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Thursday, Dec 16, 2004, 1:52 pm

Bush’s Economic Summit:  What a Joke

By Tracy Van Slyke
Written by In These Times intern Kevin Friedl.

The White House???s two-day economic summit concluded this afternoon with closing remarks from President Bush in which he reiterated ???his??? plans to deal with the country???s massive deficit. Proving how difficult it can be to get an intelligent sounding quote from this President, Reuters was
forced to settle for his quasi-coherent assertion that ???if the deficit is an issue, which it is, therefore it???s going to require some tough choices on the spending side.???

Apparently, now that Bush???s tax cuts for the wealthy and his imperialist excursion into Iraq have created a record $412 billion annual budget gap, we???re expected to believe that his scheme to privatize Social Security, debunked by Dean Baker in a recent In These Times article, is going to save
the economy by drastically cutting the government???s financial responsibility to its most needy citizens. Shift the tax burden onto the working class in the name of ???tax relief,??? send their children to Iraq with promises of spreading freedom, and then pay the bill by eviscerating their retirement fund under the guise of fiscal responsibility. Excuse me, Mr. President, if I don???t know whether to laugh or cry at the sheer cynicism of it all.

But not everyone was cheerleading for the administration???s economic initiatives. Leaders from the AARP, AFL-CIO unions, NAACP, NOW, and the Center for American Progress all announced their opposition to Bush???s
Social Security overhaul. Rep. Robert Matsui (D-CA) issued a statement summarizing his objections to the Social Security pseudo-crisis:

If the president is serious about reforming Social Security, he will need to hear from everyone involved, not just those who favor privatization. Today???s economic conference was a photo-op, a meeting of like minds and a missed opportunity for real debate about the future of Social Security. We don???t need any more privatization pep-rallies, we need leadership. If the President insists on privatizing Social Security, he needs to tell us how he???s going to pay for the enormous costs and how the benefit cuts imposed will affect future retirees.

Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.

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