Leading leftists believe, or at least they pretend to believe, that President Bush wants to dismantle Social Security with private retirement accounts, allowing some workers to build big pensions, but leaving poorer, less savvy workers with no safety net in their old age.
We’ve heard the left’s story for months. Now comes right-wing Social Security paranoia.
Just as the leftists have claimed Bush is nudging them down the slippery slope of laissez faire economics, the rightists now are arguing that the Social Security sleigh is dashing perilously close to a government takeover of private industry.
Threat to Wall Street. Apparently, these conservatives believe, or at least they pretend to believe, that if Bush’s plan for private Social Security accounts is even slightly modified by the left, it would mean the end of the free-market economy.
Under this conspiracy theory, the secret socialists of Congress would use the private accounts to take control of corporate America. Social Security would buy up a giant chunk of Wall Street, and Congress eventually would threaten to sell the stock of any company that wouldn’t do its bidding. Free enterprise would be over. Individual control over those private accounts, as now envisioned by Bush, would never happen. The government would grab it all.
Brendan Miniter makes this case this week in The Wall Street Journal. He contends that, if Social Security reform isn’t passed under Bush, the right will have to oppose reform under any Democratic president, because contrary to popular belief, key Democrats like U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer are far too willing to invest Social Security cash in corporate stocks.
The left and the genie. Miniter says the Democrats would take Bush’s idea of private accounts and enact it with Big Government amendments.
"Doing so would allow Democrats to infuse those reforms with Mr. Hoyer’s ideas of using the government to invest funds in the stock market," Miniter says. "We’ll likely get a mix of higher taxes, reduced benefits for some, and ‘diversified risk’ with publicly invested money. It will sound like a middle-of-the-road compromise. But if it comes to pass, it will give the secretary of labor and the other trustees a new tool to influence financial markets for political reasons.
"Republicans didn’t have to let this genie out of the bottle. But they were sent to Washington to make fundamental changes to the welfare state, and now they have a limited time to get their ownership society wish. If they miss this opportunity, it may turn out that all Republicans will have succeeded at doing is setting the stage for a massive expansion of the federal government."
Ideological paralysis. So here we are with slippery slopes all around us. The left doesn’t want to save Social Security now because the right is in charge. The right won’t want to do it later if the left is in charge.
If this keeps up, starting in 2017, Social Security will begin to wither. The ideologues of the left and right will wring out 26 percent of the program’s benefits by 2041. The program will be a wreck, our old people will be impoverished, and the ideologues will have no one to blame but themselves.
Private accounts don’t have to be in Social Security reform, but if they are, they won’t be the end the world that the extremists on both sides are predicting.
Private account advantage. The one advantage to private accounts is that, if fashioned properly, they actually would put something into each individual’s retirement fund. Stocks and bonds are more than nothing, and nothing is what has been going into each worker’s Social Security account for decades.
But whatever we do to repair Social Security, "we have to start now," as President Clinton said to deaf ears in 1998. The longer we wait, the more painful the solution.
The other advantage to acting now is that the Republicans finally are hinting they’re amenable to raising taxes. It’s a good time to use that willingness to find enough revenue for Social Security and Medicare, too.
Possible, not easy. This will take reason, compromise and action. This will take courage. Paranoid ideologues still can kill it.
Red Lake School Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait reports that cleaning crews are trying to remove "the smell of death" from the high school where, on March 21, Jeff Weise killed five students, a teacher and a security guard.
They can scrub the floors and replace the walls. But can they chase the ghosts?
And take a look at this July 2004 Minnesota Public Radio report on the poor academic performance of Red Lake schools. Something is not working on the reservation.
I feel some hope this morning that Terri Schiavo finally will get a day in court.
A federal appeals court just said it would consider her parents’ petition for a new hearing on whether to reconnect Terri to a feeding tube. Apparently, the court will even review the facts of the case.
Look, I’m 95 percent sure Terri is brain-dead, and that’s the problem. I’m only 95 percent sure. I’ve read the conflicting reports on her mental capacity, and I just don’t feel certain they’re letting a brain-dead person’s body die.
Terri said nothing. The other "fact" in question is whether Terri ever told her husband, Michael, that she would want the tube disconnected if she ever were in such an incapacitated state. I’m 95 percent sure she never told her husband that.
So there’s a real case here, real questions to re-evaluate.
When lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr. died yesterday, I thought about O.J., but more importantly I was reminded of the other cases he took to free truly innocent people who were in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Answers first. There’s no question Terri Schiavo is an innocent. But there is a question about whether she is being put to death. Is she a living, conscious human? Must we wait for the autopsy to find out whether we’ve made a unforgivable mistake?
Today’s news: Former U.S. Sen. Donald Riegle Jr., D-Mich., demands a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
60 years ago: In late March 1945, the U.S. Army invaded Germany in full force.
My father, Army Sgt. Thomas Warner, had been in the Battle of the Bulge a few months earlier. Now he was preparing for a major drive into the heartland of Germany. This was the Crossing of the Rhine.
As my father recalled:
The British and Americans were still digging in artillery on the west bank of the Rhine when my battalion got there. This was east of southern Holland, and just west of Wesel, Germany. The British brought in 240mm coastal artillery, long-range guns. Now our 18th Airborne Corps was with the British 2nd Army.
We were putting communications up to the river, to extend after the Allies crossed. Every night for a week, we saw British searchlights in the sky, keeping watch for German bombers and reconnaissance planes.
Then on March 23, 1945, the British and Americans opened up the artillery on the Germans on the opposite shore of the Rhine. The barrage began at 10 p.m. and didn’t let up until 10 a.m. March 24. It was fireworks. The artillery was all around us. Big stuff.
Thunder, then quiet. I slept that night, but nobody else did. We were in a German farmhouse. [Sgt. Norman] Spottiswoode was jealous I was sleeping, so he woke me up. The thunder was constant, and when they cut off the artillery in the morning, it was so quiet.
Then we heard a lot of airplanes. These were the C-46s and C-47s with the British and American paratroopers. In never saw so many transport planes. Paratroopers were bailing out just like in demonstrations. General Ridgway was up there, jumping with the rest of his paratroopers. A C-47 got hit and landed near us.
There was more artillery, and then there were more transports, now pulling gliders. Every once in a while we’d see gliders coming down on the wrong side of the river. On the other side, the Germans were shooting at gliders. Some gliders blew up in mid-air when they got hit -- just one big flame.
The pontoon bridge. Later on, hundreds of B-24 bombers came in and dropped supplies to the paratroopers. Then the artillery fire became more sporadic. That first day, the paratroopers had advanced 24 miles by 5 o’clock in the afternoon. That’s pretty good.
We followed the west bank of the Rhine south from Wesel. Our trucks went through Cologne and Bonn, and just below Bonn, at Bad Godesberg, we crossed a pontoon bridge -- a Bailey bridge -- over the Rhine. This was the southern part of the Ruhr pocket.
We drove up to Siegen and moved into a kaserne, a German army camp. In the mess hall, the food was still on the table. The German soldiers ran off just before we arrived. In the mess hall, the food was still on the table. They got out in a hurry.
Fascist forces surrender. For the next six weeks, the Americans relentlessly battled back the German army. My father was there, as German soldiers by the tens of thousands threw down their arms. Hundreds surrendered to him personally.
My father was there on May 2, 1945, crossing the Elbe River, and he was there a few days later, when the Russian soldiers showed up. (“Their military police were all women, and they were bigger than the men.”)
My father was in Germany when the Nazis officially surrendered on May 8, 1945. Eight years later, I was there, an Army brat, as the occupying army became an army of assistance. Our family was there for half of the 1950s. Two of my brothers were born in Germany.
We haven’t left. Today, 70,000 American soldiers are still based in Germany. There was no exit strategy in 1945. There was no date to leave, because peace and freedom were more important than leaving. At high risk and considerable expense, the Americans helped build a democratic West Germany, and then allowed a democratic and united Germany to choose its own way. The Germans freely decided that having American troops on their soil was the best guarantee of their liberty.
That might change. There is no Soviet Union to threaten Germany. Russia has a weak dictatorship, but it is only a minor threat and could reform. Democratic institutions could spring up all over Europe to secure the peace that only freedom allows. The Germans soon might ask the Americans to leave, or we might leave on our own. Who knows?
But 60 years later, that hasn’t happened. So it was with some disgust today, less than two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s fascist regime, that I heard ex-Senator Riegle on television demanding an “exit strategy” and a firm timetable for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq. The man clearly cares nothing for the freedom of the Iraqi people or for the chance to build democracy and peace in the Middle East.
Riegle’s battered pride. I suspect – but I hope I’m wrong – that Riegle demands such reckless action because he wants Iraq’s democratization to fail. He was wrong to believe the Iraqis didn’t want to be free. He was dumbfounded when 8.5 million Iraqis risked death on Jan. 30 to vote. Now he’s willing to sabotage the whole mission too save his pride.
