What did I miss? The president offered no specifics at all. He still says some portion of Social Security must be phased out and replaced with private accounts. And just as it has been since the beginning of Bamboozlepalooza, pretty much everything he said was meant to deceive his listeners.
Start with his three principles from the beginning of the news conference. The first two principles used coded language which translates into massive Social Security benefit cuts for the entire middle class. I bet it didn't sound like that when he said it, did it? His plan would turn Social Security -- the sheet anchor of the American middle class -- into old age welfare.
Principle number three was just the same old demand for private accounts dandied up in different clothes
Basically, from this president, it's phase-out today, phase-out tomorrow, phase-out forever.
Beside that, I heard a lot of whining about politics and how everyone isn't nice to him.
Which makes me think about the conceit which started President Bush off on this titanic effort: his belief and repeated claim that Social Security wasn't the third rail of American politics any longer. No more current in rail; lost its juice. He'd grabbed it a couple times and he'd come out just fine, he always said.
Folks weren't stuck in old-fashioned ways of thinking anymore and wouldn't punish politicians who tried to upend Social Security or phase it out and replace it with private accounts. Plenty of Washington's worthies act as though this 'third rail' phraseology is a challenge to politicians' courage, a symbol of benighted public opinion that won't let right-thinking statemen do what needs to be done.
But why shouldn't the public punish politicians who try to scam them into phasing out the most popular and successful government program in American history? It doesn't occur to these folks that some people think that this amounts to a vast hoodwink on the middle class. And those who try to pull something like that deserve every ounce of political payback they get.
However that may be, it turns out it's still the third rail, as it should be.
I'll tell you, back when we designed the anti-privatization T-Shirt we've been selling and giving away for the last few months, the first version of the shirt was entirely different. On the front it had a cartoon character guy grabbing on to the rail and getting fried out of his mind. And that over a caption that read "Feel The Juice!" with all the appropriate squiggly electricty lines around the words.
On the back it said, "Social Security: The Third Rail of American Politics Since 1936."
Subtle? No. But I can't say that bothered me.
I decided against it because it underplayed just how difficult it was going to be to turn back the push for privatization. It took too much for granted.
But tonight, watching the president complain about the rough shake he and his folks are getting, and having heard the same whining from congressional Republicans all day, that line kept popping back into my head as the best response: Feel The Juice! They deserve every bit.