Bamboozlepalooza Comes to Iowa
Local coverage of the Bush event is extremely fluffy. There's a sidebar about the "surprise" visit to a Cedar Rapids restaurant - how can it be a surprise when the Secret Service has spent days checking it out? I remember going on one of those in my journalist days with Dan Quayle. The site of the "unexpected" visit was surprisingly full of dressed-up local Republicans...
This is probably a typical local news response to The President Comes To Town - it's a Big Deal and the coverage is relatively non-critical compared to, say, the Washington Post
. Note the tacked-on "balance" at the end of the Gazette story. This, of course, is why Bush is taking this approach. Local press is easier to keep on the talking points. And opposition is never as bug a story as The President Comes To Town. The counter-protest story is buried on the bottom of page 7A, next to the second cutesy sidebar: "What The View Was Like From The Bush Stage" (with more on-message bullet points).
Here's links to the Iowa City
and Des Moines
coverage... and (since the local paper is pay-to-play) the full Cedar Rapids story.
PRESIDENT BUSH IN CEDAR RAPIDSBush pushes for overhaul
Social Security ideas touted at C.R. forumBy Steve Gravelle The Gazette CEDAR RAPIDS
— President Bush spent almost three hours in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, stopping at a diner and Kirkwood Community College to bolster his campaign to change Social Security.
‘‘People are now beginning to understand this a problem,’’ Bush said during a radio interview at the Spring House restaurant, 3980 Center Point Rd. NE. ‘‘They just need to hear the truth.’’
Forecasters say the Social Security system will be paying out more than it takes in by 2017 and could go broke by 2041.
‘‘The problem is there’s a hole in the safety net for the generation that is coming up,’’ Bush said later at a town hall meeting at Kirkwood.
‘‘You’ve got more people getting greater benefits and living longer, with fewer people paying into the system. That doesn’t work,’’ he said.
Instead of heading directly to the Kirkwood campus after Air Force One’s 10:50 a.m. arrival at The Eastern Iowa Airport, the president’s motorcade went north on Interstate 380 to the northeast Cedar Rapids diner, then retraced the route to Highway 30, where it turned east toward Kirkwood.
The previously unannounced detour and stop complicated security arrangements and stalled some lunch-hour traffic, but it delighted Spring House customers and gave thousands of local residents at least a sudden glimpse of the presidential Cadillac and its support fleet.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who last week said chances of a Social Security plan passing are ‘‘right now, less than 50-50,’’ warmed up the crowd of about 1,000 people in the Johnson Hall Gymnasium at Kirkwood, expressing enthusiasm for change — although the details remain vague.
After brief comments on developments in the Mideast, energy policy and recognizing local residents, Bush got down to Social Security business, chatting with five Iowans, each selected to illustrate his talking points.
‘‘I was a nervous wreck,’’ said Lisa Loesch after the event. ‘‘It was a blast, though.’’
Loesch, 43, of Cedar Rapids, a nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital, said the White House apparently found her through an e-mail her husband, Steve, had sent with a question about Social Security. Steve Loesch is a financial adviser at Financial Resources Group in Cedar Rapids.
Loesch ‘‘is kind of representing the generation that knows there’s trouble with Social Security,’’ Bush said.
Loesch, who said she rehearsed with White House staff Tuesday night, discussed the returns future retirees could expect with private accounts proposed by Bush and the conservative mix of stocks and bonds they’d include.
‘‘I thought that I would be nervous, but the minute he walked in, it put the whole room at ease,’’ said Jinny Adams, 64, of Robins. With her husband, Joe Studer, Adams represented current retirees.
Studer, a former Small Business Administration employee, praised the Thrift Savings Plan for federal workers, which provides a very limited selection of investment options and has been offered by Bush as a model for his changes.
‘‘It’s been far better than Social Security,’’ said Studer, 67. ‘‘One of the better decisions I’ve made.’’
‘‘It was a great experience,’’ said Chris Knudsen, 20, a Kirkwood sophomore from Cedar Rapids. Knudsen said he volunteered to appear with Bush and was screened by White House staff.
‘‘They asked about Social Security and ourselves, and so forth,’’ he said. ‘‘None of it was really scripted, but they wanted us to get used to what was going to happen.’’
‘‘The way the system’s set up now, it’s not going to be there,’’ Knudsen said during his chat with the president.
But it could be, with ‘‘a combination of fairly modest changes, some of which are called for in any event,’’ said University of Iowa associate professor of economics John Solow.
Solow said phasing in later retirement, extending payroll withholding beyond its present $89,000 ceiling and a few other tweaks ‘‘might go along way’’ to mending Social Security. He granted the system does face a temporary shortfall as baby boomers retire and age.
‘‘Whether it’s a crisis or not, it’s an issue,’’ Solow said. ‘‘The privatization question has nothing to do with that. It’s about fundamentally changing the program from a government-funded pension plan for the elderly, funded by a tax on income from the current working generation, to a forced savings plan.’Politics
| Social Security