Selling Risk

Bush has talked a lot recently about fixing Social Security to save it from its crisis. He realizes it's a difficult sell to change a popular and effective entitlement that millions have found an important safety net in old age. Bush's tactic is to promise on the one hand that he will keep Social Security the same while with sleight of hand he wants to privatize it which in effect changes it completely &emdash; from a guaranteed, risk-free entitlement to an unknown and risky investment, in another type of pension plan.

Paul Krugman (12/8/04 New York Times) maintains that there is no imminent crisis in Social Security. Possible solutions to be considered to achieve and maintain solvency, for example, may be to raise the cap of the base for the social security tax or raise the minimum age gradually from 65 to 70. However, Bush has not mentioned these stop gaps that would help save social security in the way it was conceived as a safety net for the salaried worker after years of labor. Bush seems not to believe in a safety net for workers &emdash; he wants a plan to benefit the investor willing to risk all in true individualistic capitalistic spirit.

Bush's vision of society seems to me anomic &emdash; each one for himself pushed by unbridled competitiveness, greed and urge for power. The democratic notion is one in many &emdash; the individual is not alone but bound by concern for his neighbor, his community and his government. Bush's notion of government is elitist, secretive, and imperialistic, identified with the rich and powerful &emdash; the industrial, military and congressional complex. Given that interpretation of his rule, one can see easily that entitlements, based on the value of work, are anathema to him and ought to be replaced with profit oriented enterprises.

We need influential and money people such as Soros and other philanthropical leaders to support organizations and vital media in a campaign to flood the country with inexpensive easy to read pamphlets, leaflets, newsletters that carry a serious message to save our country, for democracy.

Sid Moss
Elkins Park, Pa.

It's Still the Economy

I believe the real reason Bush was re-elected was &emdash; as usual &emdash; the ECONOMY.

The relative undecided voter is one who does not take an interest in politics. He does not follow current events. He gets interested only when it effects his pocketbook.

And at the time of the presidential election, his pocketbook was in good shape &emdash; so he thought &emdash; so why change?

I predict that by the next presidential election our economy will be in terrible shape.

Then "Mr. Undecided" will be hurting in his pocketbook and he will want a change.

And the change means he will vote for a Democrat, any Democrat.

In the meantime, with Bush in power, heaven help us.

Jess Brownfield
Houston, Texas

Don't Diss O.T.

Dan R. Carmichael's "Bush and Jesus" letter [1/1-15/05 TPP] does the Old Testament an injustice. Jesus was Jewish. "He came to Nazareth where he had been reared, and entering the synagogue on the Sabbath as he was in the habit of doing, he stood up to do the reading. When the book of the Prophet Isaiah was handed to him, he unrolled the scroll and found where it was written: 'The spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord,'" citing Isaiah 61:1-2 in Luke 4:18-19. He sat down and said: "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing" [Luke 4:21].

The Old Testament includes Proverbs 31:1-9 that reads in part: "The words of Lemuel, King of Massa ... [do not] forget what the law decrees, and violate the rights of all who are in need ... Open your mouth in behalf of the dumb, and for the rights of the destitute; open your mouth, decree what is just, defend the needy and the poor!"

Joseph J. Kuciejczyk
St. Louis, Mo.

Why Vote?

I used to wonder why so many people didn't vote. They knew something I didn't. The system is rigged. The crooks are in control and are now doing it out in the open. No one can stop them. They are ruthless. They own the media and the politicians.

They had voting machines that can't be checked and put their people in charge. They deregulated all the safeguards the public had for protection.

The right leaning Democrats wouldn't permit a populist like Howard Dean run against Bush. Against Dean, Kerry put up a great fight. He told us what he would do and what we wanted to hear. But he was so polite and kind to our president. Did he really want the job?

I don't know anyone who voted for Martinez or Bush. I can't believe there are so many deluded people in the US. With our neat new dandy Voting Machines we'll never know for sure. Until there is a paper trail I won't bother to vote.

Dorothy F. Burke
Eustis, Fla.


The 20th century saw the fall from power of kings and emperors. In their place fascist dictators rose up. They did this through lies, patriotism and changing laws. Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo and Stalin were the biggies. They were all out taking over other countries.

The 21st century to my amazement saw the beginning of another fascist. He is the head of a large industrial nation. The name of this new fascist is George W. Bush. He and his cabinet belong to a group called Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Their goal is to take over seven oil countries &emdash; Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan. Bush is doing his best to be a fascist dictator. He gave a speech stating that he will get along just fine with Congress if they give him a partial privatized social security. A draconian law called the PATRIOT Act was put in place which takes away some of our freedoms. People across this country are flying American flags. They should wise up and fly them upside down which is the universal signal for distress. This should be done until the PATRIOT Act is repealed. The people in Congress should get in the habit of saying "NO" to Bush.

(Mr.) Clare J. Crowley
Milwaukee, Wis.

Political Pensions

What is the president's retirement program: salary, health insurance: Ditto for VP and Cabinet Members. Ditto for representatives and senators. Do these folks contribute to Social Security?

