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You’re Talking to Me


After last night’s State of the Union Speech, it’s pretty clear to me that Democrats are in a lot deeper trouble than the party realizes.
Because for much of his speech, George Bush was talking to me, a single woman living in San Francisco. It was his usual campaign laundry list, not that different from what was trotted out at the Republican Convention, tagging the bases for his anti-abortion supporters, the folks who want conservative judges and, finally, waving the flag. But I was paying attention.

When Bush talks domestic policy, he likes to tell you everything he’s going to do and he’s not a great orator so it sounds just like he’s ticking off the political points as he goes down the list. It’s not that inspiring. But it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be effective.
Once again speaking to small business owners and folks who are self-employed, Bush suggested that my Social Security tax payments could be reduced. I’d get to keep – and manage as much as 4 percent – of the money I now hand over to the government. And I pay double, the employer and the employee share. Now, the president’s proposal is an accounting gimmick, I get that. But this version of private accounts has legs. Watch.
Bush also said he wanted to expand the use of medical spending accounts so I can better set aside money to pay for health care. The Bush folks have already allowed for more flexible use of those accounts – you can roll ‘em over from year to year and get the tax bennies which makes them kind of like a long-term care program — and yes, as many Democrats have pointed out, they aren’t a substitute for medical insurance. But again, I get to keep the cash. And he’s been promising to make my health insurance payments tax deductible just like large corporations who deduct their employees’ health insurance.
Bush also suggested that small business folks like me be able to join insurance associations to reduce our costs even further. Since medical insurance is so expensive, I already carry a very high deductible. Both of these changes would help with my personal and professional bottom-lines. They’ll also make it easier for me to find folks to work with me since they’ll be less worried – in theory – about medical insurance.
Keep the cash. That’s Bush’s message. And yes, it tears apart the social contract under which we’ve been working as the Democratic heirs of the New Deal. And you bet, it’s going to leave folks who don’t have the $2,500 for medical savings accounts in the dust. But I don’t see a response from the Democrats that’s aimed at me and the basic concern that I and everyone else has: having enough money to have a secure and healthy old age. And that, my Demcratic friends, is not good news.
UPDATE: The Times’ Nick Kristof, a commie liberal if there ever was one, has some thoughts on Social Security reform. I’ve thought for a while now that the privitization talk by the Bush Adminstration’s part was a distraction that Democrats are going for like sharks to chum. Reading Kristoff and listening to Bush reel off a list of Democrats who have suggested changing the system by, among other things, linking benefit increases to wage increases, not inflation, I’m sure of it.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:35 AM | Permalink

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