Ochenski: Duck and cover

Up against the wall at the Republican convention


Back in the days of the Cold War with the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union, we truly believed it could go “hot” and result in the thermonuclear devastation of both nations. Students, therefore, were routinely drilled in a “survival maneuver” known as “duck and cover.” When the alarm went off, our teachers calmly led us into the hall where we kneeled down against the wall, tucked our heads between our knees and covered it with our hands. Those days are long gone, but this year’s Republican National Convention is doing a good job of imitating the “duck and cover” technique.

In my role as a political writer, I will admit that I tried, I really tried, to watch the Republican convention on TV. I will also admit that after the 10th or 11th flashback to September 11, 2001, I turned the tube off in sheer disgust. Just like the Democrats at their convention, the Republicans seem stuck in the past, ducking the main issues of the day and covering their butts, oblivious to any mistakes made during the last three years.

If you believe John McCain, one of the convention’s main speakers, we are in a total state of war in which George Bush and only George Bush can save us. Unmentioned is the harsh reality that the ongoing wars which are draining the treasury while maiming and killing hundreds of young Americans were started unilaterally, preemptively, and totally against global opinion by Bush himself.

If you believe Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City and another of the GOP’s opening speakers, John Kerry—you remember, the guy who actually volunteered to go to Vietnam and still carries the shrapnel in his leg today—is unworthy of the White House. Whereas President Bush—who not only didn’t volunteer to go to Vietnam, but even blew off the National Guard duty into which his family’s political connections had safely ensconced him—is the one man who can protect our nation from the lurking evil-doers.

So let’s see, in the picture the Republicans are painting for us, the main issues, the only issues that Americans need to be concerned about, are John Kerry’s Vietnam credentials and George Bush’s heroic “leadership” in this self-declared, neverending “time of war.” Their message, in simplest terms, is the old platitude: “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream.”

How handy that war, war, and more war is the only issue for both political parties these days. That sure saves them having to deal with other issues that, unlike the threats from Iraq’s non-existent WMDs, are real and growing.

Cases in point here are Alan Greenspan’s shocking statements on the collapse of Social Security and Medicare, conveniently reported last Saturday while the nation’s attention was distracted by the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games and the opening of the Republican Convention.

Greenspan, the 78-year-old chairman of the Federal Reserve, is the guy in charge of the nation’s money supply. He decides when interest rates go up or down and weighs the volatility of the economy, domestic production, foreign trade, and the strength of the U.S. dollar relative to global currencies.

What Greenspan said, and what should be shaking this nation to its very foundations right now, is that Congress must face up to “some tough policy choices” on Social Security and Medicare benefits or risk “abrupt and painful” consequences in the near future.

The “policy choices” Greenspan is talking about are no choices at all. He says Congress must cut the benefits long promised to 77 million members of the Baby Boom generation because, under even the most optimistic of economic assumptions on growth and productivity, the federal government will not be able to provide baby boomers with the level of benefits their parents received.

“If we have promised more than our economy has the ability to deliver…as I fear we may have,” Greenspan said, “we must recalibrate our public programs so that pending retirees have time to adjust through other channels.”

Hate to break the news to Greenspan, the Demos, or the duck and cover Repubs, but those promises have already been made. For all the decades of their working lives, mandatory payments to Social Security have been deducted from Baby Boomers’ paychecks. These deductions were made on the promise that when we hit the retirement age of 65, Social Security payments would see us through our senior years.

But no more. That promise, according to Greenspan, must be discarded because our economy cannot produce enough to meet those needs. In other words, Baby Boomers are about to get royally hosed, and we need to “readjust.”

Now, 77 million Baby Boomers will get to experience what it’s like to be an American Indian, where the treaty promises made by the mighty United States of America turned out to be worth even less than the paper on which they were written.

You would think an event of this magnitude might be worthy of considerable national attention. You would think that our political leaders might want to step up and assure us that the federal government will find a way to keep this basic promise. Instead, we are deluged by more macho chest-thumping, more war talk, and endless false “patriotism” that leaves the real patriots, the people who have funded this nation’s government for their entire working lives, stranded and facing a grim future.

Everyone knows our duck and cover exercises in grade school would have been useless in an actual nuclear attack—we would have been incinerated kneeling against the wall. The duck and cover exercises being conducted by the Republican National Convention—and the Democrats as well—are just as foolish, just as useless, and just as futile in addressing the real threats facing our nation.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at

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