Did you see the president’s press conference? Was that not masterful? He was just awesome in this press conference. He was just kicking butt out there, folks, not letting these reporters pigeonhole him. He had some great answers on Social Security and Don Rumsfeld, and we’ll get to all that. We’ve got the audio from the president’s presser. It’s his final press conference of the year, and we have some audio sound bites. We have a lot of stuff to do. Greetings and great to have you with us. It is the EIB Network and the Rush Limbaugh program, coming to you as always today from the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies. Our telephone number, 800-282-2882, and the e-mail address is Rush@eibnet.com. One of the big subjects that came up, of course, at the press conference, aside from Secretary Rumsfeld — and, by the way, I noticed that Richard Lugar and Senator John Warner, those two senators, did not throw Rumsfeld overboard yesterday.
They did not join the Republican fray to do that. Now there’s this new controversy that Rumsfeld did not personally sign the sympathy letters, that a machine did it, and he has admitted that’s the case. We need to go back and find out what precedent on this is, how many defense secretaries personally signed all these letters just to put it in perspective. I’m not commenting on the practice. I just want to put it all in perspective. But as I say, one of the big things that came up in this press conference was “Soche” Security, and the president was just artful in this. Unfortunately, we don’t have those sound bites yet. We’re still working on it because the press conference took a long time this morning. It was at least 45 minutes or an hour, and so we’re still assembling audio sound bites, but the press kept asking him for specifics, and he said, “This is not the way this works. I’m not going to negotiate with myself in front of you guys.”
He must have said this to him two or three times, and kept they asking, (Breathless reporter impression) “Are you going to put limits on how much people can pay taxes? Are you going to put limits on benefits? Are you going to raise the retirement?” You know, all these things. This is not how this is done. One of the best lines was, a couple reporters said, “Well, some people saying it’s not that big a deal yet,” and the president said, “Why are we waiting for a crisis to fix everything around here?” You know, the last thing we ought to do is wait for a crisis and then start fixing it. It never gets fixed right. We have a problem; we can see the problem and let’s address it. “Two of President Bush’s top advisors refused Sunday as well to rule out the possibility that wealthy people might have to pay more to help cover the cost of his move to partially privatize Social Security,” and that’s again not what it is. It is creating private accounts. He’s NOT going to privatize it. “Neither the Treasury Secretary John Snow nor Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, would say whether Bush’s ideas about overhauling the federal retirement program would include raising the limit on income subject to [Soche] Security taxes.
“People currently pay those taxes on income up to $87,900 a year. That level will climb to $90,000 next year. One proposal to help compensate for the private accounts would raise or eliminate the tax cutoff, which would mean the wealthier people would pay more.” That’s a thing that’s been discussed. “Asked on This Week whether that was possible, Card said, ‘The rate that you and I pay contribute to our Social Security, the president does not want to see that rate increased.’ He would go no further in subsequent questioning.” They’re trying to get Bush to admit he’s going to raise taxes is what this is all about, and that’s why he’s not playing ball with these guys on this question. Andrew Card and John Snow, both appeared on Fox News Sunday, too, and they said that Social Security “is beyond repair, as it now stands.” They said details of a plan to overhaul it remain to be worked out. The president said so today, too. He said, “Hey, you negotiate this with Congress, not with you guys, and I don’t negotiate this with myself — and I’m not going to start negotiating with myself here.”
He must have said this at least twice that I was able to hear. “Asked whether Bush’s ideas would remove guarantees of Social Security benefits to younger workers, Card said, ‘Under no one’s plan will younger workers receive benefits they’ve been promised because the Social Security system doesn’t have the financial underpinning, the foundation to support the expectations of Social Security 75 years from now, 50 years from now.'” So again, that question asked whether Bush’s ideas would remove guarantees of Social Security benefits to younger workers, Card said, “Under nobody’s plan will younger workers receive benefits they’ve been promised because the Social Security system doesn’t have the financial underpinning or the foundation to support those expectations, 75 years from now…'” That’s why it’s got to be fixed. There’s no guarantee right now! That’s the bottom line. You can’t get more direct that that. The promise is empty, and one of the things that this story attempts to do is set up with this idea.
