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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Beldar's SOTU reaction

With respect to the foreign policy portions of the President's State of the Union speech, I expect to read critiques in tomorrow's mainstream media about Dubya trying to play "Daddy-figure" to the world — scolding Syria, almost inviting insurrection in Iraq, squinting at and impliedly criticizing Egypt and Saudi Arabia. That's a reliable snarky way to diminish the President while seeming not to endorse the state actors he was addressing.

But international relations are about competing national self-interests, not about warm fuzzies. Dubya was sending several very clear messages — Damascus, for example, is certain to have "gotten" the one directed to it, although what it does in response remains to be seen — and the message was indeed stern, but that doesn't equate to "paternalistic." Yes, indeed, I sometimes remind my kids, on the fortunately rare occasions when they've been behaving badly, that actions have consequences and some of those consequences may indeed come from me in my starring role as their papa. But when the global superpower's leader singles out your country for a message, it's not to appeal to some sense of childlike obligation or responsibility. Fathers aren't the only parties entitled to issue a "Shape up!" warning. And the consequences of Syria's continued support for terrorists go beyond being "grounded." All in all, I applaud Dubya's good use of his bully pulpit tonight to grab the attention of those state actors who might otherwise doubt America's resolve to fight the Global War on Terror.

My reaction to the domestic portion of the SOTU address is more mixed. I disclaim the actuarial and mathematical skills to assess the future financial soundness of the current Social Security system, but as someone on the tail-end of the baby boom, I have a general sense of the demographics and therefore a vague unease that makes me receptive to the notion of "reforms" for the system. And I also am a strong supporter of the President's "ownership society" meme. The Dems mouth the words about supporting more individual choice, but it's hard to identify any issue except abortion on which their policies match their words.

But I think Dubya is not necessarily guilty of, but still vulnerable to, the Dems' charge — made from political cynicism, but that doesn't mean it won't stick — that he's using fear over Social Security's solvency to create momentum to enact personalization/privatization. The Dems, of course, are the acknowledged past masters of whipping up hysteria over Social Security — hearing Harry Reid, as the self-proclaimed Senator From Las Vegas, talk about gambling with our seniors' security was absolutely hilarious — but if there's a compelling reason to believe that personalization/privatization will address and solve the solvency concerns, I haven't heard it explained yet in words that can penetrate my liberal-arts-major consciousness.

Like the ones over the Iraq War, the debate over personal accounts is going to be hot and divisive. I think the Administration would be better served by frankly acknowledging the fears the plan raises, and addressing those fears with specifics and hard numbers, along with the very appealing principles of personal choice and responsibility. And I'd frankly rather see the solvency and personalization issues de-coupled from one another, and the former perhaps deferred to the second half of Dubya's second term or to that of his successor.

Posted by Beldar at 10:29 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) Michael Cummins made the following comment | Feb 2, 2005 11:40:18 PM | Permalink

My overall impression of the President’s suggestion to voluntarily contribute a rather limited percentage of one’s social security taxes to a similarly limited number of conservatively selected investment packages... 1) did not strike me as being tied to the solvency of Social Security as a whole (I loved the invitation/challenge the President extended this evening) and 2) I believe the true nature of this beast is to challenge the fears you mentioned directly by inviting ownership...

I wish him luck. I suspect he will need it.

(2) Ron made the following comment | Feb 3, 2005 4:00:30 AM | Permalink

I think Hugh Hewitt summed up Harry Reid best when he said he was "a sleeping pill with shoes".

(3) Geek, Esq. made the following comment | Feb 3, 2005 12:00:33 PM | Permalink

SOTU speeches are always about platitudes, not reality.

I'd take his Social Security rhetoric more seriously, but for the fact that:

1) His plan to 'reform' and privatize it is pretty much DOA on the Hill; and

2) He talked a big game on the topic of deficit reduction as well. Yeah, right, that'll happen under this adminstration about the same time as that mission to Mars he was discussing.

(4) CraigC made the following comment | Feb 3, 2005 7:22:46 PM | Permalink

"...but if there's a compelling reason to believe that personalization/privatization will address and solve the solvency concerns, I haven't heard it explained yet in words that can penetrate my liberal-arts-major consciousness."


Beldar, Hannity was talking today on his radio show about a similar program enacted in Chile in 1981 that has acieved amazing results. i've e-mailed them to ask if it's anywhere online, but if you can find it, you'll be amazed by it.

(5) CraigC made the following comment | Feb 3, 2005 7:25:03 PM | Permalink

Ok, I'm a moron. Just Google "private retirement accounts in chile," and you'll get a boatload of links.

(6) Bob Gronlund made the following comment | Feb 6, 2005 3:58:17 PM | Permalink

Beldar: Great to see you back!

A correction for the first para though: "... almost inviting insurrection in ***Iraq***, squinting at and impliedly criticizing Egypt and Saudi Arabia. ..."

I'm quite sure you meant Iran.

And I'm getting very tired of the tendency of even those of us who darn well know better to cave to the MSM's putrid propaganda calling brutal thugs and murderers "insurrectionists".

In Iran it would truly be an insurrection. What we are working to put down in Iraq are Hitler's bloody heirs -- both literal and figurative.

Bob Gronlund

(7) Steve made the following comment | Feb 6, 2005 5:50:42 PM | Permalink

"but if there's a compelling reason to believe that personalization/privatization will address and solve the solvency concerns, I haven't heard it explained yet in words that can penetrate my liberal-arts-major consciousness."

The argument that persuaded me goes something like this: in the current SS system, this year's payroll taxes pay this year's benefits. Only the SURPLUS can be invested (in Treasuries, essentially, where it earns something like 3% interest). In a fully-personalized system, EVERY DOLLAR of payroll tax gets invested.

The additional interest is extra money flowing into the system. Even if Bush's proposed "conservative mix of stocks and bonds" earned the same three percent (and it can be expected to do better than that), there is still a tremendous difference between investing the bulk of our payroll taxes for 25-30 years and spending the bulk of that money immediately.

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