Un-spinning the Presidential Press Conference

Below, the Co-Director of the Campaign for America's Future -- Robert Borosage -- responds to last night's Presidential press conference. Borosage slams the President for failing to lead on the economy and for continuing to drum up a false crisis on Social Security to push privatization -- which would only make matters worse. He also blasts Bush's disingenuous energy policy rhetoric, and outlines real progressive solutions to replace the billions in give-aways to oil, gas and nuclear producers with forward-looking investments in renewable energy.

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- Stuck In the Spin Cycle -
by Robert L. Borosage

With the economy slowing, wages stagnant, the Republican Congress stained by scandal and his poll numbers plummeting, George W. Bush called only the fourth press conference of his presidency to stanch the hemorrhaging. "I have a duty as the president," he said, "to define the problems facing the nation and to call upon people to act." What are those problems? Social Security benefits are too high and must be cut? Oil and gas subsidies are too low and must be raised? No wonder more and more Americans are beginning to think this president is part of the problem and not the solution.

The staggering failure of leadership was most apparent in what the president chose not to talk about -- the economy This economy is in trouble. Wages are not keeping up. Four years into the supposed recovery and Mr. Bush's plan has produced a net loss of private sector jobs. The dollar is falling but our trade deficits and foreign debt keep growing. We're borrowing over $2 billion a day, largely from China and Japan, to buy the goods they make with the jobs our corporations are taking there. This cannot be sustained.

Mr. Bush's answer for the economy? A stirring call for "legal reform" starting with passage of the asbestos bill, "an important reform in order to make sure that our economy continues to grow." He also called for keeping the tax cuts in place and continuing his feckless trade strategy by ratifying the Central American Free Trade Accord. This is a bad joke. CAFTA and asbestos reform do not address the perils facing our economy. The president is literally blind to this fundamental threat to this nation's security and prosperity. If his "duty as president" is to identify problems facing the nation and call people to act, his failure here is complete.

This is a bad joke. CAFTA and asbestos reform do not address the perils facing our economy. The president is literally blind to this fundamental treat to this nation's security and prosperity. If his "duty as president" is to identify problems facing the nation and call people to act, his failure here is complete.

The president wasn't much better on the two subjects he did choose to address On Social Security, the president offered a warmed-over stew of distortions and dodges. With the retirement of the baby boomers, America faces a serious, long-term fiscal challenge. But Social Security isn't the problem. Even if nothing is done, Social Security will meet the president's standard of paying out higher benefits in the future than are received today. Soaring Medicare and Medicaid costs are the major problem, an expression of our broken health care system. The president's only significant initiative in regard to this 'right now' crisis has been to make it worse -- passing a prescription drug bill that prohibited Medicare from negotiating a lower price for drugs, a multi-billion dollar payoff to drug companies and HMOs.

While Social Security isn't in crisis, the president's plan would create one. He disparages the Treasury bonds held by the Social Security Trust Fund as simply "file cabinets full of IOUs." Then he proposes issuing another $15 trillion of those IOUs over 40 years -- effectively tripling the national debt -- to pay for private accounts. The president describes this as a boon to younger workers. But they will end up paying the interest on that debt, while suffering deep cuts in their guaranteed benefits. The only certain results of the president's plan are more seniors in poverty and more debt for the nation.

On energy, the divide between the president's rhetoric and his program grows ever wider. He calls for a comprehensive energy strategy, but offers a program laden with subsidies to oil, gas and nuclear producers, largely cobbled together in secret meetings with oil and gas industry lobbyists run by Dick Cheney. The president calls for energy independence, but offers a program that leaves us more dependent on foreign oil.

Here the crisis is real. We desperately need a president who will summon the country to launch a crash program on energy independence. Invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Mobilize American science and technology to make certain that we capture the green markets of the future. The Apollo initiative for new energy and good jobs for America -- named after the John F. Kennedy-era Apollo program that put a man on the moon in 10 years after Kennedy issued the challenge to the country -- outlines a $30 billion a year, 10-year program that will produce three million new jobs here at home while freeing America from its dependence on Persian Gulf oil. It stands in stark contrast with the president's failure of vision and leadership.

Most Americans like George Bush. His party controls both houses of Congress. His right-wing allies have built the most effective propaganda machine in the history of American politics. His administration is more disciplined about message than any in memory. But now the wheels are falling off. Americans are sensibly alarmed about the direction of the country. And in last night's press conference, Mr. Bush demonstrated clearly that they have every reason to be so.

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Thank you so much for your interest and continued support.


Alexandra Walker
Campaign for America's Future


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April 2005

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