“Asked whether Bush’s ideas would remove guarantees of Social Security benefits…” The whole point of this, you see, is to establish a new template, and the new template is that Bush is taking away something, when in fact you can’t take away something that’s not there. This answer by Andrew Card was right on the money. Because make no mistake about it, you’ve got a big problem out there, Social Security, and if this were a Democrat president that were talking about trying to fix it, these questions would be 100% supportive. In fact, the press would be saying, “How can we help you, Mr. President? How can we help you get this done for your legacy, Mr. President?” But this media is interested in doing everything it can to destroy Bush’s plan before it even becomes known so they want to set up this template that Bush is going to take away something!
“Is your plan going to remove the guarantee for younger workers?” and Card said, “What? There is no guarantee! We don’t have a foundation to guarantee this even 50 years out.” So they’re clever up there at the White House. They know who these guys are in the media and they know where they’re coming from, and they know what the intentions are and so they’re not going to get specific about all this, just going to keep it generic until they get — and one thing Bush said, “Will you guys go ahead and read the Moynihan report?” He must have said this two or three times, not just today but over the course of recent weeks when he’s been peppered with questions about this: “Would you guys just go read the Moynihan report? I mean, that’s the basis on which we’re all putting together our ideas here. That’s the commission I appointed, and Moynihan a big Democrat.” They seem to want to not go there, precisely because Moynihan was a big Democrat. Ronald Brownstein in his Washington Outlook column in the Los Angeles Times today: “Bush May Be Borrowing Trouble with Social Security Plan.”
What Brownstein is doing here is best to bog down the debate in minutia. “Just in case the prospect of a Social Security overhaul wasn’t complicated enough, get ready for a numbingly abstruse concept that may prove to be one of the pivotal points in the debate: the difference between implicit and explicit debt. The underlying question is whether the Social Security program President Bush envisions would swell the national debt to dangerous levels, raising interest rates and burdening future generations with unsupportable debt-service payments. Critics say that’s the inevitable endpoint of Bush’s direction. His administration insists it can borrow big to restructure Social Security without adverse consequences. The one point on which everyone now agrees is that Bush’s Social Security plan would require substantial federal borrowing for decades. Bush hasn’t endorsed a specific proposal, but he’s made clear that his central goal is to allow younger workers to divert part of their payroll taxes into individual accounts that they could invest in stocks or bonds.”
This is sort of an intricate way of getting back to this fearsome and frightening transition figure. A transition figure — what is it, Mr. Snerdley, $2 trillion? Is that what they’re saying? Can I put this $2 trillion transition cost…? Yeah, over ten years, $2 trillion, but let me put this in perspective for you, and this goes back to what Andrew Card was saying yesterday in his appearances yesterday on the Sunday shows — and I don’t accept this $2 trillion figure. I mean, it’s out there. I don’t even accept this notion that the one point on which now everyone agrees is blah, blah, blah, blah, that you can’t do this without massive borrowing. Until I see a plan, I’m not going to join some consensus on this basis. But let’s just, for the sake of hypothetical discussions here, let’s assume that this $2 trillion brand-new money over ten years — they’re gonna have to come up with it somewhere — let’s assume that that’s accurate.
Well, we need to put this in perspective. You either spend $2 trillion now or you wait and do nothing and be faced with a shortfall of $20 trillion in 50 to 75 years. This is what the president means by, “Why wait for a crisis to fix something?” It’s just stunning. It’s all because a Republican president is messing with FDR’s legacy; we gotta make sure he doesn’t succeed. But as TIME Magazine points out in its story on Bush being Man of the Year: He’s energized by his critics. He doesn’t care who they are. In fact, he’s honored to have the ones that he has. They help him define himself — and I’ve had that attitude for about, oh, I’d say 14 of the 16 years that I have been doing this program. Anyway, one other thing about this Social Security plan. I got an interesting plan from a friend of mine who will soon be reaching the Social Security age, and is thus a little bit interested in some of these things. It’s an interesting point.
