Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Shift on Thrift

I was pleasantly surprised that I liked some of Bush's State of the Union tonight. Especially on foreign affairs, where he dropped the ideological arguments for Iraq and sounded good, assertive notes on democracy in places like Ukraine and lack of it in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. What didn't I like? He didn't even mention the tsunami, which strikes me as a real blunder in terms of talking about America showing its generous side to the world. And he didn't mention the (near?) genocide in Darfur, which would seem like the most obvious example of freedom not being on the march around the world.

Then of course there's domestic issues, where Bush was his usual deceptive self. He claimed he's going to make his tax cut permanent, continue the course in Iraq, and cut the deficit in half in five years, which is of course impossible, even if you use Bush's dishonest standards. He claimed Social Security would be bankrupt in 2040, which rightfully drew jeers from Democrats who knew it was a dishonest statement (I wonder if I can declare bankruptcy if a time comes when I can only pay about 80% of my bills?). And he said the following, which really caught my attention:

Personal retirement accounts should be familiar to federal employees, because you already have something similar, called the Thrift Savings Plan, which lets workers deposit a portion of their paychecks into any of five different broadly-based investment funds. It's time to extend the same security, and choice, and ownership to young Americans.

As far as I can tell, this is thorougly dishonest. As this AARP document makes clear, the government's Thrift Savings Plan is "one part of the Federal Employee Retirement System that also includes Social Security and a defined benefit pension." But Bush's private/personal accounts are not part of a plan that also includes Social Security; they partially replace Social Security.

I wonder how government employees would feel if their contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan caused concomitant deductions in their guaranteed Social Security benefit? Methinks they would protest. But too few people seem to protest when it comes to Bush's thoroughly dishonest sales campaign for Social Security, just one more in a repertoire of dissembling (see All the President's Spin for the first term highlights).

(I also largely liked the Democrats' response, at least on substance. But somebody needs to give Harry Reid a charisma injection and teach Nancy Pelosi how to move her face when she looks at the camera. [Yes, I am ashamed to be focusing on the stylistic here, but I don't think anybody out there really cares to hear about why I think Democrats are mostly right on the issues])

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