Friday, April 29, 2005

The Social Security "lack of" debate


As Pres. Clinton warned us in '99:

"And if nothing is done by 2029, there will be a deficit in the Social Security trust fund, which will either require -- if you just wait until then -- a huge tax increase in the payroll tax, or just about a 25 percent cut in Social Security benefits." [From: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON SOCIAL SECURITY -- February 9, 1998 -- Gaston Hall, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.]

Pres. Clinton said a lot more:

"But we are going to face early next year a great challenge of fashioning a bipartisan solution to save Social Security for the 21st century. I tell everybody it is a formidable problem, but it will only get worse if we delay it. And it is a high-class problem -- we have this problem because we're living longer. The average life expectancy of the American people, as reported just a few weeks ago, exceeds 76 years. And that is a high-class problem. We should be grateful for this problem." [From: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SOCIAL SECURITY AND Y2K EVENT --December 28, 1998 -- Room 450 -- Old Executive Office Building]

In fact, you can read everything that Pres. Clinton said about Social Security by going to the program's web site. Don't be surprised if Pres. Bush sounds a lot like Pres. Clinton:

http://www.ssa.gov/history/clntstmts.html#conf

Maybe Democrats should refresh their memories by reading what Pres. Clinton said about Social Security.


Can we get over the politics? Can we govern, please?

The Democrats do not like Pres. Bush's ideas. Where is their plan? They don't have one.

Can we get over protecting sacred cows? Can we live in the real world?

In fact, Pres. Bush's ideas did not originate from conservative Republicans. Democratic senators in the 1990's like Charles Robb, Bob Kerrey, John Breaux and Daniel Patrick Moynihan championed Social Security reform and promoted ideas like "private accounts".

Where are these senators today? Sadly, Moynihan passed away a few years ago. He was a voice of reason in a party that has more in common with Michael Moore than the late Senator Moynahan.


The other three, Robb, Kerrey and Breaux, were known as conservative Democrats, or "red state" Democrats. They retired only to be replaced by 3 Republican senators!

In '97, Democrats and Republicans urged Pres. Clinton to tackle the issue. He didn't. He did not want to touch the "third rail" of American politics.

As Will Marshall, a founder of the Democratic Leadership Council and now president of the Progressive Policy Institute, said:

"The Democratic Party ought to be developing a vision of a modernized social insurance system for the 21st century and moving beyond the 'just say no' position. If Bush is wrong, then what is right?"

Sooner or later, we have to get out of our ideological trap and see things as they are.

Reality is that Pres. Clinton was right in '98 and '99 about Social Security.


Reality is that there were Democrats and Republicans ready to carry the water for Social Security reform during Clinton's second term.

Reality is that birth rates have dropped. We are having less babies. (We are not going to depopulate ourselves like the Europeans but women are having less babies)

The Wall Street Journal had a wonderful summary of the crisis a few months ago:

"In the 1930s there were 41 workers for every retiree; the payroll tax could thus be set at a low rate--about 2% for the first $3,000 of earnings.

It was quite a deal for the beneficiaries--the average rate of return for people retiring in 1940 was 114%.

In the 1950s, Congress started increasing both benefits and the number of people covered.

At the same time, however, the demographics were turning sour.

Life expectancy was rising to the 78 years it is today, from 69 for men born in 1940. And fertility rates were declining, from 2.2 children per woman in 1940, to a peak of 3.7 in 1957, to two per woman right now.

No surprise, then, that the ratio of workers to retirees began to fall--in 1950, it had dropped to 16 workers to one retiree and now it is just three to one.

Payroll taxes have had to rise accordingly--they are now 12.4%.

And real rates of return have gone into a free-fall; real returns for workers born in 1960 and retiring in 2025 are less than 2%.

Bad enough, but it is all about to get much worse.

Over the next 20 years, as the Baby Boomers start retiring, the number of retirees will jump to around 77 million from 47 million today.

The worker-to-retiree ratio will drop to two to one, and real returns for some could be negative.

The Social Security system will start running a deficit by 2016 when benefits exceed annual payroll tax revenue.

The "Trust Fund" surplus will be totally eaten up by 2042 (or a decade later, depending on economic and demographic assumptions).

Then Social Security will have to rely solely on revenue from the payroll tax that will not be sufficient to pay benefits.

The immediate problem is that payroll taxes during the surplus period that began in the 1980s were not saved in the mythical Trust Fund; instead the taxes were used to finance other government spending.

The Fund is merely the repository for special-issue bonds that are a liability to the federal Treasury.