RUSH: I got this e-mail from a friend of mine after watching this Social Security business, and this relates to the idea that the amount of income on which Social Security taxes, FICA, on your paycheck would be subject to income. Right now, as you know, the ceiling is $87,900, goes to $90,000 next year. Now, there’s scuttlebutt going around that we’re going to raise that, and the scuttlebutt: We may not even put a ceiling on it at all, make it just like the Medicare tax. Medicare is now about 2.8% of everything. Oh, oh, oh, and by the way can I share with you this story (rustling pages) ladies and gentlemen? In order to fix Medicare, you know, we put a 2.8% payroll tax base on every dollar earned in this country, no limit. LA Times: “Medicare’s Troubles May Be Sleeping Giant — The program could run out of funds two decades before Social Security is forecast to, experts say.” All this means to me is this is just more proof the welfare state fails. It’s just more proof the welfare state doesn’t succeed, but that’s already established.
Remember in 1994, when the Republicans took the House of Representatives, one of the first things they did was say, “We’ve got to fix Medicare,” and do you remember what happened to’em? They were savaged as people that wanted to take Medicare away from old people. Remember that “wither on the vine” line that they did against Newt Gingrich? We’ve aired that ad on this program probably a hundred times to try to put it straight, and they tried and they tried, and they got their heads handed to them on a platter, and they went home whimpering and said, “It’s not worth this.” Their character was impugned; their reputations were under assault, and so they came up with a stop gap, and it’s this massive 2.8% tax increase, or tax, on all income — and now Medicare is in problem! Sleeping giant? This headline is so misleading, Medicare’s troubles are not a sleeping giant.
They’ve been people who have been trying to warn about this for now ten years, and this is something that a lot of people have tried to get fixes on and the liberal left moves in and puts on the brakes and says, “You can’t do it. You can’t stop it.” They start scaring Medicare recipients by claiming that the move is gonna result in the old folks losing their Medicare. “It’s a boon to the pharmaceuticals,” or whatever garbage they utter. At the same time, those same people who claim we don’t need to fix Medicare are the ones running around saying, 42 million without health insurance, 44 million without health insurance, homeless without health insurance, parakeets and frogs and falcons without health insurance — and yet there’s nothing wrong with the system when it comes time to fix it. So now in an attempt to derail the president’s Social Security plan, all of a sudden here comes the Medicare warning (gasp)! “Why it’s going to be a problem 20 years before Social Security, we gotta fix it!”
Now, folks, I don’t say this because I’m worried about what the president’s going to do, especially after seeing his press conference today. I mention this only to continue to advise you on just where the loony left is and their willing accomplices in the liberal spin machine media. It’s anything to deny Bush success, anything to deny him something that might work. Anything, anything that might result in a program that proves the liberal way doesn’t work, they’re going to work against as hard as they can. Any program that will work and any program that will work is going to be a major shift structurally from the way a liberal would structure it, they’re going to oppose that and they’re going to try to stop that all they can because they can’t afford for any more flat-out evidence that the welfare state doesn’t work, and so they are just hell-bent on this. But make no mistake: Bush has firm resolve on this. You can tell with this press conference today. It’s a long. We’re having to cut his answers. His answer was five minutes long on this Social Security thing, and we don’t play five-minute sound bites here unless they’re of me.
So we’re going to cut this up into two or maybe three bites, and we’ll get to that later in the hour. But anyway back to this point. Okay, the Social Security ceiling right now on which taxes are deducted, 87.9, is going to go up to 90 grand — and then if this plan that we’re hearing about is true, all income will be taxed for Social Security, with no ceiling, no income ceiling at the top. Now, if you go to the Social Security website, there’s a formula that you can use to determine your retirement benefits. I got the thing from the Social Security administration the other day which would tell me what my benefits are going to be when I retire and it’s been based on my salaries over the years. This is the point. It’s been based on how much I’ve contributed which has been based on how much I have earned. So one of the criteria you need to calculate the benefit you’re going to get in the future is salary. The computer then makes certain assumptions of past income based on this number, but if you enter more than 87.9 you get this message. Say you earn whatever in the past, larger than $87,900 you get this:
“Note: For your benefit calculation, we limited your earnings to the 87,900 taxable maximum for 2004.” In other words, the calculations differ on increased income only because of assumptions that there must have been higher income in the past. So, if we’re going to fix Social Security by raising the cap what we never hear is for the rich and the well-to-do who are going to be paying more taxes, are they also going to get more benefits? Because that’s the way it’s always worked up till now. Your benefits based on what you pay in. If the recipients are going to get more based on what they pay in, then there is no fix. If not, if the recipients who pay far more in Social Security income do not get any more benefits than what anybody else gets, then it is an admission that the whole ponzi scheme is just another tax for a welfare program for old people! It sort of proves itself by however you answer that question — and we know what the answer is. Just because you pay more doesn’t mean you’re going to get more benefits.
