Monday, August 29, 2005


Leadership and personal character are among the greatest benefits to becoming a Marine. These traits not only assure your success within the Corps – they ensure success throughout life.

In addition, you and your family members are well provided for with a competitive salary and benefits, as well as medical and dental insurance coverage. Upon enlistment, you will receive a regular Marine Corps salary, scaled according to your rank. During Recruit Training, your salary will be calculated at the Private level.

You and your family will have medical insurance for as long as you remain in the service of the U.S. government. If you remain in the Marine Corps through retirement, your medical benefits will extend throughout your lifetime and that of your spouse.

You will receive 30 days of paid vacation each year. On-base shopping is tax-free at shopping outlets with substantial discounts on name-brand items. In addition, the bases have fitness centers, swimming pools and recreational facilities. Life insurance is provided to all Marine personnel.

Housing on base is included as a part of the compensation package. If you are married and would like to live off base, a monthly housing allowance will be provided. The Marine Corps pays all travel and expenses for required moves.

A generous retirement plan is available for those who qualify. For instance, a 20-year career in the Marine Corps will often result in retirement in your 40s. In addition to continuing commissary and post-exchange privileges, military members are often eligible for low interest loans by many banks.

In addition, browse through options for various educational benefits.

The life of a Marine is a full one.

The following is a list of questions and answers that prospective Marines or their parents frequently ask. For more complete answers and any additional questions that you may have that are not listed, please contact a Marine recruiter now.

When I sign-up or request information online, am I in the Marines?
No. The Web site is for information purposes only. You cannot sign up to be a Marine via the Web site. To become a Marine you must first talk to a recruiter, and then over time, make a commitment.

What makes the Marines different from other military branches?
The Marines have been "First to Fight" for many years. We are always ready for service and are often the first to arrive in a crisis, which is why we are often referred to as the tip of the spear. Because we may be called upon at any time to go anywhere, the Marine Corps is the only branch of the armed services specifically organized with air, land, and sea-based expeditionary fighting capabilities.

Do Marines receive the same salary as those in the other services?
Yes. All of the military branches use the same Department of Defense pay scale.

Will I have any time off?
Yes. Marines receive 30 days of vacation per year. If there are no operational commitments, you will also have most of your weekends free.

Is Recruit Training hard?
Yes. Recruit Training will be one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of your life. But it is not impossible. The sense of accomplishment upon completing training is very rewarding and worthwhile.

How long is Recruit Training?
Recruit Training lasts for 13 weeks.

How far will I be expected to run in Recruit Training?
To begin training, you need to be able to run 1.5 miles in 13 minutes. Developing your physical abilities is an important part of Recruit Training. The longest run in Recruit Training is the five-mile motivation run.

What if I'm not physically prepared for Recruit Training?
The Delayed Entry Program allows you to prepare yourself for the physical demands and requirements of Recruit Training. Your recruiter can help you make the most of your time before training to make sure you are prepared and ready.

Will I be physically abused during Recruit Training?
No. Physical abuse is absolutely not tolerated. A full-time medic (Navy Corpsman) is assigned to every platoon in Recruit Training and is always on hand to ensure that all precautions are taken to maintain the safety and health of recruits in training.

What happens after Recruit Training?
You will receive 10 days leave. After your time off, you will begin more advanced combat training and basic skills training for your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

Do I need to do physical workouts every day after Recruit Training is complete?
No. You need to commit to a physically demanding lifestyle and twice a year you will be tested on your fitness.

My religion requires me to follow fasting guidelines at certain times. Is this a problem?
The Marine Corps does not discriminate based on religious practice or belief. However, fasting during Recruit Training is not a good practice. You need adequate nutrition to maintain your energy for rigorous physical and mental training. Talk with your recruiter to find a scheduling solution.

How much sleep will I get in Recruit Training?
Recruits are scheduled for eight hours of sleep each night. The only exception is during the 54-hour Crucible test at the end of Recruit Training, which has scheduled but limited hours of sleep.

Do I need a high school diploma to enlist?

I have my GED. Can I be a Marine?
GEDs are accepted in certain circumstances. You need to talk to your recruiter about eligibility requirements for the Marines.

I currently live outside the US. My address information cannot be entered into the registration fields on the Web site. Can I still join the Marines?
If you are a United States citizen or Resident Alien and meet other eligibility requirements, you can join the Marines. Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate for more information.

I am not a citizen of the United States, but I would still like to be in the Marines. Is this possible?
In most cases you must be a United States citizen or resident alien to join the Marines. Upon establishing permanent legal residence in the U.S., you should address specific questions regarding your enlistment to your local Marine Corps recruiter.

