on the Vine
January 28, 2003
By Ted Westervelt
In the early 1990s, Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole both smugly
agreed that despite the fierce convictions they shared with
generations of their party forefathers, a frontal assault
on Social Security should be finally abandoned. They both
concurred that a better tactic would be to merely watch it
"rot on the vine." In essence, they both believed that in
an increasingly federal resource starved environment, programs
like Social Security simply wouldn't stand a chance of being
Just in case anyone thought that that partisan paradigm ended
with the millennium, in rides George W. Bush and the Republican
controlled Congress. Before the sucking siphon on federal
resources that they applied to the budget via their ten year,
trillion dollar tax cut of 2001 has been fully installed,
they are preparing to add a further six hundred billion dollar
drain on it in the guise of another "stimulus." During a war.
On the eve of another war.
Through this approach, George W. Bush and the GOP have taken
"rot on the vine" one step further. With the flood of baby
boomers rushing headlong toward a battered Social Security,
they are actively weakening the foundations, removing buttresses,
and avoiding regular maintenance by driving up the federal
debt and floating various privatization schemes. When the
boomers hit, hopes are high Social Security and other "wasteful"
government programs will be washed away cleaner than if they
were scoured by thousand years of right wing rhetoric.
As the mounting federal deficits show, the first siphon is
working great. Good soldiers that the GOP Members are, with
grisly examples of those slaughtered in decades of more traditional
frontal assaults on Social Security and Medicare haunting
them, they are holding to their stealthy flanking maneuver.
Federal resources are continuing to be scattered to the four
winds partly in hopes that the day of reckoning can be brought
The GOP is busily constructing the battlefield for that final
act. They are digging a massive trench of debt in which to
cover their actions. With ever higher percentages of our taxes
going to service the debt racked up in the Bush giveaways,
and the baby boomers poised to hit the system like a geriatric
tidal wave, they hope that their suction grip on tax cuts
and compassionate rhetoric will be enough to see them through,
and will somehow enable them to avoid the responsibility for
starving the federal government of the resources it needs
to provide bare bones support to the less fortunate among
Of course, at that point Bush and his cohorts will be gone,
spiritually secure in the notion that they were able to hold
true to their wayward philosophies without ever having to
address them above boards. Their gamble that in a final battle
on Social Security and Medicare, the weakened, emaciated and
indebted hulk of the federal government they left in their
wake will require such a massive infusion of capital that
only hefty tax hikes can save either. On that battlefield,
they are comfortable taking their chances. And at that point,
they will be beyond accountability.
The genius of this plan is that is makes wonderful use of
the one area over which this President has displayed solid
command. George W. Bush and many of his shadier corporate
friends and supporters have a solid track record on bankrupting
stuff. And their stands against government programs of any
kind that do not involve direct payouts to them and their
companies via tax cuts are in virtual lockstep.
Nobody knows how large a pool of red ink will it take to
drown all the programs they abhor. But just two years ago,
nobody thought that Enron could slip so quickly into a shady
bankruptcy after becoming the largest supporter of a certain
victorious presidential candidate.
One thing is for sure. Time is running out. They need to
take full advantage of the post 9/11 world, in which they
can retreat to the warm and cozy safety of the flag should
anyone question their motives.
But they have stretched that flag so very thin.