Friday, February 11, 2005

Phony Wars

Do the ends justify the means? We created a war in Iraq to eradicate weapons of mass destruction, to clean terrorism from its face, to topple Saddam. Only one of those objectives was reached, and our leaders have pronounced that the real reason we sent in troops was to install democracy. The election has been declared a success, and it may very well be the beginnings of a new era in that country. American resources will be committed for at least a generation to protect it.

In other words, a phony war became a real war with different objectives. At a cost.

The President has now declared his primary domestic objective. As his first major foray into the 'ownership society', he wants a government-backed retirement system that permits individuals to create private investment accounts. To do this, each individual must use a portion of the Social Security account to create investment -- at a cost to future benefits. The government will need to borrow trillions of dollars to get this started.

This may be another phony war, with hidden agendas. Such a system will benefit those with the resources to invest -- not just the money, but the moxie and knowledge on how to win at that game. The investments also benefit money managers, major investment firms, and corporations, since the whole purpose is to increase contributions to the private sector.

The experience in Britain and Sweden has been different. Investors have generally lost ground, and their pensions have been hurt by the private investment system.

This phony war could still end up as a success. The President's focus on Social Security will result in some sort of legislation to shore up its long-term stability. Bush will then declare victory, even if he doesn't get the private investment accounts.

Politics is such a messy business. Sometimes it works in spite of itself.

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