I am 16 years old. When can I join the Marines?
You can join the Marines when you reach 17 years of age, and also upon entering your senior year in high school, as long as you have your parents' consent.

Will I receive a signing bonus?
Talk to your local recruiter about signing bonus options that may be available.

How long am I obligated to serve?
The minimum initial enlistment is for four years active duty or active reserve. Contact your local recruiter to find out more information on the different enlistment contracts.

Are there technical jobs in the Marines?
Yes, there are a variety of technical jobs available to both enlisted Marines and officers. These technical jobs can provide excellent training and experience for civilian positions, if that is what you choose. Civilian employers know that some of the best technical and vocational training available is through the Marine Corps.

What type of education benefits can I receive in the Marines?
If you are interested in continuing your education or seeking a higher degree after entering the Marine Corps, there are several educational benefit options available to help you with tuition and related costs. Tuition assistance is available to you during active duty. If you leave active duty after completing a contract of at least 36 months, you will be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill. The Montgomery GI Bill allows you to receive up to $35,460 (as of October 2003) for your education, and a cost adjustment is conducted each year. If you complete an active duty contract of at least 48 months, you may become eligible for the Marine Corps College Fund. In combination with the Montgomery GI Bill, it provides almost all of the funding necessary for your college education.

Can infantry Marines attend college as well?
The opportunity for college coursework and learning is available to all Marines. If your training is intense and does not permit night school or classes, you can enroll in correspondence courses. Any education questions or issues can be brought to the unit's education officer who works on your behalf with the local colleges and learning institutions.

What happens if I join the Marines and don't like it?
The Marine Corps discourages quitting. We honor our commitments and expect you to do the same. We highly recommend you take the time to carefully consider whether you're up to the challenge before you enlist.

Do females receive the same training as males?
Yes, the training is the same even though female recruits are trained separately from male recruits.

Will you cut off all my hair?
Males receive haircuts; females do not. However, all Marines must adhere to certain grooming standards. Images found throughout this site should give you some indication.

Do males and females in the same Marine job make the same salary?

Can I wear make-up when I am a Marine?
Females are allowed to wear make-up while in uniform, so long as it complies with standards.

Would you send me some clothes or other Marines items so that I can show off my pride in the Marine Corps?
While you can't have any uniforms, there are promotional items available from your local recruiter. Don't be surprised if your recruiter requires you to earn it!

Will I have to travel overseas?
The Marine Corps is known as an expeditionary service and most Marines view world-wide travel as an exciting opportunity. Some Marines travel aboard Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea while other Marines travel to Japan for extensive unit training. In addition, Marines are currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan assisting in stability and security operations. One of the trademarks of Marines is to be prepared to deploy wherever and whenever the country needs them.

Do Marines have jets?
Yes. The Marines use the AV-8B “Harrier” aircraft for vertical and short take-offs as well as F/A-18 “Hornets”. You can get more information on our various aircraft from your recruiter. Brief summaries of several jets are included in Marines Equipment.

Can I choose where I will live once I'm a Marine?
Because Marines are amphibious, most Marines are located on either coast or overseas. Marines are stationed based on their experience, jobs and the needs at the time. Marines who are assigned recruiting duty may have the opportunity to serve in or near their hometown.

Can I play sports in the Marines?
Yes. There are a host of sports programs for individuals interested in recreational or competitive athletics. The Marine Corps Sports Program centers around intramural and varsity sports. It includes inter-service, national and international competition. You'll also be able to participate in informal pick-up games or other casual sports.

What job will I be doing in the Marines?
You will find information about the various jobs in the Professional Opportunities section of this Web site. You will have the opportunity to attend specialty schools related to your military job, attend leadership schools and/or take college courses toward the degree of your choice. The Marine Corps also offers assistance and classes for those transitioning to a civilian job.

How can I find a buddy who is a Marine? How can I locate someone currently enlisted?
The best option to find a Marine is to use the Marine Locator.

Can you send me more information on Recruit Training and educational opportunities?
Yes. Fill in your contact information on the Get More Information form and indicate any special interests that you have. If you fill out the form, you will also be given contact information for a local recruiter in case you would like more details.

Where Did You Come From? Why DID you Die?

Catapulting the Propaganda: The President, Cindy Sheehan, and How Words Die
By Tom Engelhardt

Sunday 28 August 2005

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."
-- George Bush, "President Participates in Social Security Conversation in New York," May 24, 2005.
Forced from his five-week vacation idyll in Crawford by the mother of a dead boy he sent to war, the President has recently given two major speeches defending his war policies and, between biking and boating, held a brief news conference at Tamarack Resort in Donnelly, Idaho. On August 22nd, he addressed the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City for 30 minutes; on August 24th, he spoke for 43 minutes to families of the Idaho National Guard in the farming community of Nampa, Idaho.

