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June 24, 2005

At Blair, local Democrats hold press conference to counter President Bush

by Alex Mazerov, Page Editor and Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
When the presidential motorcade, the long line of buses carrying audience members, and most of the protesters left the vicinity of Blair, a few high-profile Maryland Democrats set up their own press conference to voice their opposition to President George W. Bush's Social Security plan.

Bush has traveled to over half the U.S. states touting his plan that would change Social Security, which since 1940, has paid out a guaranteed check each month to Americans over the age of 66, by allowing Americans to invest their money ahead of time into the stock market or savings bonds. The plan has been unpopular nationally because of the risk involved in a program with the word "security" in it.
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan.
<i>Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.</i> Alex Mazerov
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan. Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), State Sen. Ida Ruben (D-Silver Spring), State Sen. Sharon Dooley (D- Takoma Park), Bruce Dunton of the Alliance for Retired Americans, 2003 Blair grad Cory Choy and Thomas Hucker, the director of Progressive Maryland all spoke at the 11:30 a.m. press conference Thursday, which was held in the Blair student parking lot.

With a large "Save Our Social Security" banner and dozens of other opponents of the President's private accounts proposal behind him, Hucker led off the press conference with sharp words. He said that Bush's proposal would "explode" the national debt "by nearly $5 trillion over the next 20 years." He went on to say that the president's plan would have a "devastating impact" on seniors and on Maryland's budget.

The 60 or so opponents of private accounts that watched the press conference responded to Hucker's sharp attacks with applause. Hucker said that Social Security, as is, injects "$7.8 billion…into Maryland's economy" each year.

He asserted that Bush's plan would send 92,000 seniors — who, according to the 2000 Census, were teetering on the poverty line — into poverty. "The president's privatization plan," he said, "dramatically reduces the guaranteed benefit for all Americans — increasing senior poverty dramatically."
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan.
<i>Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.</i> Alex Mazerov
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan. Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.

Maryland, Hucker said, would have to foot its 2 percent of the estimated $480 billion burden over the 75-year Social Security planning window that is spread out among the 50 states. He said, "Social Security privatization imposes a cruel new unfunded mandate on the states."

Dutton spoke briefly, railing against the instability of pensions and contracts in the business world. "One person," he said, "has the right to tear up contracts and pensions and throw them in the garbage can. I thought contracts meant something." He added, "I'm getting angrier by the day."

The retiree said that he supported raising the Social Security tax cap from $92,000 to $140,000. Currently, Americans pay 6.2% of their taxable income, up to $92,000 per year, into Social Security.

He called on the "rich" to foot the bill on a $140,000 cap, mentioning that "Bill Gates and someone making $93,000 pay the same amount in Social Security."

As a union representative, Dutton said, "I worked 36 years representing some of the lowest paid workers. The rich need to support them, not the other way around."
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan.
<i>Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.</i> Alex Mazerov
President George W. Bush speaks in the Blair auditorium on June 23 during an event to promote his Social Security plan. Click on the photo to view a gallery of the day's events.

Choy, now a rising junior at New York University, said that he heard earlier this week that President Bush was coming to his alma mater. "I called and said, 'Can I get a ticket in my old school?' They said no."

He also mocked the promotion of Bush's Social Security events as "town hall meetings," where only pre-approved supporters are allowed in.

"I drove down today from New York at 3 a.m. to let [Bush] know that we disagree with his plan for social security," Choy said to applause. He left the podium to an ovation when he said, "Bush carted in two buses of [Republican National Committee] interns to my home school! And I'm here to say, Mr. Bush, as real Blair students, we disagree with you!"

Duncan, who is expected to run in Maryland's 2006 gubernatorial race, said that President Bush, with his plan, is willing to leave seniors behind. "Social Security is the biggest thing we've done to lift seniors out of poverty. When President Bush talks about an 'ownership society,' what he really wants is an 'on your own society.'"

Duncan explained, "'If you're rich enough for health care,' [Mr. Bush] says, 'that's great. If not you're on your own. If you're able to invest properly in private accounts,' he says, 'that's great. If not, you're on your own.'" He ended by saying that all seniors need a guaranteed social security check, and that "we stand as Americans committed to helping everyone, so we all can teach the American dream."