RUSH: Thomas in McComb, Illinois. I’m glad to welcome you as the first caller today. Welcome to the EIB Network. Hello, sir.
CALLER: Thanks for taking my call, Rush. Let me first say it was a conservative black man who works for a drug company that turned me on to you. So —
RUSH: Well, that’s great.
CALLER: — I think that’s notable, given what people think your audience is sometimes. But I was calling about Soche Security, and my concern is since the government has taken all my Soche Security funds and basically spent them on whatever over the last 30 years, why should I as a taxpayer pay any more into a system which is only broke because the government wasted my money? Why should I pay into a system unless it can be proven to me that there is a lockbox where that money is going to but they won’t spend it and waste it like they did in the past?
RUSH: Eh. You know, put “lockbox” out of your mind. There never has been a lockbox. That was just liberal semantic trickery. There’s nothing to put in a lockbox. I mean (laughing) no money, anyway. Maybe blue dresses and things like that could go in there, but there’s no money from the Social Security system to put in a lockbox. That’s why the president is serious about this fix and not waiting for it to be a crisis. Now, I don’t know what the plan’s going to be, and I think the idea that nobody is going to have to pay more is a little specious. I think somebody is. There’s no question. The question for us is, as a society, what are we going to do about this? We’ve got a couple options where Social Security is concerned, and one of them I don’t think will never see the light of day and that’s just to punt. “Okay, we’re going to give up this program. It’s up to you. Your retirement is up to you. If you’re going to end up in the gutter you’re going to end up in the gutter.” It isn’t going to happen because we are a compassionate society. Even if we did take that step the first time we saw grandma and grandpa in the gutter, you know, sucking up whatever is in there so they could live, that would be the end of it.
We’d go do something about it, and start the program all over again. So the second thing is, take a look at the program as it is. Understand what it is; be clear about what it will be in the future, and then go structure it that way. That’s what wasn’t done the first time. The reason this is a problem is because the whole population, generation after generation, was allowed to believe that it was the sole source of their retirement — and furthermore, it wasn’t even their money. It’s the government that’s going to pay for their retirement. That has been allowed to become a matter of fact in way too much people’s minds, and so it’s gotten to the point now that it is unfundable as a guarantee, certain years out and we keep coming up with temporary fixes so that currently elected politicians can take a big pat on the back for fixing something that they don’t fix it; they just patch it. What we have now is a president who’s not running for reelection, who has nothing on the line where that’s concerned, who says, “Look, it’s time we dealt with this, and it’s time we structured this so that it actually means something — and while we’re at it, why don’t we see to it?
