Social Security, and other ‘crises’ |

Social Security, and other ‘crises’

Just about anything that’s 70 years old is due for an overhaul, and the Social Security system is no different. But is it really in crisis? I guess that depends upon who one listens to. When Bill Clinton told us Social Security was in crisis, the Democrats in Congress agreed. But now that George Bush says it’s in need of a major revamp, those same politicos tell us that it’s Republican smoke and mirrors.Differing sets of economic and actuarial assumptions make it difficult for the lay person to sort the wheat from the chaff. But regardless of which postulation we accept, one thing is certain, the longer Congress waits to address the matter, the more disruptive and costly it will become. The president tells us that all options are on the table, but he might win over a few more Democrats if he would at least consider a higher payroll tax as one of the options.It would also be in the nation’s best interests for those in Congress who vociferously oppose the president’s ideas to cease with the scare tactics and come clean about the fact that no one wants to “dismantle” the system, and that private accounts as proposed would be optional – not mandatory. By the way, if the system is as solvent as some on the hill claim, why does Congress have its own Thrift Plan instead of subscribing to Social Security like the rest of us?Speaking of Social Security, the very people who will be most affected by any potential changes are the 18 to 49 year olds. Yet twice as many member of that age group chose to watch “American Idol” during the State of the Union Address instead of listening to what the president had to say about the future of Social Security – interesting.I think the FCC should launch a review of cell-phone use on Vail Mountain to ascertain how many of the 172 million U.S. cell phone users visit our slopes, and of those how many are jerks. Defined here, cell-phone jerks are those whose sense of self-importance entitles them to shout into their cell phones at 140 decibels (a jackhammer is 130 decibels, a 747 taking off is 150) to ensure the people sharing the chairlift ride are aware of the finite details regarding Michael and Susan’s wedding in Schenectady next summer. But I doubt that even the FCC is able to control the morons who set new standards in self-preoccupation when we see them skiing down crowded runs yakking away on their cell phones with little regard for the safety of those around them. Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security could step in and issue .45s to Ski Patrol and Instructors with explicit instructions to shoot these latter idiots on sight. A primary difference between American and European approaches to life is that in many ways Americans regard life as a problem to be solved, while the Europeans view life as a series of predicaments to be got through. But after years of hearing from Washington about the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program, it appears that several European governments are finally taking the lead in trying to prevent that program from moving forward – hooray!On the other hand, to show how far apart the American and European perspectives remain, Amsterdam’s De Telgraaf has reported that many high schools in the Netherlands have forbidden students to display the Dutch flag or the Dutch national colors, including flag decals and patches for fear of offending immigrants. Wow, sounds more like Berkeley than Berkeley.The most wanted man in Iraq is Jordanian born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Regardless of how much we revile him, he has done all of us a favor. In his statements timed to coincide with the Iraqi elections, he declared, “We are at war with democracy; democracy is an evil principle.” In his own words, the “Beheader of Baghdad” couldn’t have done more to define the context of why we’re in Iraq. The recent elections in Iraq were a resounding success, and many like me feel that those waving purple fingers were as significant as the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. But we won’t know the true results of those elections for some time because unless or until a movement succeeds in making the citizenry think and feel differently about themselves, it accomplishes nothing to precipitate cultural or institutional change. So we will have to wait a while longer see if democratic reforms have truly gained a foothold in the Middle East.One crisis that certainly appears to be real is that of North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s now generally accepted that Pyongyang has several nuclear weapons. It’s also a pretty safe bet that the Chinese could do much more to assist in persuading Kim Jung Il to abandon his weapons program. Perhaps the Chinese are hoping that George Bush will make a deal – say, Taiwan in exchange for North Korea’s nukes. If that’s the case, they’re going to wait a long time.All in all, we live in an interesting place, this planet called Earth.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.netVail, Colorado

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