Now that Bush has almost unveiled an actual plan to "reform" Social Security, the public seems to be catching on to the fact that you can't divert revenue from SS into something else--private accounts, say--without cutting future benefits.
Of course, Al Gore made precisely this point in 2000, while Bush repeatedly pretended that he could give the same dollar to two different people. And Bush also screwed around with mathematical reality in misdescribing his tax policy and his prescription drug plan. And when Gore called him on it, this is what he said in the first debate:
Clever line one of Bush's handlers thought up. It's too bad that Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet, but what he did say was easily misconstrued and ended up like Kerry's "I voted for it before I voted against it" (which at least Kerry actually said). But fair or not, Bush's joke was clever.
BUSH: Look, this is the man who’s got great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm beginning to think, not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator.
It's fuzzy math. It's to scare them, trying to scare people in the voting booth.
The "fuzzy math" thing was another theme Bush repeated incessantly whenever Gore tried to focus on facts. And this passage gives you the anti-intellectual, anti-reality heart of the Bush campaign. "This is the man who's got great numbers." Yeah, who wants to vote for Poindexter?
And now that the surplus has vanished, that polls show most people believe (correctly) that Bush's tax cuts went overwhelmingly to the wealthy, and that Bush is trying to peddle a "reform" that even his aides admit will do nothing to help the solvency of the system, the American People are getting what they deserve.
Blame the media if you want; I certainly don't think they covered themselves in glory. But Bush and Gore were right out front with two different ideas of what responsible leadership was about. Forget ideology for a moment. The Bush approach could have come from a lefty, and a conservative could have embraced Gore's idea of leadership. Bush was saying he didn't need no fancy book learnin' and the voters shouldn't worry their pretty little heads about whether all of the promises he was making could actually be reconciled. Gore was saying that he wanted to do things that were actually possible to do, and he was pointing out how the details of Bush's proposals were a lot different from what Bush was saying.
And now we've got an administration that can't count, that fudges the numbers to an incredible degree, that is dishonest about its own policies, and that has actually threatened the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency.
Who could have predicted this?