Well, Senator Riegle, first come up with a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Germany, Japan and South Korea. When you’re done with that project, we’ll look at your plans to abandon Iraq and let fascism rise again.
Read a little history, Senator Riegle. It costs much more in blood and treasure to win the same war over and over again. Establish democracies, and you establish peace. Free the world; have war no more.
"Benefits of doubts should be given to life, not hastened death. This case is rife with doubt. Justice demands that Terri be permitted to live."
One of the critical mistakes the Congress and President Bush made in this controversy was to talk about "erring on the side of life." That’s exactly the language judges reject.
Ask a judge to err. Walk into a courtroom askng the judge to reverse his years-old findings of fact based on your "error," and he is certain not to move. "Benefit of the doubt" was the better way to go.
The doubt probably could have been cleared up in an open proceeding, preferably in a Florida court, in which at least two sides – one of them making the best case for Schiavo’s life – presented all the facts.
It didn’t happen. Terri Schiavo will die. The doubts will live the life she didn’t.
Cuba had the only dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere. Now we have two.
Hugo Chavez has done what he has always wanted. He has crowned himself dictator, and now he demands that all others worship him. He has kissed Fidel Castro’s arse so often that his shite is Castro’s shite.
As The Washington Post reports today, the end of democracy became obvious just a few months ago, when Chavez gave Andres Izarra, Venezuela’s snakelike minister of communication and information, the power to imprison anyone who dared show disrespect for Chavez.
TV broadcasters lose jobs. According to The Post:
"The first step was a new media content law, adopted by the Chavez-controlled legislature last December, that subjects broadcast media to heavy fines or the loss of their licenses for disseminating information deemed ‘contrary to national security,’" says the Post. "Its impact was soon felt: Two of the most prominent anti-government journalists lost their jobs as anchors on morning television shows, and Venezuelans quickly noticed the appearance of self-censorship among those who remained.
"Ten days ago Chavez handed Izarra a still-bigger stick: a new penal code that criminalizes virtually any expression to which the government objects -- not only in public but also in private.
"Start with Article 147: ‘Anyone who offends with his words or in writing or in any other way disrespects the President of the Republic or whomever is fulfilling his duties will be punished with prison of 6 to 30 months if the offense is serious and half of that if it is light.’ That sanction, the code implies, applies to those who "disrespect" the president or his functionaries in private; ‘the term will be increased by a third if the offense is made publicly.’"
History’s term limit. Fortunately, Chavez’s stench will be swept away by the same winds of freedom that are sweeping the vile odor of tyranny from every corner of the Earth. The democratic spirit will disinfect both Cuba and Venezuela of their fecal regimes.
Michael Schiavo, husband of the dying Terri Schiavo, has requested an autopsy of his wife (once she stops breathing) to clear up lingering questions about the health of her brain.
It might be wiser to resolve such questions before she dies, but this is a reassuring proposal. Unless the autopsy finds she had a brain has healthy as Einstein’s, it will settle much of the bitter controversy.
The story seemed over. But now federal authorities have arrested 16-year-old Louis Jordain, the son of a Chippewa tribal leader, for allegedly helping 16-year-old Jeff Weise plan the March 21 Red Lake Reservation massacre.
Weise killed his grandfather, his grandfather’s girlfriend, a high school security guard, a teacher and five fellow students before he killed himself. He had two pistols and a shotgun.
Jordain, son of Red Lake tribal chairman Floyd Jordain, might not be the last teen arrested. Federal agents are questioning others who might have played a role in the day of horror and death.
Americans assume all Pakistanis know there is a $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden. But maybe they don’t know.
According to The New York Sun, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Nancy Powell refused for two years to distribute posters, matchbooks and other “Osama wanted” materials printed in the local languages of Pakistan. Instead, she kept the materials impounded on the embassy grounds in Islamabad.
U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk discovered what Powell was doing in January 2004, told President Bush in July, and Powell was transferred back to Washington in November. Now, under a new ambassador, the American embassy actively seeks tips from Pakistanis.
Gift to Michael Moore. What exactly was Nancy Powell thinking? Was she afraid we’d catch Osama? That kind of inaction is inexcusable for two reasons: (1) It thwarts the pursuit of justice for a mass murderer, and (2) it hands Michael Moore and gang yet another oddball nugget for their dishonest and anti-democratic conspiracy theories.