ST. LOUIS, MO—At an appearance at the St. Louis Convention Center Sunday evening, President Bush declared the "grave and pressing need" for a preemptive attack on the Social Security program.
"My fellow citizens, at this hour, brave administration and congressional forces are in the early stages of an all-out attack on Social Security, with the ultimate goal of bringing down the oppressive legacy of the New Deal, and big government itself," Bush said. "Through bold and decisive action, we will liberate our grandparents and our grandchildren from the threats of the system established by Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide retirement compensation for America's workers."
According to the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, if Social Security revenue and payouts remain unchanged, the nation's largest entitlement program will be unable to pay full benefits in 2041.
"The Social Security system is a dangerous, financially unsustainable program," Bush said. "If we allow it to continue unchecked, we will need to resort to benefit cuts, tax increases, or massive borrowing in 36 short years. I call upon the combined forces of my administration and Congress to destroy this program and the threat that it presents to our way of life."
Bush defended his decision to make a preemptive attack.
"September 11 taught us that, in our unstable world, we must take bold, decisive action to protect our citizens from threats both foreign and domestic," Bush said. "We must free citizens everywhere from the threat of financial dependence on the government."
In the months leading up to Bush's declaration, he attempted to contain the Social Security program through a calculated long-range attack on its general fund.
"Up until several days ago, we attempted to negotiate with Social Security, by proposing a plan under which wage-earners would invest their withheld income in the stock market," Bush said. "These personal savings accounts would have pumped a great deal of wealth into our deflated economy, but this is not about temporarily inflating a beleaguered market. It is a battle for freedom, and it is time to take decisive action. America, we must strike Social Security."
Bush said he was reluctant to detail the specifics of his strategic plan, as he did not wish to jeopardize national security.
U.S. Army War College professor of economics Henry Reed said destroying the program will require a "broad and concerted campaign."
"The Social Security system is complex and resilient, with a network of cooperative agents across the country and an entrenched relationship with many of the nation's most desperate elements," Reed said. "Luckily, a well-funded coalition of pro-business forces has already begun striking selected targets of legislative importance in order to stop the cells that provide assistance to people on the extreme end of the age spectrum."
Reed put the current situation in historical context.
"Bush could ignore this threat, like all the presidents since Truman have done," Reed said. "By confronting this potential future crisis now, Bush will free all Americans from the treacherous safety net that currently entangles their futures."
The president closed his address by asking the public to support the massive undertaking.
"Americans young and old will be making great sacrifices for this cause," Bush said. "But there will be innumerable gains for other segments of the population, from Wall Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. As for the brave men and women of the GOP already embroiled in this fight, my prayers are with you."
Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman applauded the president's campaign.
"As usual, people are criticizing the president for being too courageous, for leading too fearlessly," Mehlman said. "The bleeding hearts say you could save Social Security with less money than we're currently spending in Iraq. But that's billions and billions of dollars we don't have, people."