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Friday, May 13, 2005

Bush in the Dark

Date: May 13th., 2005
Sent to but not published in the New York Times

The failure to alert Mr Bush to the Cessna intrusion in Washington the other day was one of the better decisions made by this administration in the last few weeks.
First like those Mayday parade photographs studied so earnestly by Kremlinologists in the 1950's it shows clearly where the power in Washington lies: in the hands of the Vice President.
Second, with his track record, would anyone seriously want George W. Bush calling the shots during a National emergency?
To whoever made that decision: Thank you for keeping him in the dark.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Date: May 10th., 2005
Sent to but not published in the Boston Globe

There is an interesting juxtaposition in your pages today. In the main section Peter Cannellos discusses the geographic localization of military values and culture (page A3). This culture includes "loyalty to the chain of command, its patriotic sense of the rightnesss of Americas mission in the world, its commitment to retaining a supportive home front." Then on the op-ed page we have James Carroll's devastating indictment of the Bush administration's betrayal of each of those values.
Bush and his team show no loyalty to the chain of command. There is no accountability; not for Abu Ghraib; not for the torture in Guantanamo Bay; not for the intelligence failures prior to 9/11 nor for the misinformation on Iraq; not for under-armored troop carriers in Iraq; not for the failure, despite the advice of seasoned professionals, to provide sufficient troops to provide a peaceful aftermath to the invasion of Iraq.
The Bush administration is not doing the right things. It began an unjust war; just where were those weapons of mass destruction? It continues that war with no end in sight. It has withdrawn from the International Criminal Court because, in the words of Colin Powell "We are the most accountable nation on earth." No Longer! It withdrew from the Koyoto accords and has failed on every measure of environmental conservation. It has even abrogated the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that ensures that jailed foreigners have the right to talk to consular officers.
The Bush administration is undermining the home front with its attempt to privatize Social Security; with its failure to fully fund the expanded need for homeland security, education, and Medicare.
I wonder how long those military values with last once it is realized how badly they have been betrayed by the people who were expected to embody them in their actions: the President and the Administration Team.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Kerry Avoids Democrats

Date: May 1st., 2005
Sent to but not published in the Boston Globe

What on earth is in John Kerry's mind?
He is a senior member of the Democratic Party here in Massachusetts but he will not attend the Party Platform convention. He is clueless -- the grass roots are what gives him power. He owes the Democrats an appearance at the platform convention to fight for his ideas. If he objects to gay marriage let him come before the Convention and give a reasoned argument for his opposition.
He did not shy away from the Vietcong. He did not shy away from opposition when he energized the peace movement in the 1970's. Why is he shying away from a fight now. Has he grown too comfortable in his incumbency?

Social Security

Date: May 1st., 2005
Sent to but not published in the New York Times

At last George W. Bush is starting to come clean on the Social Security issue. He still has a way to go.
There are three major issues that he has to put forward with complete accuracy:
  • There is NOT a crisis in Social Security funding; but there IS a moderately serious financing problem. I will suggest one way of dealing with it later.
  • The suggestion that creating privatized accounts will solve the problem is false; other steps will have to be taken. Privatized accounts, by taking money OUT OF the Social Security system will acerbate the problems.
  • The suggestion that there will be money remaining in those privatized accounts for one's heirs is also false. People will be compelled to purchase an annuity. An annuity yielding enough to top up one's social security benefits to current levels will cease on the death of the individual.

Any solutions that are put forward have to be based on these truths, not on the administration's current scare tactic distortions. They misled us once on the Iraq war, shame on them; if they mislead us now on Social Security and we believe them, shame on us.
We can solve the underfunding problem with some modest changes to the current tax regime: remove the cap on individual income (not the employer portion as that might prove to be a job killer) which now stands at $90,000. Doubling the cap would solve the problem for the foreseeable future; removing the cap altogether would add additional funding to the program and would remove the regressive nature of the current Social Security tax.
This additional funding could be used in one of two ways: reduction of the tax rate or to increase benefits for poorer persons. Right now the Social Security formula for computing one's pension depends on Average Lifetime Earnings. Now Social Security pays you 90% of the first $627.00 of monthly income, 32% of income between $628.00 and $3,779.00, and 15% of income above $3,779.00 to the cap of $7500.00 ($90,000.00 per year). It would make sense to increase the lowest bracket to about $800 which is the poverty level for a single person in the US today. It would also make sense to reduce the percentages at higher average incomes. If the cap were doubled, then two new brackets should be added so people earning between $3800.00 and $9,999.99 a month would be paid 10% of that tranche while those between $10,000.00 and the cap at $15,000.00 would be recompensed at 5% of that salary. If the cap were to be totally removed then those earning over $15,000.01 per month would be paid at the rate of 1% of that income; or perhaps an even lower rate.
These suggestions show that there is a relatively simple way out of the problem facing us. It is essential that these actions be taken now before the problem turns into a crisis. As for private accounts, we have them now, the 401(k). These are useful supplements to Social Security, they should not be its core.