Friday, March 7, 2008

That Would've Worked Out Well

President Bush's acolytes like to describe him as a man of action. They usually stop talking there, neglecting to continue on and point out that more often than not his actions go horribly awry, leaving a trail of destruction behind.

In the 2000 campaign, Bush floated a plan to allow people to take the money they paid into Social Security and invest it in the stock market. Al Gore had this lame plan to keep Social Security in the government's hands. It was totally lame. He wanted the U.S. Government to ensure Social Security benefits for people so they wouldn't be destitute in old age. Totally lame. Bush had vision.

According to him, "(Gore) trusts the government to manage our retirement. I trust individual Americans. I trust Americans to make their own decisions and manage their own money." If the subprime lending and credit crises have taught us anything this year, it's that Americans are really good with money. Especially saving money. Wait. Hold on. Actually, it seems that in 2005, the personal savings rate fell to zero. At the same time, "consumer debt (was) growing twice as fast as income." Okay, so maybe individuals aren't so good with money. You think the government is any better? The Republican White House is running a $200 billion dollar yearly deficit after Clinton handed them a $200 billion yearly surplus in 2000. These government guys have no idea how to manage money!

But people wouldn't really be investing their own money. They'd be handing to over to brokerages to invest. The pros! People with ties and french cuffs who are level-headed and responsible with money. As Bush himself said, ""Our government will establish basic standards of safety and soundness. There will be no fly-by-night speculators." As an avowed fan of tightly-regulated markets, Bush definitely would've ensured we didn't have any wild speculation. Nothing like, say, a private equity group leveraging itself 32 times to invest in the mortgage market. I mean, what kind of crazy, fly by night group knows it's only worth $670 million and yet invests $21.7 billion in the mortgage market? Those maniacs! How would they ever pay that back if it went wrong? What were they thinking? Okay, perhaps they were thinking that they were safe because they were investing in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-backed mortgage companies.

So it's all sounding pretty good, right? This plan couldn't possibly have any detractors. "Young workers will get slammed by Bush's plans," said Hans Riemer, director of 2030 Action. "Social Security privatization on top of a huge tax cut risks a budget nightmare, a massive Social Security bailout that would make the deficits of the 80s and 90s look like petty change."

You know what, Hans? You're a dick. You just don't like George Bush! You don't like that he's a man of action instead of thought! Just because you correctly predicted massive deficits in 2000, before Bush was even President, before knowing there would be a war that costs us $3 trillion, doesn't mean you know anything! You're standing out on a ledge alone, man!

"You're talking about a plan that will likely mean deep cuts in the Social Security guaranteed benefits, and is based on the fact that he hopes that the stock market does well," (White House spokesman Joe) Lockhart said.

"And I think when you're talking about a guaranteed benefit program, you don't base it on hope," he said. "And in this case, if the stock market performs poorly, the result would either be cuts for America's seniors, or some sort of bail out of the program."

Oh sure! Let me listen to the Clinton administration's rep! A Democrat! Democrats don't know anything about money. The above-mentioned $200 billion budget surplus was just a fluke!

See, the GOP understands money. They are businessmen. They are wise. They know that the stock market never goes anywhere but up, up, UP. For instance, in January of 2000, the Dow Jones was just under 12,000. Today, eight years later, it's...just under 12,000. And going lower, actually. And...um...with an extra trillion dollars to throw around, there probably would've been even more subprime mortgage investing. But it wouldn't have been speculation! With that extra money, firms could've invested your retirement dollars! Invested them in...mortgages that are turning out to be totally worthless. And your retirement money would be gone.

On the positive side, just imagine how fun it would be to read the business section of the paper today if Bush's plan went through. The pages would be positively radioactive. You would need lead tongs to flip through to the stock tables. Stories of foreclosures, people willingly defaulting on upside down mortgages and retirees who are completely in debt because their retirement benefits are gone. Think of how much fun that would've been! So remember, everybody, individuals are better with money than the government. At least a Republican government.

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