If the many critics that have left the Bush administration over the years can be trusted, President George W. Bush hates nothing more than criticism. He is said to take any open discourse with him as disloyalty, which is probably his greatest weakness. For the State of the Union Address he delivered Wednesday night to the U.S. Congress, he must have hoped to have a captive audience, but he was in for a surprise.
During his speech he touched on many topics, several of which had been expected. Changes to Social Security were laid out, as was foreign policy.
Some of the topics addressed bore some surprises, most notably when Bush mentioned Iran and when members of Congress shouted “Not true!” when he said Social Security was heading for bankruptcy.
Bush stated the Social Security funds were running out as more individuals take benefits out of the system than pay into it. But the prognosis that the funds will run out by 2042 — the prediction members of Congress disputed — was based on models that project a very bleak future for the U.S. economy.
As others, including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, have noted, this cannot go in line with other predictions Bush makes at the same time without contradictions arising.
Bush claims the U.S. economy is the strongest it has been in years. And why wouldn’t he? Any such statements are bound to raise approval ratings and give him much-needed political capital.
Yet, while projections for the existing Social Security system are based on a bleak outlook, Bush also claims the “personal retirement accounts” he is proposing (carefully avoiding the word “privatization,” as it did not test well) will work out beautifully. Their models, however, are based on a very optimistic outlook that contradicts those used for the existing system.
Bush’s claims were not met with silence, though, as some members of objected, raising their voices during the speech. Notably, this did not only occur on the side of the aisle seating Democrats, but also on the Republican side. His proposed changes may not be the smooth sailing that Bush had hoped.
There are other flaws that need to be addressed. While Bush promised, “The government can never take (your money) away,” changes in the U.S economy easily could.
Perhaps he should not have used the term “nest egg” to describe his plans; eggs crack easily if handled incorrectly.
As such private investments are subject to changes in the stock market, there is no telling how well investments will perform.
Say a future president starts a war most other countries do not support and inflates the budget deficit to historic proportions, sending the value of the U.S. dollar into a freefall. Accounts would almost certainly suffer. Under the existing plans, though, the benefits would remain. Nobody would predict this now, but as Bush has proven during his first term, it can happen.
Bush may think that privatization (sorry I used the “p” word, but I do not work for the White House and am allowed to do so) provides more security, but there is no indication it would.
Speaking of new wars: As expected, Bush mentioned Iran. The way in which he did, though, was rather interesting. First he largely glossed over the subject, saying he was working with “European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up” any nuclear programs it is developing and “end its support for terror.” Bush went on to say: “And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.”
That line bore an eerie familiarity, as he used a similar line in a speech aimed at the citizens of Iraq mere hours before the U.S. invasion. How much Bush is planning without letting on remains to be seen, but I doubt I was the only one who got the message.
Bush also used the same line almost every previous president has included in the State of the Union address and said, “The union … is strong.” This time, though, a surprising number of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle did not clap, nor did they stand up. Bush may have harder times ahead than he expected.
His speech gave insight into what the president is planning or hoping for in the coming year without the usual go-between person to relay the message. But it was also an indication of how Congress will react.
Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in geography and is the Oracle Opinion Editor. firstname.lastname@example.org