Sen. Ruben said that in proposing to introduce personal accounts into Social Security plan, "President Bush is sending everyone up a tree."

Hans Riemer, a representative from Rock The Vote, who gave out "I Love Social Security" posters in support of the protesters' cause before their rally in the morning, criticized the "town hall" inside Blair. "Inside, there were no questions from young people…no opportunity for other opinions" other than those in support of private accounts, he said.

Sen. Dooley said, "This is what democracy looks like," referring to the protesters and press conference. She slammed what went on inside the school, saying it was a "town meeting without town residents."

Van Hollen called President Bush's plan "misguided," and said that Americans are becoming "increasingly skeptical about his plan." He went on to say, "[President Bush's] plan takes a guaranteed benefit and turns it into a guaranteed gamble."

Van Hollen later questioned the scheduling of Bush's event at Blair. "I find it curious that he would come to Blair when school is out." He challenged Bush to return to Blair in the fall to speak with actual students. "I want the president to come back to Blair High School when they have the whole student body," he said.

The congressman called on Bush and the Democrats to "reach a bipartisan compromise," such as the one reached when the Social Security system was tweaked in 1983, "so students at Blair High School can have security."

After the press conference, Van Hollen told reporters with reference to the "town halls", "The president has very carefully scripted these meetings."



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  • Corinne (View Email) on June 24, 2005 at 10:20 PM
    Great article!!
  • lost my vote on June 25, 2005 at 7:32 PM
    "Van Hollen later questioned the scheduling of Bush's event at Blair. 'I find it curious that he would come to Blair when school is out.'"

    We can't re elect Van Hollen after a comment like that. We just can't.

    Social Security is being debated in comittee right now in Congress. There's a week-long recess starting a week from this Monday, so it's one of Bush's last opportunities to influence actual policymaking. As a member of Congress, I'd hope that Van Hollen would have already known that...
  • sigh.. on June 26, 2005 at 7:34 PM
    PRESIDENT. President Bush. Not "Mr." Bush, as he was referred to by Choy.
  • to sigh: on June 26, 2005 at 9:13 PM
    uhhh, watch NBC, ABC or even FOX News, and you'll see them call him "Mr. Bush" at least a third of the time
  • to sigh on June 27, 2005 at 8:04 AM
    The title Mr. is a perfectly polite way to refer to a political figure. For example, Ronald Regan once said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Mr. Gorbachev was at the time the leader of the Soviet Union and Regan was challenging him to tear down the Berlin Wall. But he did it in a perfectly polite way, just as Choy did.
  • Ersatz Pundit (View Email) on June 27, 2005 at 11:17 AM
    In the past, news organizations have refered to presidents such as Clinton as "President". This use of "Mr" shows that the person who is talking does not have the respect for the person who he is addressing. For instance, you would refer to a doctor with a PhD as "Doctor", not "Mister".
  • just graduated on June 27, 2005 at 5:13 PM
    NO! Bush can't come when I'm not there!
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on June 27, 2005 at 6:26 PM
    Here is the New York Times covering not one, but two national leaders:

    "Taking reporters' questions with Mr. Bush after a White House meeting, Mr. Schröder endorsed the president's message. "We're going to continue being tough and firm," he said. "The message must stay very clear.""

    "Mr." is very respectful. If he was a doctor, you would call him doctor. Mr. and Dr. are interchangeable; President is a different level of title, like Senator or Governor. For example, Howard Dean is first called Governor, then Dr. Dean.
  • uh... on June 28, 2005 at 12:42 AM
    a "different", but higher level of title, thereby showing more respect for the position of the person addressed.
  • Michael Bushnell (View Email) on June 28, 2005 at 1:05 AM
    re: uh...

