Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Thursday, April 07, 2005

President Bush lies about Social Security, the Constitution, and Ronald Reagan's legacy in one demon-winged swoop across West Virginia 

Isn't contradicting Saint Ronald treasonous?

There was a time when I suggested it was wrong to claim Bush lied about Iraq and WMD - as in knowingly misrepresented what he believed to be true. Well, I was wrong. Today, I can say Bush is a charlatan eager to trample all over laws and tell lies to terrorize America.

The other day, he stood for a photo-op holding up a U.S. Treasury Bond and claiming it was worthless - that it represented no value. Look and read,

THE PRESIDENT: See, what's interesting is a lot of people believe that the Social Security trust is -- the government takes a person's money, invests it, and then pays it back to them upon retirement. It doesn't work that way.

Now read Amendment XIV of the Constitution of the United States,

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions ... shall not be questioned.

Yup, our president stood there to get photod up questioningthe validity of the public debt. Not as an offhand comment, but as a staged opportunity designed to scare trusting Americans into thinking the U.S. government was fraudulently issuing Treasury Bonds. If one wishes to be hyper-literal about the Constitution as many conservative "textualists" are, Bush clearly violated the Constitution by questioning the public debt's validity. Bush later in the same day explained his photo-op was propaganda to get Americans to lose trust in their government,

I went there because I'm trying to make a point about the Social Security trust. You see, a lot of people in America think there's a trust, in this sense -- that we take your money through payroll taxes and then we hold it for you, and then when you retire, we give it back to you. But that's not the way it works. There is no "trust fund," just IOUs that I saw firsthand.

If that's not enough to make you sweaty with anger, it ought at least make you raise an amused eyebrow.

Bush went on to say the money to honor the bonds has to come from somewhere - future taxes, cuts in other government spending, whatever. No joke, George. That's how monetary value has worked for centuries - trust that the issuer will make good on his debt when it's called in. One can take out "real" currency from one's wallet and read it: "U.S. Federal Reserve Note", etc. It represents nothing beyond the good faith of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank - the heavily regulated yet private central bank of the United States. Similarly, the U.S. Treasury Bonds Bush held up for a photo are worth nothing beyond the good faith of the U.S. government and the constitutional promise that the debt will be honored. That is both "all" they are worth and "what" they are worth: the good will of our government.

Writing in today's LA Times, Michael Hiltzik reminds us that what Bush was painting as a worthless system is in fact the result of Ronald Reagan's 1983 Social Security commission, headed by Alan Greenspan,

Bush's purpose in Parkersburg was to portray this mechanism, which was painstakingly designed by a 1983 reform commission headed by Alan Greenspan, the current chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, as a fraud. The trust fund is basically fictional, he suggested; it's just a bookkeeping device that conceals Social Security's true fiscal crisis. By suggesting that Social Security has less money on hand than it seems to, he's hoping to win support for his highly unpopular plan to privatize the system.

Accordingly, he staged a photo-op pilgrimage to the four-drawer cabinet in the Parkersburg facility in which the trust fund's bond certificates are filed and briefly riffled through the pages. Then, smirking inanely for an audience of handpicked supporters, he ridiculed the idea that "the retirement security for future generations is sitting in a filing cabinet.

I mean, in some corners, contradicting Saint Ronald is treasonous, isn't it? Reagan claimed to have solved the same problem Bush is claiming to be trying to solve once again - the burden on SS caused by many baby boomers retiring. Here is what Reagan had to say in his 1983 State of the Union Address about his plan which Bush was calling fraudulent in his 2005 horror-story photo-op,

Just 10 days ago, after months of debate and deadlock, the bipartisan Commission on Social Security accomplished the seemingly impossible. Social security, as some of us had warned for so long, faced disaster ... Through compromise and cooperation, the members of the Commission overcame their differences and achieved a fair, workable plan. They proved that, when it comes to the national welfare, Americans can still pull together for the common good ... And, in supporting it, we keep an important pledge to the American people: The integrity of the social security system will be preserved, and no one's payments will be reduced.

... The Commission's plan will do the job; indeed, it must do the job. We owe it to today's older Americans and today's younger workers. So, before we go any further, I ask you to join with me in saluting the members of the Commission who are here tonight and Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and Speaker Tip O'Neill for a job well done.

Atrios reproduces some words of Rep. Peter DeFazio on the House floor from yesterday (copied over in part here),

[T]he President did say today something extraordinary, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and suggested something unconscionable. The President said, "There is no trust fund.'' And then he went on to suggest that our Nation might not honor its debt to Social Security. This is what the President said does not exist.

Let me read from this. This is a Social Security Trust Fund bond, considered the best investments in the world, U.S. Treasury Bond. This is the most privileged of Treasury bonds issued to Social Security, redeemable at any time at full face value, unlike any other bond that they issue. These are the most privileged of their bonds. The President says it is nothing but an IOU. Well, here is what it says: This bond is incontestable in the hands of the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund. The bond is supported by the full faith and credit of the United States. And the United States is pledged to the payment of the bond with respect to both principal and interest.

The President questions that? He is questioning whether we are going to repay our most privileged debt to Social Security. We have $7.9 trillion of debt. He is adding to it at a record rate, borrowing $1.3 million a minute. Who is he saying we are going to repay and not repay?

Are we going to repay the Chinese but not the Social Security Trust Fund? Are we going to repay President Bush, he happens to have some U.S. Treasury Bonds in his personal portfolio, but not the Social Security Trust Fund? Are we going to repay other wealthy investors around the world and in the U.S., but not the Social Security Trust Fund? We are going to selectively default on our debt.

Suggesting something like that, if the bond markets believed the President, the dollar would drop to near zero tomorrow, and there would be an economic catastrophe, but they do not believe him. They know this is just politics and rhetoric on his part. There is no intention of the Government of the United States defaulting on its debt.

Good thoughts all. But it's beyond "politics and rhetoric": Bush knows we will and can not default on our public debt, yet Bush claimed otherwise. That is lying by any definition. It's a desparate lie - in which I do find some comfort: Bush is saying "Well, maybe Social Security isn't going bankrupt. But if it doesn't we'll just bankrupt it by declaring some Treasury Bonds invalid." He's desperate. (Note: I do think a government administered investment fund is a good idea, but not as a solution to any hypothetical problems with Social Security).

On things big and small, Bush is just a liar. Here a small one from his same propaganda-talk where he claimed there was no trust fund,

I recently traveled the country on some stops with former Democrat Congressman Tim Penny, a Democrat from Minnesota, who has some good ideas.

Lie. Penny was a Democrat ten years ago when he served in Congress. He's been a member of the Independence Party (Jesse Ventura's party) since at least 2002 when he ran as the Independence candidate for governor of Minnesota. Or maybe he's just someone who will whore himself out to the sweetest talker. Whores and liars.

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