Tuesday, October 19, 2004

highlights from bush's one-term presidency

In case you're wondering how a second Bush term might look, Molly Ivin's recaps lowlights from the first term: WorkingForChange-No more years

"But I like to remember the little things, those itty-bitty things that really made it special. Those touches of style. The je ne sais quoi of it all. Like choosing Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday to announce his administration would oppose affirmative action in the University of Michigan case, calling it "divisive," "unfair" and "unconstitutional." Classy timing."
Here's one I'd forgotten:

"Here's one of my faves. In his big address of 2002, Bush said: "A good job should lead to security in retirement. I ask Congress to enact new safeguards for 401(k) and pension plans." The Bush plan allows companies to switch from traditional fixed-benefit plans to what's called cash-balance plans. It saves corporations millions a year -- in the case of large companies, as much as $100 million. Older workers can lose up to 50 percent of their pensions. The Bush rules not only permit the conversions, they also give cash-balance plans a tax advantage, as well as protection from age discrimination lawsuits. It's the perfect Bush plan: Corporations get to screw workers, and they get a tax break for it -- plus, nobody can sue."
To me, this particular effort perfectly epitomizes Bush's priorities and intents. It wasn't enough to relax the rules in the corporations favor, shifting huge amounts of risk from the corporation to the individual. By attaching a tax incentive to it, he's effectively rewarding companies who do make the shift, and punishing those who place a higher value on the individual.

Why the extra push? Partly, I think, it was merely taking advantage of an opportunity to reduce corporate taxes. But could it also be evidence of Bush's "transformational" philosophy? Could it be that by muscling through a fundamental change in the prevailing corporate approach to retirement plans, he's willfully altering the entire playing field on which corporations and employees negotiate benefits?