As his poll figures continue on a downward spiral, he has found it necessary to put extra effort into "catapulting the propaganda." Though he struck a new note or two in each speech, these were exceedingly familiar, crush-the-terrorists, stay-the-course, path-to-victory speeches. That's hardly surprising, since his advisors and speechwriters have been wizards of repetition. No one has been publicly less spontaneous or more -- effectively -- repetitious than our President; but sometimes, as he says, you "keep repeating things over and over and over again" and what sinks in really is the truth rather than the propaganda. Sometimes, just that extra bit of repetition under less than perfect circumstances, and words that once struck fear or offered hope, that once explained well enough for most the nature of the world they faced, suddenly sound hollow. They begin to sound... well, repetitious, and so, false. Your message, which worked like a dream for so long, goes off-message, and then what do you do?

This is, I suspect, exactly what growing numbers of Americans are experiencing in relation to our President. It's a mysterious process really -- like leaving a dream world or perhaps deprogramming from a cult. Once you step outside the bubble, statements that only yesterday seemed heartfelt or powerful or fearful or resolute truths suddenly look like themselves, threadbare and impoverished. In due course, because the repetitious worldview in the President's speeches is clearly a believed one (for him, if not all of his advisors) and because it increasingly reads like a bad movie script for a fictional planet, he himself is likely to look no less threadbare and impoverished, no less -- to use a word not often associated with him -- pathetic and out of touch with reality to some of those who not so long ago supported him or his policies.

Under these circumstances, it's worth taking a close look at his recent speeches and comparing his linguistic landscape with that of Cindy Sheehan, at the moment a stand-in for the mute (and previously somewhat hidden) American dead from his war as well as an encroaching Iraqi catastrophe.

George's World of Words

George Bush's speech-world remains anchored in the defining moment of his life, the attacks of September 11th, 2001 (cited 5 times in his VFW speech, 4 times in Idaho). It offers a landscape of overwhelming threat, but also of remarkable neatness. It paints a picture of a world embroiled in the first war of the 21st century, a war on a global scale, a war -- a word that peppers every statement he makes -- with multiple theaters ("from the streets of the Western capitals to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the tribal regions of Pakistan, to the islands of Southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa"). In his vision of our planet, a vast struggle on the scale of the Cold War, if not World War II, is underway, a Manichaean battle between two clear-cut sides, one good, one evil, in which you are either for or against. There can be no other choices between our mega-enemy, the terrorists, and us. As he put the matter in Idaho in reference to Iraq, the central theater in his global war, "The battle lines… are now clearly drawn for the world to see, and there is no middle ground."

The problem is that what the President "sees" and what Americans are now seeing seem to be diverging at a rapid rate. For George, the details matter not at all. You won't find any Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds at each other's throats in the President's Iraq, or unable to agree on a constitution, or at the edge of internecine warfare, or living in a country lacking electricity, oil, and jobs, or potentially installing an Islamic government in Baghdad allied to the neighboring Iranian fundamentalist regime, or any of the other obvious features of the present situation, most of which can finally be caught any night on the national news. In his Salt Lake City and Idaho speeches, the only "Iraqi" George even mentioned was a Jordanian, "the terrorist Zarqawi," against whom, in at least the President's fantasy life and in his recent radio address, Sunni and Shia Iraqis actually come together in mutual defense in a touching show of national unity.

In the President's world, there is just them, the enemy, aka the terrorists, and us, the people who (in a nearly copyrighted phrase) spread freedom to the rest of the world. When you look, for instance, at his speech in Idaho, the word terror (war on, sponsored, will be defeated) is used 13 times; terrorist or terrorists (threats, attack, murdered, harbor a, cells, defeat the, converged on Iraq, defiance of the, have sworn havoc, can kill the innocent, victory over, were to win, will fail, Zarqawi), 33 times; and terrorism (safe haven for), once -- for a total of 47 uses. (Now that's repetition for you!) However, in the remarkably equally balanced linguistic struggle between good and evil that weaves through the President's speeches, freedom (they despise our, spreading, spread the hope of, advancing the cause of, the march of) appears 37 times and, when free is thrown in, a triumphant total of 48 times. In addition, while the terrorists skulk in the shadows, freedom is no passive thing. It confronts, defeats, prevails, and conquers. No wonder they despise it so. (In the shorter VFW speech, the linguistic balance remains the same: terror and its cognates: 33; freedom with its fleet of frees, 36.) Add together the Idaho totals for the struggle -- 95 -- and you're talking about 1 out of every 48 words in that speech being either terror or freedom, with us or against us.

