Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Rove on vacation?

I read this article in the New York Times: Bush Renews Drive to Overhaul Social Security.

Does it seem to anyone else as though Bush's strategists might be on vacation? Now, I want to talk about this in a completely non-partisan way, as an arm-chair, amatuer political strategist. Here's the situation: Support for the Iraq war is waning which is driving overall approval ratings for Bush to Nixon/Watergate levels. It's smart thinking to try to distract the country from the driving force behind these. You want to reframe the debate so that you seem as though something you're doing is still going to help.

You need to pick an issue that all Americans can get behind in a non-partisan fashion (some reading this have rolled their eyes, "Democrats won't get behind the President...") and run with it until you drown out the war. With the news busy with Katrina it seems like a good chance for the rebirth, as it were, of your message.

And what does Bush start to push? His drug benefit plan that was revealed to be an accounting sham and personal private investment accounts for Social Security. These seem like two issues that are either dead or the public has already turned on. I mean support for Bush's Social Security plan actually dropped after he finished touring the country to tout it.

My suggestion? This plays to the whole "uniter not divider" image that Bush likes to paint himself as. But I think he should throw himself behind John Kerry's "Put Kid's First" legislation.
Think about the positive effect that would have on the country and the positive message it would show the world. The legislation itself isn't contraversial, all it does is provide health care to kids under the age of 18. But think of what that would do for Bush's approval ratings, to see that he could stand up with the man who almost took his office and encouraged this vital piece of legislation.

Now, it seems like Rove is on vacation, because politically, Bush hasn't made any smart moves lately and I would doubt that Rove would be behind this idea anyway.

But I just want you to imagine what a galvanizing effect this could have on the country. I want to see George Bush and John Kerry shaking hands and offering to work together to bring health coverage to all of Americas children. That would be a day long-remembered. That could be his legacy.


Kevin said...

I fear you are right. The private accounts will simply be seen as divisive issue and will be dropped without any consideration. Which is sad, because private accounts are one of the few goods on the table.

The reason private accounts are needed is that we need to diversify the source of retirement income. Right now, the bulkwark of American retirement income is based on taxes on wages. There is no guarantee that we will be able to maintain high wages.

Increasing taxes on wage when there is downward pressure on wages will simply accelerate problems.

Private accounts diversify retirement incomes. Giving people the option of private accounts makes social security more secure since it reduces a major weight put on American labor.

The second big issues the private accounts address is the gaps in ownerhip of industry. Private accounts end up transferring ownership of industry back into the hands of the people. This gap in ownership is the scariest thing going on in the US at the moment.

Although the idea is dead in the water, Bush may end up having to push the idea.

Bush's group of neocons are out of step with the traditional corp of the Republican Party. This traditional core has strong libertarian leanings. Bush's reign has been nothing but a steady stream of increased government spending and intrusion. His tax break with increases in spending is recognized as nothing more than a transfer of wealth from future generations to the current generation.

Looking at political dynamics, you see this traditional core of the Republican Party is fleeing as the Neocon Republicans simply become a clone of the Democrats.

Private accounts are pretty much the only bone that Bush has tossed to its large libertarian base. Failure to toss the bone risks further accelerating the defection of this key element to his party.

While there is not a bat's chance in Hell of social security reform, the debate might keep libertarians in the Republican Party by emphasizing that the Democratic Party has taken an even sharper shift to the left.

If the Democratic Party ever started seeing value in personal freedom, they would probably recapture both houses and the presidency.

Bryan said...

I think a good solution to Social Security would be to get rid of the ceiling on people who pay into it who make over $90,000 (i think that's the number) and get back to Gore's lockbox idea. I don't think we need a drastic overhaul and i certainly don't think we need to get rid of it. People simply wouldn't stand for it.

The problem with the personal accounts that Bush is proposing is that it does nothing to address the current projected shortfalls. And he doesn't want the programs that raided the surplus in the first place to have to pay it back. So Bush is at an impasse without a real solution. I agree with you, I think we need to diversify retirement benefits and voluntary private investment accounts are a significant part of that solution. I don't want one personally, but I like having the option.

But, I sort of hijacked the post into Health care, but what I meant to do is say this: Bush should pick any issue that he AND Kerry could get behind and push it. That would be a brilliant political move for W. and he needs a brilliant political move now more than ever.

He's not going to please everyone with it, but that's not the point. The point is to prove to America that it's not impossible to work together. He could get together with Kerry and plan a program to create a post called "Chief inspector of Subway toilets" It doesn't matter what he does, it's just that show of unity that he needs to stop the tide of slipping poll numbers.

Kevin said...

"The point is to prove to America that it's not impossible to work together."

Hurricane Katrina might be a unifying issue. Though I doubt it. Look at how Bush was belittled in the wake of the tsunami. The press was filled with extremely wicked things simply because Bush did not Grand Stand the issue.

There are people on both sides of the issue that thrive on the division. They would immediately question Bush's motives, point out Bushisms, make comparisons with Frank Burns or ridicule Bush for his ineptness.

Perhaps the problem is the stye of debate that we all use. It is the style of debate and not the issues that is causing the division.

My fear is that neither Hillary or Mr. Kerry would accept any concilliatory move by Bush. They no the division is driving down Bush's poll numbers. It is possible that they value this division greater than a given issue.

I agree that Bush's implementation of private accounts and his social security reform are not that good. Bush's plan does favor the rich and threaten social security. There are strong forces in both

If private accounts are just a way of letting the rich get out of the sytem before it collapses, then it is a problem. However, there would be a great opportunity for a progressive who realizes that private accounts have great potential of achieving progressive aims to stand out.