance, family and survivors benefits, and Medicare?

  • The extremely biased Heritage Foundation notwithstanding, the $11 trillion is a meaningless pushing around of digits to create a picture that has no connection to reality.