    I dont think it is higher, necessarily. To say "President" everytime is wordy and repetitive. As long as I'm not being condescending or demeaning then I'm doing my job. If its good enough for the Times, its good enough for me.
  • sigh on June 28, 2005 at 11:42 AM
    saying "Mr." is worse than leaving off any title and simply calling him "Bush." It is a denial of his office, which even stalwart liberals must realize is unfounded this time around.
  • ... on June 29, 2005 at 9:25 AM
    Who cares whether or not you can address the president with a Mr. ... isn't the topic of the article (social security) MORE important?
  • sigh on June 30, 2005 at 9:30 AM
    it's relevant because it shows that the protesters would slander President Bush at every opportunity.
  • stalwart liberal on June 30, 2005 at 11:21 PM
    it is NOT unfounded
  • to stalwart liberal on July 1, 2005 at 7:54 PM
    How is it not unfounded? He won the presidency fair and square this time.
  • to 7:54pm on July 14, 2005 at 10:55 AM
    2004 Election
    Phony letters tell people they cannot vote
    Electronic vote machine too easily corrupted
    Purposely Corrupted Diebold Voting Terminals
    "More votes than voters: Now THAT'S a mandate!"
    N.C. Computer Loses More Than 4,500 Votes
    Presidential Votes Miscast on e-Voting Machines
    7% turnout in Cleveland precinct?
    The Mystery of the Cuyahoga County vote totals
    Florida "E-Touch" - "Optical Scan" discrepancies
    Glitch causes Franklin Co. recount
  • haha on July 14, 2005 at 11:30 AM
    that kind of thing could happen at any election. And besides, it wouldn't just affect democratic votes anyways.
  • jay on July 18, 2005 at 10:23 AM
    lets just say Mr. President bush is an idiot.
    oh oops i forgot i shudnt hav put mr. because thats against republican fascist law. im sorry
  • to haha on July 19, 2005 at 12:38 PM
    2004 Elections
    Diebold and its fabulous electronic touch-screen voting machines with no paper trails. And their Board of Directors composed of plentiful declared Republicans. Diebold and its employees are known to have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bush’s election campaign.
    But what’s appalling is CEO Walden O’Dell publicly declared he is “"committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year" and his company still got the contract for a swing-state like Ohio.
    Imagine if a company that did voting machines, electronic ones at that, with no paper trail and were known for their leftist leanings tried to vie for the presidential elections – in swing states! Hannity & Colmes along with O’Reily would be all over it and that would never fly.

    - It wouldn't affect democratic votes??? Care to explain your rationale?
  • ... on July 21, 2005 at 10:41 AM
    your evidence is all circumstansial. I agree it's suspicious, but that's no reason to say, "oh he doctored the votes." Anyone who watches O'Reilly/H&C would be all over it anyway, they're not changing opinions or anything.

    As to jay, I think we should just say you're the idiot. It has nothing to do with "republican fascist law"; it has to do with respect for the office, if not the man who holds it.
  • haha on July 21, 2005 at 2:45 PM
    fine, let me clarify, it's not just democrats who use those voting machines. they wouldn't be the only ones affected by malfunctioning machines.
  • to haha on July 29, 2005 at 5:08 PM
    Thank you for your response HAHA. I am fully aware it's not just democrats using those machines. Here’s my thing, when there are several precincts that have voting machine malfunctions, votes being count down – waiving those situations/incidents is not tantamount to moving forward in the right direction.

    It would have been less shady if Diebold didn’t get the contracts, there were actual paper trails and if an investigation into the malfunctions of these voter machines were launched. In no way would that be obstructing the process of democracy or justice. We cannot and should not move forward, if there are allegations of fraudulency with cited evidence; we cannot overlook voting machine problems or dismiss the votes of precincts as if this was some kind of classroom election. It’s not; this is the presidential election for the United States of America, a country that prizes itself to be the epitome of democracy and the guiding light to developing nations.

    The 2004 elections were decided by one state – Ohio. Walden O’Dell, his comment, Ohio, Bush gets Ohio – that’s sufficient ground to launch an investigation, at the least. Even you agree - it's suspicious. Highly suspicious, if you ask me, and suspicious events call for investigatory action.

    When suspicious and fraudulent incidents have occurred <-- this not a “what if”, they actually did occur and that we all agree to… so moving on with what I was saying, when such dubious and enraging events like that occur in more than one precinct, it’s incomprehensible how the Bush Administration can be so smug as to ever declare that they have the mandate of the people. Because it’s not definite, their “mandate” is by no means solid or credible.
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