“Why don’t we see if we can come up with a way that these benefits, people getting retirement, actually add up to something meaningful, instead of a measly $1,200 a month or $2,000, whatever it is? Why don’t we see if we can come up with a way over the course of their lifetimes when they’re having these taxes deducted that some of it gets invested so that when they do retire it means something?” If you look at not only that, how many plans are there? There are pension plans. That’s 401(k) plans. We talk about retirement as though all there is, is Social Security. But there are all kinds of retirement plans. There are forced saving plans. There are plans out there that allow you to deduct income from taxation if you invest it like a 401(k). We got Keogh plans for the self-employed. We cover retirement so many ways in this country, if people would just be responsible and pay for it themselves. But oftentimes, “Well, you know, Rush, the stresses of putting people through college and I gotta have that new plasma, and have you seen the new rules at Blockbuster? Why if I keep that thing a week I own it! I can’t afford to own it. So there are all these added expenses, Rush. You just don’t understand it.” <sigh>
What I don’t understand is people who don’t have the concept of paying for whatever it is they want and need themselves. That’s really what I don’t understand. Now, I realize some of you Social Security people say, “Well, you’re not talking about me because I’m only getting back what I paid in.” Unh-uh. That stopped years ago. I’m sorry to break it to you, but the fact is that it takes the taxes of people who are currently working, takes four people and their taxes to pay the retirement benefits, Social Security benefits of one recipient. A recipient today is not getting back the money he or she put in. That stopped happening, what, ten, 15 years ago at least? That’s why the situation’s untenable. If this doesn’t change, the burden on workers is going to spread from not four but to only two workers, and that means their taxes are going to go up — and if you look at every year’s budget, you’ll see that there’s an effective tax rate, by the time you get down to 2020, 2040, of 78% to pay for this stuff.
I’m sorry to tell you, people aren’t going to go to work if their tax rate is 78%. They’re going to say, “I want on welfare, too. I’d rather get tax-free income even if it’s not very much rather than go bust my situation out there and get 78% in taxes taken.” That’s untenable. Something has to be done there. There’s simple no question about it. It’s been allowed to fester as a problem out of control for way too long. So finally here’s somebody wants to do something about it, and naturally people don’t like change. Change is new, and therefore change is hard. The scare tactics being employed here are that current retirees “are going to end up with nothing.” Current retirees under whatever plan will not be affected. These people are not going to commit political suicide, and even though the president doesn’t face reelection, members of Congress do who are going to have to negotiate and pass this legislation, and send it to his desk. So that’s where the risk is going to be, is when it gets up there, I think.
But the president is dead serious about fixing this, and what I don’t understand — well, I do understand it, politically. Intellectually I don’t understand it. What’s wrong with coming up with a new system that actually gives a retiree a meaningful pile of money when he or she retires? What in the world is so threatening about that? Ah! “Threatening” is the right word in the question. What’s threatening is that it takes the government out of its all-important role of providing retirement benefits for the senior citizens, the largest voting bloc in America. If they are no longer totally dependent on government for their retirement then they’re less interested in making sure that people in government stay there to keep providing their retirement. That’s what scares the left. That’s what scares Democrats. It’s what scares the liberals. So they mouth all these platitudes, “You can’t mess with the legacy of FDR! You can’t mess with it!” Why not? What legacy is it?
It’s a failed legacy. It’s not going anywhere. It’s reached the point of no return. Something has to be done with it, and I think one of the interesting things about this is, it’s a great way to get young people finally involved in politics. You know, all this talk about how the Democrats are registering all these young-uns, all these young-uns are going to show up and mean victory for Kerry — and they didn’t show up. They may have gone out there and registered just to, you know, pretend they were P. Diddy or Russell Simmons or whoever else was out there, you know, MTV’s Rock the Vote crowd, but they still didn’t show up, and my guess is that a whole bunch of ’em are looking at the and me saying, “I don’t even want to think about Social Security. I’m gonna pretend it’s not going to be there. I’m taking care of myself.” The wise ones are already thinking in that way, and, and I think more and more of them will unless there’s some sort of a serious fix that is presented as part of the problem.
RUSH: Let’s play these two bites back-to-back, with nothing between them. No bumper, no comment, just bam, bam, four and five. I mean when four ends you hit five. Is that clear? <sigh> Yeah. Just making sure here, folks, deciding to do this on the fly. Here again, the question that spawned the answer. It’s from CBS cookie cutter Ken Doll anchor John Roberts. “You’ve made Social Security reform the top of your domestic agenda for a second term. You’ve been talking about extensively about the benefits of private accounts, but by most estimations private accounts may leave something for young workers at the end but it wouldn’t do much to solve the overall financial problem with Social Security, and I’m just wondering, Mr. President, as you’re promoting these private accounts, why aren’t you talking about some of the tough measures that may have to be taken to preserve the solvency of Social Security, such as increasing the retirement age, cutting benefits or means testing of Social Security?”