In order to redeem these bonds, the government must increase taxes or borrow (thus making concrete, or recognizing, the debt the bonds do in fact represent).

And we're talking about huge amounts: Bonds credited to the Trust Fund now exceed $1.5 trillion.

By 2016, when the shortfall begins, that figure will have grown to over $3.2 trillion in today's dollars.

This isn't just an accounting crisis.

According to figures from the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security is running at about 4.4% of GDP and revenue at about 5%.

While revenue is expected to stay fairly constant, outlays will rise to 6.1% of GDP in 2030.

Combine Social Security with Medicare and Medicaid, and spending is running at 7% of GDP.

By 2030, when most of the boomers are retired, spending on these three programs will shoot up to almost 15% of future GDP.

The programs could still be funded, sure, but there would be almost no money left in the federal budget for anything else.

Faster economic growth along the way can help, but it will also not solve this problem by itself. Because of the way benefits are currently determined, as growth pushes up wages and payroll tax revenue, it also increases the benefits that Social Security has promised to pay.

These are all facts that can be found in countless studies by countless experts, and in the reports by the Social Security Trustees."

We can play games or govern.

Let's govern. It seems more and more obvious to me that the people who would really destroy Social Security are those who want to leave it alone.

We need Social Security reform now.

Pres. Bush has put an idea on the table. Democrats should do the same thing.

So far, all we are doing is debating Pres. Bush's ideas and hearing nothing tangible from his critics.



Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sick humor plus Silly Dean equals more electoral losses


A few years ago, one of Dallas's morning radio hosts made a humorous remark about Pres. Clinton. It was in the middle of the "Monica scandal" when every late night comedian had something to say about Clinton. The joke's punchline had someone hitting Pres. Clinton to defend Monica's honor.

Within days, the Secret Service made a visit to the station and jokes about hitting the president stopped.

The Secret Service does not take jokes about physical threats to the President kindly. After all, it is their job to protect the President and his family!

We have a standard of presidential humor in the US. You can call the President names but don't make jokes about his personal safety. This standard has applied to Democrat and Republican presidents.

This little joke pales in comparison with the latest from Air America, the nation's liberal radio network.

Randi Rhodes played the following humorous radio drop during her afternoon drive show:

A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little bastard. [audio of gun being cocked]..

Why in the world would a radio show do something like this?


There are two answers.

The first one is a ratings desperation. Sadly, this is the kind of joke that they have to do to get coverage. It's like the 13 year old brat who drops the glass of milk to get attention.

The liberal radio network can not present a debate based on the Dems alternative to Bush's Social Security proposal. The Dems do not have one.

The liberal radio network can not do a joke comparing the proposals? How can you do a joke when your side does not a plan?

Can anyone tell me what the Dems Social Security alternative to Bush is?

The second answer is that the left is furious after years of electoral frustration.

Reagan was a moron but he cleaned their clock. Bush is another moron and he is the first President since FDR to win three consecutive congressional elections.

Maybe the liberals need to find a moron to lead their party!

They can't win elections. Bush has defeated Anne Richards, Al Gore and John Kerry. They can't get over that.

If they win elections, such as Clinton's electoral pluralities in '92 and '96, then they end up with a fellow who shares their liberal beliefs but would rather be reelected.

Clinton left Kyoto on his desk without sending it to the US Senate for ratification. Clinton signed every Republican bill intended to promote family values and traditional marriage. Last but not least, it was Clinton who bombed Iraq because he said that the '91 cease fire gave the US the legal right to attack Saddam Hussein!

Clinton's presidency was mushy "vanilla liberalism". It drove 4 million to Ralph Nader and handed the presidency to Bush in 2000!

These people are angry. So they do stupid things like running audio clips pretending to kill Bush.

The Air America Radio Network is one of the biggest business failures of modern times. If Air America was a horse it would be shot to put it out of his misery. They can't even get ratings in liberal NYCity. No one is listening, including the liberals!

Add to this nonsense the recent performance from Howard Dean.

During a speech, the head of the Dem party imitated Rush Limbaugh taking cocaine.

To be fair, Rush Limbaugh was addicted to pain killers rather than cocaine. There is a huge difference between someone who is addicted to pain killers because of chronic back problems and someone who consumes cocaine. My guess is that even liberals understand that!

Unlike Clinton, Rush faced the issue head on. He did not blame anyone. He stood up and took responsibility for his behavior. He did not send his wife to The Today Show and blamed it on a left wing conspiracy.

Today, Rush is back on the air and killing Air America everywhere! He is beating Al Franken in liberal NYCity by 2-1 in the latest radio ratings!

Welcome to the modern world of liberalism. The party of of Hubert Humphrey has become the party of Al Franken.

