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February 26, 2005, 8:10 P.M.

We received the following note from our friend, Walt, thoughtful as usual:

Hi Ed,

Last night there was a very good article in the Laconia Citizen about the potential cost of procrastinating on the inevitable need to rebuild the high school and middle school. Unfortunately, I think we citizens of Laconia will fall victim to higher cost to solve the school construction problem. When the need was identified, a year or more ago, interest rates were at a fifty year bottom. The right time to invest or commit funds. We're on a track now that interest rates increase by 1/4% every 2 months. That will translate into millions of more dollars in ultimate cost. The Citizen article also astutely points out that the winds of policy can change abruptly, and state or federal funding support can dry up quickly. I'm worried that this is really going to cost us down the road if we don't get off dead center on this issue.

On another issue, you probably won't print this one. I seriously object to the left wing party comments and your words specifically saying "dismantle social security". My poor old 85 year old mother seriously thinks that George Bush is going to discontinue social security, and she will be left broke. We all know that is not the case. So, we talk about alternitives in modifying the plan. My barber had some good insight. When I told him that everyone could be entitled to investing in their retirement fund at no risk relative to what they currently get, he told me that the average person wouldn't understand that. They would think they are investing in Enron. My barber is right. The average person is pretty dumb when it comes to personal finance. That's why millions are in personal trouble and over their heads. It could be a real tragedy some day, leading to anarchy, rebellion and violence in the streets. Back to Social Security, I think we should have an honest debate about a fiscal solution, and quit all the partisan mudslinging. I just don't think it's fair to use the term "dismantle Social Security". It's here to stay in one form or another, regardless of which political party is in power.

Walt K

Walt,

Russ Thibeault’s talk at the High School made a lot of sense and certainly supports our position that the sooner these school projects are done the better off we are for many reasons. I was also impressed with the press coverage this time.

You will soon see some tax rate information that further supports doing these projects now. I hope that you will let people know of your support for the projects and that you will perhaps come and voice your support at a future meeting.

As for your views on social security, I respectfully disagree. The practical effect of the Bush plan is to dismantle Social Security. The information being used to manufacture the current social security crisis is inaccurate and misleading. The truth is that the system is solvent (except for the $80 billion the Bush administration has “borrowed” from the social security “lock box”) and will remain so through 2018.

No matter how you look at it, privatization will not benefit the average family because they will not invest the extra money, they will spend it. Who or what program will support them when they can no longer work? It will be their kids or the government or they will rot in the street. I see the anarchy you fear being bred of this condition and the continually widening gap between haves and have nots. Once again we see Bush looking out for his wealthy classmates and deferring problems to later generations.

I think that your barber’s comments are well taken. The issue with social security is that it is supposed to be a social safety net designed to provide some income to folks who work their whole lives, often several jobs, and who expect that they will get a check every month as a benefit for their retirement. Social security works better than an investment for them because of the low cost of administration and government supervision and because the money comes out of their check, regularly, regardless of what ever else is going on in their financial lives. They have no choice but to invest. Most people are not savvy investors and the decrease in social security taxes will only mean more money in their pockets to be spent on the immediate needs of their families or at Wal-Mart.

Before my friend Paul jumps all over me for the Wal-Mart comment, I don’t think that it is condescending to say that most people don’t understand the nuances of investing and may end up investing in the next Enron.

The right wing apparatchiks are stepping in line with the party on this issue, facts be damned. This administration manipulates facts to suit its policies and sets Rove's spin dogs loose to sell misperceptions as truth. The myth of the left wing media bias is dead. The right wants us to come together and solve a "problem' that is at best overstated. My problem is that we are being asked to rally round an issue that isn't. To get on board the privatization train is to accept the fallacious premise that the problem exists or that it is as bad as Bush says it is. I don't accept that premise any more than I accepted the line about WMDs. The truth is that Bush does want to dismantle social security and he just won’t come out and say it.

Ed

February 23, 2005, 7:15 A.M.

Missing my muse: The muse has been elusive in the past few weeks, due in no small part to a particularly busy personal side of things, culminating in a weekend visit from friends from out of state. We have gotten a lot of skiing in and have actually taken a few weekend days off from working either on or in the office. The result, of course, is that we have not been writing as much as usual. We even took this week off from writing the Laconia Daily Sun Article.

This is not, however, a trend. While we have not been writing, we have been paying attention. The President's budget and plans to dismantle Social Security are a few items that remain on the radar screen. State and local budget battles are also shaping up to give us a lot to think and write about in the coming days and weeks. We hope that you will continue to enjoy the site and to visit often, and keep those cards and letters coming!

On Global warming. There was a good opinion piece in the Concord Monitor yesterday on global warming. It is particularly interesting that observations here in New Hampshire are supporting observations from around the globe but there is still no support for the Kyoto accords among our congressional delegation. There is only support for the President’s belief that the US, the largest producer of greenhouse gasses by far, should not join the effort to reduce greenhouse gasses to 1990 levels because of the potential cost. Here again there is no foresight in this administration and there is even less of an inclination to accept the advise or recommendations of scientists. Perhaps the reasoning behind the attempts to privatize social security lies in the fact that the effects of global climactic changes will kill us before we reach retirement.

I was looking at my site archives last night to see what I was writing about at this time last year and Wal-Mart figured prominently. This week, Wal-Mart is encouraging customers to write letters of support for a new store to the town of Hillsboro. After all, we must need another Wal-Mart right?

Along the lines of the Wal-Mart thing, we are now seeing a proliferation of home improvement marts. Apparently Lowes has a practice of building their own mega marts in close proximity to Home Depot stores. Of course this heightens the competition between the stores but most importantly it squeezes the life out of every hardware store and local lumber yard in a fifty mile radius.


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