BUSH: I campaigned on it, as you’re painfully aware, since you had to suffer through many of my speeches. I didn’t duck the issue like others have done in the past. I said, “This is a vital issue, and we need to work together to solve it.” Now, the temptation is going to be by well meaning people such as yourself, John, and others here as we run up to the issue to get me to negotiate with myself in public, to say, you know, “What’s this mean, Mr. President? What does that mean?” I am not going to do that. I don’t get to write the law. I’ll propose a solution at the appropriate time, but the law will be written in the halls of Congress, and I will negotiate with them, with the members of Congress, and they will want me to start playing my hand. “Will you accept this? Will you not accept that? Why don’t you do this sort of thing? Why don’t you do that?” I fully recognize this is going to be a decision that requires difficult choices, John. Inherent in your question is, “Do I recognize that?”
You bet I do, otherwise it would have been done, and so I just want to try to condition you. I’m not doing a very good job because the other day in the Oval when the press pool came in I was asked about this, a question on Social Security with these different aspects to it, and I said, “I’m not going to negotiate with myself, and I will negotiate at the appropriate time with the law writers,” and so thank you for trying. The principles I laid out in the course of the campaign, and the principles we laid out at the recent economic summit are still the principles I believe in. Nothing will change for those near our Social Security, payroll — I believe you’re the one that asked me about the payroll taxes, if I’m not mistaken — will not go up — and I know there’s big definition about what that means. Well, again, I will repeat: “Don’t bother to ask me,” or you can ask me. I can’t tell you what to ask. That’s not the holiday spirit, (laughs).
BUSH: But it is all part of trying to get me to set the parameters apart from the Congress, which is not a good way to get substantive reform done.
As to personal accounts, it is judgment essential to make the system viable in the out years, to allow younger workers to earn an interest rate more significant than that which is being earned with their own money now inside the Social Security trust. But the first step in this process is for members of Congress to realize we have a problem, and so for a while I think it’s important for me to continue to work with members of both parties to explain the problem, because if people don’t think there’s a problem we can, you know, talk about this issue till we’re blue in the face and nothing will get done, and there is a problem. There’s a problem because now it requires three workers per retiree to keep Social Security promises; in 2040 it will require two workers per employee to meet the promises and when the system was set up and designed, I think it was like 15 or more workers per employee. That is a problem. The system goes into the red. In other words, there’s more money going out than coming in 2018. There is an unfunded liability of $11 trillion, and I understand how this works. You know, many times legislative bodies will not react unless the crisis is apparent, crisis is upon them. I believe the crisis is, and so for a period of time we’re going to have to explain to members of Congress the crisis is here. It’s a lot less painful to act now than if we wait.
RUSH: Sounds sensible to me. Keep in mind here the members of the press don’t want the president to succeed in this, and they’re not going to listen to the substance of what he says. They’re going to keep asking these questions to get the answers they want, and the answers they want are not what he thinks, and the answers they want are not what are not what are necessarily the truth. The answers they want are answers that will pigeonhole him down the road with them. You also note here the president is being very, very careful to avoid saying is, “My plan come hell or high water, and if Congress wants to join me, they can; if they don’t they’re out of the loop.” He’s making it very plain he’s gonna get them involved in this. He’s gonna make them take a stand on it. He full well knows that he’s gonna run into opposition up there because these guys are facing reelection and they’re not going to want to deal with the panic and the crisis complaints that the Democrats and the media are going to create.
So he has an immensely difficult sell job, particularly if he really does want some Democrats on his side on this — and I suspect he’ll get some, because the truth is the truth here, and this is a program that’s too important, and the upside of this — the upside of this for any politician, the president included — is if these guys do actually participate with him and get a fix for this, then it can make careers. It can, actually. They can be part of a Washington that actually does something right once in a while, as was the case with welfare reform. You know, Democrats love to now sing the praises of it. Democrats love — well, not all, but a lot of Democrats. They’re never going to get rid of it. They make jokes about it now and then. Welfare reform works. The evidence is undeniable, and a lot of people want to claim credit. Clinton wants to claim credit for it even though he vetoed it three times before he was forced into signing it for reelection in 1996. There’s a tremendous opportunity here, not just to do the right thing and get something done that’s good, but a political opportunity at the same time for those who participate in it.
