Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Feb. 3, 2005

The Shadows of Woody and Wayne


Give the Devil his due. George Bush has pulled a rabbit out of Iraq. The turnout in the Iraqi election suggests that the President’s final justification for war did indeed have merit. No, Saddam didn’t blow up the World Trade Towers. No, he didn’t have WMD’s.  But by God, Yes, a democratic Iraq, should it pan out, could help bring an end to other Middle East dictatorships. John Wayne is riding high in the saddle.


But what of the Democrats, the self absorbed, neurotic, whiny, Woody Allen’s of American politics? When President Bush comes out on this Ground Hog day to give his State of the Union Speech who's shadow will be cast on the coming year - Wayne’s or Woody’s?


I was thinking about the future yesterday as I visited nursing homes to find a suitable new residence for my Alzheimer’s disabled Mother. Will her assets, pension and Social Security see her through to the end at $6,000 a month? My Mother has been frugal. George Bush has not. A shadow is definitely being cast.


The Bush Administration has borrowed heavily from the Chinese and others to pay for the war in Iraq. The $500 billion we now owe China is double Wal-Mart’s annual sales. America is being sustained by its rapacious consumer economy and the Administration’s low taxes. But consumption without saving is as risky for the nation as it is for individuals. It was reported today that half of America’s growing personal bankruptcies have been caused by medical emergencies.


President Bush can be expected to bask in the reflected glory of Iraq tonight before he turns his attention to domestic proposals like setting up private Social Security accounts. Although this “crisis” lies thirty or so years in the future it is being given priority over the more immediate problem of health care financing. It will be interesting to see whether Wayne ’s shadow gives way to Woody Allen’s as health care costs and the national debt mount.


And the President faces slings and arrows from his own tribe. Yes, Iraq is looking suddenly hopeful but lots of Republicans dislike “No Child Left Behind.” No child is “big government” and violates the tenets of the sainted Ronald Reagan. Likewise, many Republicans are unhappy about Bush’s remedy for illegal immigration. And even when Republican congressman agree with the President on issues like private accounts for Social Security or the Environment they must calculate the possibility of a voter backlash before helping Bush with his legacy. He may not have to run again but they do.


Most of Bush’s hopes for a domestic legacy are pinned to private Social Security accounts. But I wonder?  Who can be sure that people will manage their private accounts prudently? A recent study found that 68% of American workers who have changed jobs did not rollover their 401(k) plans properly. These tax deferred retirement plans were the 1980’s solution to Social Security. Yet curiously, most Americans have been sacrificing their futures in their haste to shop at Costco, Wal-Mart. and Target. America ’s favorite pastime is mighty, feverish consumption. Will private Social Security accounts be secure if the business lobby demands that Congress free private accounts up to help drive our market economy? After all, if George Bush can borrow from our children to drive today’s economy why shouldn’t future leaders let Americans borrow on their futures to keep the economy humming?


It’s too bad that the shadows being cast are by the likes of John Wayne and Woody Allen. I’d prefer the shadow cast by Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. That movie was all about the future too and the hellish possibilities from making the wrong decisions.


Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com


PS. Speaking of hell and a snowball’s chance in it, I have an apology to make. A couple of columns ago I said that I would get a snow sculpting contest started during the next big thaw. Well, we’re in that thaw now but I never got off my duff to organize things. Fortunately, this is not a major calamity. I only got one email from a fellow who was interested in sculpting something. Mostly I was overwhelmed by a loud silence on the subject. However, for those of you who piled up big piles of snow in anticipation of a thaw, this is the time to go to work. Build, build, build! Any snow sculpture is its own reward. If you take a picture of it and send it to me I’ll post it on my website. And maybe I’ll get an official first thaw snow sculpting contest organized next year. Or maybe not.