At the same time, the Democrats have also gone from a majority to a minority.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Brooks and Friedman


Brooks and Friedman are not a country music duo. They are two of our best columnists. Brooks is a conservative and Freeman is a liberal. Politics aside, they are both reasonable men who understand that ideology won't solve every problem.

Last week, Thomas Friedman and David Brooks wrote two wonderful columns. You can find the full text on nytimes.com.

Brooks touched on a subject dear to my heart, Roe v Wade.


Brooks wrote:

"When Blackmun wrote the Roe decision, it took the abortion issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that's always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn't have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.


Instead, Blackmun and his concurring colleagues invented a right to abortion, and imposed a solution more extreme than the policies of just about any other comparable nation."

Abortion is the most divisive issue in the country. Why? Because people like me do not like judges to invent rights and impose them on us.

I would feel a lot more comfortable with abortion rights if they have been won the old fashioned way, i.e., the ballot box.

I do not appreciate a judge single handily creating a right and then imposing it on me.

The abortion battle has poisoned our judicial nominations. Twenty years ago, Judge Anthony Scalia, one the most conservative jurists was selected 98-0 by the US Senate. Why? Because he was qualified and Senators understood that Pres. Reagan had the right to nominate judges.

Not today. Let's go back to Brooks:

"Over the past four years Democrats have resorted to the filibuster again and again to prevent votes on judicial nominees they oppose. Up until now, minorities have generally not used the filibuster to defeat nominees that have majority support. They have allowed nominees to have an up or down vote. But this tradition has been washed away."

Roe v Wade has turned every election into a fist fight between conservatives opposed to abortion and liberals who see abortion as the one and only issue.

Abortion has poisoned the political well. Why? Because there are many of us who do not believe that judges should invent rights. We would rather see those issues argued in the political arena and decided by voters.

Friedman wrote a piece about Tony Blair. It is a supportive column and outlines what American liberals could learn from Blair.

Tony Blair is a Harry Truman-John Kennedy Democrat. He is not afraid of defending his country. He sees evil. He understands that fighting evil is often unpopular but necessary.

"....Mr. Blair took a principled position to depose Saddam and keep Britain tightly aligned with America. He did so, among other reasons, because he believed that the advance of freedom and the defeat of fascism - whether Islamo-fascism or Nazi fascism - were quintessential and indispensable "liberal" foreign policy goals."

It looks like Tony Blair will win in a few weeks. He has also moved the Labor Party away from the pre-Thatcher liberalism that translated into electoral losses.

"He has made liberalism about embracing, managing and cushioning globalization, about embracing and expanding freedom - through muscular diplomacy where possible and force where necessary - and about embracing fiscal discipline."

David Brooks and Thomas Friedman are very thoughtful men. I read them often. I learn a lot from each one.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI


What a shock. The Vatican conclave elected a Catholic as Pope.

What a shock. The NYTimes, LATimes and CNN do not like the new Pope.

What a shock. Some are now calling the new Pope an extremist because he does not believe in abortion or homosexual marriage.

It is crazy to watch the left in full crack up mode. The left has not been so disappointed since Bush carried 31 states last November and increased the Republican totals to 55 in the Senate.

Like all major religions, the Catholic Church is correct in standing up for the baby in the womb. It is right in defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

This is what the Catholic Church stands for.

Frankly, some people need to find another church. The Pope is not going to change the church to fit some modern standard of moral relativism.

This is a religion not a social club.

Joseph Bottum is the editor of First Things, a monthly journal of religion, culture and public life.

I like what he wrote today:

"Benedict XVI understands his predecessor's support of both democracy and life — because he understands what ties these issues together. The encyclical that John Paul II issued in between, Veritatis Splendor ("the splendor of truth"), insisted that there are certain moral markers about human life and human behavior that cannot be argued away.

A grown-up, serious people doesn't abort its babies. A grown-up, serious people doesn't murder its sick and old. And a grown-up, serious people doesn't destroy the structure of the family just for the sake of easy sex."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Why do Democrats hate Tom DeLay?


Let me be very clear. I will be the first person to call on Tom DeLay to resign if he broke any laws. So far, I don't see any evidence that he has.

Unlike Democrats, I won't support DeLay just because he agrees with me on abortion. I won't be like the feminists and liberals who stood with Clinton in '98 just because they supported his position on abortion.

I won't do that.

NATIONAL REVIEW has a wonderful analysis of the attacks on DeLay. I would recommend anyone (with an open mind) to read this article. This is the link:

http://www.nationalreview.com/editorial/the_editors200504120914.asp

Why do Democrats hate Tom DeLay so much?