I think the president has a tremendous amount of — What do they call it? — political capital; he has a lot of collateral here to spend with these guys. He can bring ’em up there and he can say, “You all know where we are here. You all can say publicly what you want, but you know where we are with this program. You know we gotta fix it, and I want this. This is a major thing, and I think it’s crucial and it’s important,” and he’s going to have an incredible sales job. But have you ever taken a look recently — and I bet most of you haven’t because this is not the kind of thing that you study; most people don’t. If you look at his legislative track record, pretty damn good. This president gets what he wants. He got his education bill with Ted Kennedy writing it. He got his tax cuts. He’s going to get them enacted permanently. That’s gonna happen as well. If you go back through the legislative record of George W. Bush throughout his first term, he got pretty much what he wanted. Now, there’s some things he hasn’t yet gotten. The immigration reform that he made a big deal out of, but it’s still alive and kicking, and he’s trying, but on most of these controversial things.
Why do you think the Democrats were so fit to be tied during the campaign? Because he got all these things done and they had to mischaracterize them as mistakes, boondoggles or whatever you, but he has a pretty good legislative track record — and it’s a long shot on this, but my bet is with him on this effort, because I don’t think that anybody on the Democrat side ever really thought that he was serious about this in the campaign. They just look at campaigns the way they run them: Say whatever you have to say, then when you get elected you go do what you’re going to do. But the White House Christmas party, Thursday night, I had a chance to meet Josh Bolten who runs the OMB in the White House, and I had seen him on TV earlier that afternoon. He was on I think Neil Cavuto’s show and I’d seen him and I walked up to him and I’d never met him, and he had said exactly what the president says during the campaign. Hee said, “You know what bugs them? We do what we say we’re gonna do,” and he was talking about Social Security reform and a couple other things in that interview and he was very firm.
“We do what we say we’re going to do,” and it boggles the minds of a lot of people, but remember the Democrats after 2000 thought they’d been tricked, when Bush actually started implementing what he said he was going to do in the campaign. You know, as I pointed out, the Democrats say things; they’re looking at words. How do they persuade people with words? How do we get people to vote for us with words? How can we change our linguistics? How can we change our semantics, anything they can do to hide who they really are and what they really want to do. That’s the exact opposite of President Bush. He’s out there doing what he says he’s going to do, and he’s doing it, and you’ve gotta put your chips with him on this, even something as large as this, given his legislative track record and his, I think, incredible sense of purpose that you can hear in this answer. There’s no question.
RUSH: Back to the president’s press conference. Unidentified reporter: “Several Republican lawmakers recently criticized Secretary Rumsfeld. What does need to do to rebuild their trust?”
BUSH: Well first of all, when I asked the secretary to stay on as secretary of defense, I was very pleased when he said yes, and I asked him to stay on because I understand the nature of the job of the secretary of defense, and I believe he’s doing a really fine job. The secretary of defense is a complex job. It’s complex in times of peace, and it’s complex even more so, in times of war — and the secretary has managed this department during two major battles in the war on terror, Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the same time he’s working to transform our military so it functions better; it’s lighter; it’s ready to strike on a moment’s notice. In other words, that the force structure meets the demands we face in the 21st Century. Not only is he working to transform the nature of the forces, we’re working to transform where our forces are based, and he’s done a fine job and I look forward to continuing to work with him, and I know the secretary understands the Hill. He’s been around in Washington a long period of time, and he will continue to reach out to members of the Hill, explaining the decisions he’s made. I believe that in a new term, members of the Senate and the House will recognize what a good job he’s doing.
RUSH: Well, it sounds to me like Rumsfeld got a pretty strong vote of confidence there, and I’m sure this is not what assembled members of the White House press corps were hoping to hear. An unidentified reporter then said, “I’d like to go back to Secretary Rumsfeld, sir. You talked about the big-picture elements of his job but did you find it offensive he didn’t take the time to personally sign condolence letters to the families of troops killed in Iraq? And if so, why is that an offense that you’re willing to overlook?”
