The price of oil has skyrocketed in the past few months, and nary a word has come from his lips. World demand is growing, not just because Americans still feel no pressure to conserve, but also because China's demand is exploding as it becomes more industrialized. World production isn't even maintaining peak levels from the past, and almost no new reserves are being discovered. Consequently, gas prices will continue to rise as the world oil supply dwindles. Even some conservatives are clamoring for development of alternative fuel technology, if only for national security reasons. Thus, Bush would have political cover to turn his attention to this issue. Of course, that might not go over well in Texas.
And it's not just energy vs. social security. What about the spiraling cost of health care? As this editorial observes, it's clear that health care is a much bigger hit on the economy and on workers than Social Security. Check out this gem of a passage:
By either the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] or the Social Security trustees' estimates, the hit to the economy from runaway health care costs is far greater than the potential damage of a Social Security tax increase. The ratios range from four times as great to 18 times as great, depending on which estimates one chooses.The same article observes that both Medicare and Medicaid are in very precarious positions as well.
I'm not saying that Social Security doesn't have any problems, but it's clear that Bush has his prioirities screwed up -- far greater crises are being left to fester while the President goes off on Social Security. I don't pretend to read Bush's mind, but I'll wager it has to do with the location of the money. Bush seems to live in a world of black and white, no grays (hence, the infamous statement that either you're with us or you're the enemy) -- and as far as goods and services are concerned, they're either privatized (good) or public (bad). Both the energy and health care issues are tied to rising costs in the private sector, so he won't touch them. Medicare was made more privatized by the prescription drug bill, but it's already clear that doing so exacerbated Medicare's financial condition. As for Medicaid, I fear Bush is content to let the poor go without any health care whatsoever, though state governors, Republican and Democrat alike, have successfully besieged the Senate to prevent cuts in its funding. Politically, it would be impossible for Bush to dismantle Social Security -- all he can hope to do is privatize it. This (at best) indifference toward using a solution that doesn't shrink (the non-military component of) government may explain why Bush hasn't suggested a solution to Social Security, and only considered the peripheral issue (no matter that it adds trillions to the national debt).
From what quarter will responsible leadership emerge, or will Bush and the other powers that be fiddle while the USA burns (using wood, since there'll be no more oil)?