It strikes me that most (99%?) of those interested in painting this as a "crisis" and wanting to fix it on the backs of beneficiaries will not rely on Social Security as they age.

Monta Zengerle
Seguin, Texas

Editor Notes: Former presidents receive a pension that matches the salary of Cabinet members &emdash; currently $175,000 a year, plus Secret Service protection, reimbursements for staff, travel, mail, office expenses and treatment in military hospitals.

As president of the Senate, the vice president's pension and health benefits are the same as for members of Congress and other federal employees. Their retirement is a percentage of their salary, based on length of service, with a minimum of five years to qualify. According to About.com, data compiled in 2003 showed 413 retired Congress members were receiving federal pensions, with the average payment $46,908 a year.

Members of Congress started paying into Social Security in 1984. Before that they paid into a separate pension fund.

Don't Think of Elephant

I just finished reading George Lakoff's book, Don't Think of an Elephant. It contains some important answers for progressives, such as why conservatives think the way they do and how progressives can frame their answers to counteract that thinking.

For instance, why do poor people vote against their own interests and in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy and more power for corporations? Lakoff gives some very convincing answers and suggests several possible strategies to achieve political success.

I urge everyone interested in learning about our adversary to read the book. It's only $10 in paperback and I guarantee it will help any political campaign. I also suggest that the book be reviewed in The Progressive Populist and discussion groups be encouraged in all parts of the country. That may be one way in which we can win the next election.

Jerome Taub
Lake Hill, N.Y.

Community Awareness

A small group of us in our very Republican county and small town on Lake Michigan worked hard for Sen. Kerry before the election. Our disappointment with the results (and particularly at the flagrant violations of good voting procedure) have solidified into a movement we are calling the "Community Awareness Forum." We have a website of over 100 people and a "core group" of local people who are working to reclaim our democracy in our little part of the country. One of our actions before Christmas was to circulate some 60 signs which said "Be Not Afraid: Choose Peace" all around our neighborhoods. Another is to hold an ongoing vigil for the soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq; one of our members asked us to prepare creative peace signs and she wrote the names of more than 1300 servicepeople on the backs of the signs, which are posted in her front yard. We solemnly read these names every so often, with a candle lighting, followed by tea and conversation.

Our aim is also educational. We plan to hold periodic forums for the larger community, show an appropriate video (such as "The Collapse of the American Dream") and hopefully prompt discussion and even the formation of smaller interest groups which will gather around local issues. ...

We are forming coalitions with groups who are interested in working with us, and we are making wonderful new friends too. We believe, with George Lakoff, that we have to "reframe" the message, and we want to be both future-oriented and positive in our orientation.

Marliss Rogers
Port Washington, Wis.
Email Marjayrog@aol.com

Corporate Communism

There is no crisis in Social Security. The way to eliminate the problem looming in 2042 is to remove the current earnings cap so rich people pay an equitable share of this country's future. Right now people who earn above $90,000 a year pay no Social Security on earnings above that amount. Rich people have profited enormously from the American system. It is their obligation to give something back to the workers and consumers who make their enormous profits possible. The issue here is redistribution of wealth in favor of those honest workers who are not ruthless financial manipulators.

Most Wal-Mart workers make so little money they qualify for foodstamps and Medicaid. When I was growing up we called that Communism &emdash; where workers earned so little the government had to subsidize their food and healthcare. Have we come full circle? Do we really need to subsidize the nation's largest employer? Did we sacrifice for four decades to overcome the Soviets so our very own rich people could institute a system of Corporate Communism on our own continent? Time for the disappearing middle class to stand up. Remove the Social Security cap.

Rich Zubaty
Kihei, Hawaii

Gitmo is W's USA

On Molly Ivins' article, "Is Gitmo Really America?" [1/1-15/05 TPP], I find that she has overlooked some of the positive aspects of this operation. Let me start with the location.

• It is far away from mainland US and also away from those pestering press reporters demanding 'due process' and other such nonsense.

• This has given our criminal psychologists a rare opportunity to study at first hand the behavior pattern of subjects who are frustrated, angry and suicidal. No school could ever match this.

• Some senior members of Taliban/Al Qaeda amongst the prison population (their seniority ascertained from the membership card found in their possession) have given us valuable and timely intelligence which helped prevent further attacks on our land. Due to National security reasons the details of such tips could not be made public.

• Some evangelical Christians in our armed forces (holding ranks as high as a lieutenant general ) had the opportunity to convert some of the idol worshippers amongst them to Christianity and saved their souls.

• Halliburton, which has lost millions of dollars in Iraq, finally made some profit in building and managing this facility. How can anyone grudge that!

The British had Andaman Island; the French had Devil's Island and thanks to Bush we have Guantanamo Bay. This will be Bush's legacy.

M. Askarian
New York, N.Y.

Impeach Bush

If Greg Palast's "Kerry Won" has any credence you should back Ramsey Clark in his attempt to root the rascals out sooner rather than years later by means of a bill of impeachment. Back him to get a few of the millions who voted Democrat. Please go to impeachbush.org for a detailed rationale for impeachment.

Joan A. Morales
California, Mo.

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