Let me give you a very quick answer: He wins elections!


More specifically, DeLay is a master at beating liberals!

In politics, there are those who celebrate on Tuesday night and those who look for excuses on Wednesday morning.

Tom DeLay has been doing a lot of election night celebrating, which is the primary reason that he drives liberals mad!

Democrats can't get their act together. Ronald Brownstein of the very liberal LA Times puts it this way:

"It's like watching a baseball game where one team is always at bat, or a basketball game where one team always has the ball. The best Democrats can do is hold down the Republican score; the Democrats have found virtually no opportunities to advance their own ideas or to steer the discussion onto their strongest terrain."

Richard Cohen, one of the nation's leading liberal columnists puts this way:

"Say what you will about DeLay, he is not afraid to state his beliefs and fight for them. Say what you will about the Democrats, they are. That's why DeLay's called "The Hammer." What would you call the Democrats? Never mind. When they're ready, they'll call you."

DeLay, like Pres. Bush and VP Cheney, are not afraid to take a position. We can not say that about the wimpy Democrat party.

Bill and Hillary Clinton destroyed the Democratic Party in the 1990s. It got so bad that Clinton could not deliver his Arkansas to Gore or Kerry. It got worse when Gore could not win his Tennessee in '00.

Unfortunately, no Democrat has the courage to stand up and blame it on Clinton. They look for excuses and someone else to blame. Yet, the problem is rather obvious: it is Clinton!

It was Clinton's poll driven vanilla liberalism that killed the soul of the party. I grew up with Humphrey and McGovern Democrats. I did not vote for them but at least they stood for something.

What does Hillary Clinton stand for? Wait until she reads the latest poll!

The party has a national security defict. Why? Most Americans do not believe that the Democrats have the stomach to fight terrorists.

So Tom DeLay has become the latest punching bag of a liberal movement that can't win elections or find leaders that will stand for anything.

I agree that Tom DeLay is a tough politician. He plays hardball, which is the same thing that the Democrats used to do when they were the majority party. DeLay comes from the old Texas school of politics, the same one that gave LBJ the Senate seat in '48 and the state to JFK in '60.


Beating up DeLay is a distraction from reality. Democrats should ask themselves these questions:

1) Why did Pres. Bush win 97 of the nation's 100 most populous counties in 2004?


2) Why did Pres. Bush carry 255 of 435 of the House districts?

3) Why did Pres. Bush carry 31 of 50 states?

It started with Nixon Democrats. They became Reagan Democrats. And now they are just Republicans.


John Fund of The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an analysis of the 2004 elections entitled "Bush Democrats":

"It's no accident that Mrs. Clinton, who will be running for re-election in New York next year before she launches her presidential campaign, is talking about the importance of religious faith and reaching out to moderate voters.

"She pores over political data as carefully as Bill Clinton ever did," says New York Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

A close look at the Congressional district results from last year is convincing many Democrats that a move to the middle may be more than a smart media strategy.
It may be a matter of political survival."

Tom DeLay is not a perfect man. Neither were the Democrats who ran the House with a strong fist for years.

In the end, it would be a lot wiser for Democrats to concentrate on winning back the married middle class rather than trying to demonize Tom DeLay.

Why did Pres. Bush win? Why have liberals lost election after election since Reagan?

The answer is the married middle class.

As James Taranto recently wrote:

"On broader cultural and social issues--religion, abortion, gay rights, etc.--married people with children are likely to be more conservative than the average voter because cultural conservatives are more likely to marry and have children in the first place."

Tom DeLay is not the problem for Democrats. The party of Harry Truman has become the party of Michael Moore and that's the problem!


Friday, April 08, 2005

The next European Pope?


John Paul II now belongs to the ages, as someone said when Reagan died last June. In our lifetime, we have shared the planet with Mother Theresa and JP II. Both may be saints someday!

Historians will review JP II's legacy. Some will like him. Others won't. Either way, JP II was a consequential historical figure and we can not say that about most politicians or religious leaders.

It will be very difficult for anyone to fill JP II's shoes.

What's next for the Catholic Church?

The next Pope will continue the Church's positions on abortion and homosexual marriage. This is not going to change, no matter how often Western liberals say that it should. The Church is not in the business of moral relativism. If you believe in abortion and homosexual marriage, then leave the Catholic Church and move to San Francisco.

I don't see any changes on the ordination of women as priests. We may see some moderation on marriage and priests. Frankly, I have supported allowing priests to marry for years.

The bottom line is that the next Pope will be just as conservative as JP II. The Catholic Church is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage and that's one of the reasons that I'm a member.