BUSH: Listen, I know how Secretary Rumsfeld’s heart. I know how much he cares for the troops. He and his wife go out to Walter Reed and Bethesda all the time to provide comfort and solace. I have seen the anguish in his — or heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm’s way, and he’s a good, decent man. He’s a caring fellow. You know, sometimes perhaps his demeanor is rough and gruff, but beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military and deeply about the grief that war causes.
RUSH: So what do you make of this answer? Here you have letters that are not personally signed, signed by machine. So you have the symbolism there that has people all upset. The president chose to answer the question with a testament to the character of Secretary Rumsfeld, which seems to me to be the more important of the two questions — especially when the wolf pack is out seeking anything it can to get rid of Rumsfeld. I also, by the way, like the president’s answer here. I wish they’d start speaking of this more often, although it’s not a big point with me, but he called Afghanistan and Iraq “two major battles” in the war on terror and a big deal with the left is that these are two wars, two separate wars that are not linked, have nothing to do with one another, and the president clearly made it plain that both theaters are part of one war, and made it clear as well that he stands behind Rumsfeld. He’s not going anywhere. Here’s Jay in Atlanta. Glad you waited, sir. Welcome to the program.
CALLER: Hi, Rush. Going back to the Social Security thing, I’ve wondered for years why everybody thought there had to be such a massive restructuring of this thing in order to fix it. Basically what needs to be done is for the out-year liabilities to be reduced, and there’s a lot of ways to do that. To me, the simplest thing would be to take caps off, not just of the income that’s taxed, but take caps off of IRAs, Keoghs, 401(k)s, allow people to put however much money they want into those plans, and give them not a deduction against income tax, but a credit against the FICA tax — and at the same time, reduce their claim on the Social Security benefits by the percentage that they divert to their personal accounts. It takes down the liability; it raises their future income. You don’t have to give them a dollar-for-dollar swap. It can be 50 cents on the dollar to keep current funding, and ultimately, to use a Newt Gingrich line, it “withers on the vine.”
RUSH: Yeah. (Laughing.) You don’t want to use that line again. It will be demagogued.
CALLER: Well, I know, but it does give people the opportunity to opt out. You don’t have to do anything except allow the tax credit. You don’t have to restructure it. If you don’t want to do that, you stay in it. You don’t change it at all. You don’t have to do anything.
RUSH: Here’s the problem. Your idea is a good one and it makes fiscal sense, and, who knows, a variation of it may end up in the plan. I mean, I wouldn’t form any ideas yet of what this is going to be simply on the basis of press questions and press correspondents. I mean, it’s the press that’s put it out there that we’re going to have to raise retirement age. We’re going to have to raise the ceiling on income that is taxed for Social Security or we’re going to have to reduce benefits. They’re the ones putting all those options out there. The president hasn’t yet. There is no plan. All there is, is a plan to take a certain percentage of what is taxed and allow it to go into private accounts that are managed individually. Now, the one reason why your plan I think might suffer is because the current plan, which seems to be acceptable to a lot of people — in fact demanded by many — is that everybody is covered, which is an insurance policy against those who don’t do what you say.
Not everybody is going to take care of themselves in their retirement; and even those who try may have an emergency in which they have to go raid their and accounts and deplete it at an age that puts them precariously close to retirement where they don’t have the time and the resources to build it back up, and then what do we do about them? Then we’re back to the same old problem. Then we’ve got people in the gutter, theoretically, figuratively speaking, who tried it. They did their best, but an emergency came up. They went and raided their accounts. They got zilch, zero, nada left, and what do we do about them? I think whatever plan, therefore — and this is because of 70 years of conditioning, 70 years of history. You don’t just punt the plan in toto, particularly in its structure. I think whatever plan they come up with, there has to be an element that covers everybody. Now, you can choose to opt out, and if they let you opt out and all of a sudden when you’re 55 or 60 you need it, what are we going to do? You know we’re going to give you something. We’re a compassionate society.