The next Pope faces a few challenges and it starts in Europe. As of today, the churches in Europe are empty. Secularism has been greeted with open arms in Western Europe and its consequences are evident from Madrid to Rome.

George Wiegel writes:

"To put the matter directly: Europe, and especially western Europe, is in the midst of a crisis of civilizational morale....the most dramatic manifestation of Europe’s crisis of civilizational morale is the brute fact that Europe is depopulating itself. Germany will lose the equivalent of the population of the former East Germany; and Spain’s population will decline by almost one-quarter. Europe is depopulating itself at a rate unseen since the Black Death of the fourteenth century."

Mona Charen writes this about secular Europe:

"The new European Constitution contains some 70,000 words. But nowhere is there a reference to Christianity or to the Judeo-Christian tradition."

So the new Pope can start by rescuing Europe from its secular malaise. And let's not kid ourselves. It is a malaise. Let's face it. The only devout believers in Europe are the Muslims.

The new Pope faces challenges. Who will he be? Who knows? Who could have predicted a Polish Pope in '78?

I am going to close by making a prediction: the next Pope will be a European. Why? Because that's where the church needs immediate attention.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Irrational anti-Bushism does not take a rest!


Within minutes of the Pope's death, some liberals in the media began to talk about John Paul II and his relationship with Pres. Bush. They spoke about the differences over the Iraq War and how the Pope had opposed the war.

Indeed, John Paul II spoke against the Iraq War.

What our liberals forgot to say that he also spoke against Clinton's unilateral invasion of Haiti. He sharply criticized Clinton for going around the UN in Bosnia.

To be fair, he was also opposed to the Gulf War back in '91.

John Paul II was a religious leader. He is supposed to speak against war.

What the liberals forgot to talk about is how much the Holy Father has in common with Pres. Bush.

For example, John Paul II was the strongest voice against abortion and homosexual marriage. He coined the phrase "culture of death" to express his disgust with secularism in the West.

This is a moment to celebrate the life of a great man, a religious leader who connected with people of all faiths and nations.

This is not a moment to revive electoral frustrations, specially the anguish of people who can't win elections.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

My thoughts on John Paul II


There will be millions of words about John Paul II. So let me add mine.

I do not remember much about John 23 or Paul 6, the other two Popes of my lifetime. I am not suggesting that they were insignificant figures. I'm sure that Catholic historians will cite the accomplishments of these two men.


Yet, I don't remember much about them! There was a distance between these men and the millions who go to church every Sunday.

However, John Paul II was unique and was a soldier in the forefront of the three great evils of the last 100 years.

First, he fought Hitler's Germany. He saw some of his Jewish friends captured and subsequently tortured by the Naxis. He understood the unique suffering of Jews in WW2.

Second, he fought communism. Often, he challenged the Polish communists and put his life in danger. He understood that communism was a secular philosophy that violated human dignity.

As a Pope, he fought against the culture of death. He was a strong critic of abortion and moral relativism. He did not care about public opinion polls or moral fads.

Most of us cannot think of another Pope but John Paul II. It will be hard to fill his shoes.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Santana and Che


About 10 years ago, I spoke with a Cuban who had fled the island. We chatted politics, a little baseball and music. He made an interesting observation: Castro denied me the Beatles!

Most lefties, and their apologists in Hollywood and elsewhere, do not know, or choose to overlook, that Castro did not allow Cubans to listen to the Beatles, rock music or American movies. All of these things were hailed as capitalist trash that would poison the minds of revolutionaries.

This is why so many of us reacted with anger when Carlos Santana showed up wearing a Che jersey during the awards last month.

Miriam Marquez writes in the Orlando Sentinel:

"Grammy-winning jazz great, Paquito D'Rivera, a worldwide talent who fled Cuba in the 1980s, apparently weighed in this week with an "open letter" to Santana.He noted that wearing Che's face is "a harsh blow" because Cuban youth in the 1960s "had to go into hiding to listen to your albums, which the Revolution and the troglodyte Argentinean and his cohorts, dubbed as 'imperialist music.' "

Che Guevarra was a man who put many to death. He confiscated private property for no reason at all. In the end, he was captured because the Bolivian natives did not support him. Che's Bolivian revolution was a huge failure! Che Guevarra and Fidel Castro turned Cuba into a political prison.

Last but not least, he was part of a dictatorship that did not allow Cuban youths to listen to Santana's music.

Maybe Hollywood will make a movie called "the dissident's diaries", the story of young Cuban who was put in jail for listening to Santana and believing in democracy.

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