Admittedly, the President's speeches do sometimes show small signs of change at moments when reality forces its way onto the premises. For obvious reasons, for instance, weapons of mass destruction have disappeared from his speeches when the focus is Iraq (though mention Iran and…). Recently, Cindy Sheehan made herself such a thorn in the Presidential side that his speechwriters were forced to let him acknowledge the actual numbers of American dead. ("We have lost 1,864 members of our Armed Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom.") And the growing debate about withdrawal from Iraq, which began with unapproved statements from his own military, has forced the President's speechwriters to create a new jingle to describe our plan for the Iraqi future: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.".

In speaking off-the-cuff, as to the reporters in Donnelly last week, he repeats his usual words, phrases, and lines, mix-and-match style; still, it's easier in such a session (no matter how weak the questions lobbed at him) to sense an edge of confusion about how to make his world stand in some relation to reality. For instance, in the Donnelly exchange, which lasted 12 minutes including the niceties -- "Q: Any fishing? THE PRESIDENT: I don't know yet. I haven't made up my mind yet. I'm kind of hanging loose, as they say. (Laughter.)" -- he offered this strange, new explanation for the development of terrorism in the Iraqi neck of the woods:

"[W]e had a policy that just said, let the dictator [Saddam Hussein] stay there, don't worry about it. And as a result of dictatorship, and as a result of tyranny, resentment, hopelessness began to develop in that part of the world, which became the -- gave the terrorists capacity to recruit."

However, in his speeches, those perfect artifacts from another universe, delivered only before the most receptive audiences, usually under campaign-like conditions, everything is as the President wants it to be. There, at present, he inhabits a world that begins with the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 -- imagine how a Democrat might be pilloried for comparing the making of the already tattered "Islamic" constitution of Iraq (just hailed by Iranian Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who heads that country's ultra-conservative Guardian Council) to ours -- passes through World War II (where we successfully occupied two countries, Japan and Germany) and more or less ends in the glory days of the Cold War. Missing, of course, is the one "small" conflict that, right now, is on everyone's mind all over Washington, not to say the U.S. -- Vietnam. You won't find that name, nor words like "quagmire" or "bogged down" either.

The President's speech-world is a world of the will in every sense. (The terrorists typically try to break ours and get us to retreat.) In Idaho, he used will, as in "will of the majority," 6 times, but the will of the willed act (we will not allow the terrorists, America will not wait to be attacked again, will confront emerging threats, will stay on the offensive, will fight, will win, will be on the hunt, will prevail) 34 times. There may never have been political speeches that used the word in all its senses (except as a document of bequeathment) so often. In this tic, his speeches catch perhaps the most striking aspect of his administration since September 11, 2001 -- its driving urge to impose a worldview by force on the rest of the planet.

In speeches like those in Utah and Idaho, he offers up a warrior's world of words. The word war itself appears in his Idaho speech 26 times, along with attack, attacks, attacked (11), fight, fighters, fighting (10) , battle lines, battlefronts (2), struggle (2), strike (2), and one of his absolute favorites, the phrase on the hunt or alternately hunt down (we will stay on the, side by side with Iraqi forces, our common enemies), used 3 times. Of course, no war would be worth much if you didn't win (the war on terror, in Iraq), used twice, for which you need to defeat (the terrorists), wielded 9 times.

In the President's speeches, the world of "the enemy" or "the terrorists" is imposingly frightening, terrifying enough to fit the bill for any Evil Empire. Here is just a partial list of words associated with it from the Idaho speech:

Enemy (fight the, in our midst, across the globe, on many fronts): 6
Threat, threatened: 8
Fail (what terrorists will do in the end)/failed (as in, states -- what terrorists cause): 7
Brutal, brutality: 5
Violence (brutal, and extremism): 5
Kill: 5
Retreat (what they want us to do, back into the shadows): 5
Murder, murdered: murderous: 4
Destroy/Destruction (our way of life, havoc and, death and): 4
Hateful, hate-filled: 3
Dangerous (times, enemies): 2
Plotted, plotting: 2
Crushing/crushes (blow, all dissent): 2
Havoc: 2
Death: 2
Assassination: 2
Intimidation: 1
Extremism: 1
Evil (seen freedom conquer): 1

Between the two sides in this global war stand the innocent and, as it happens, we do share one thing in common with the terrorists in relation to the innocent -- a strategy (we've followed a clear), 4; (they have a, crushing blow to their), 2.

Fortunately, on our side of the ledger in support of our strategy to spread freedom and destroy the terrorists, can be mustered a powerful set of words that are ours alone:

Help, helped, helping: 10
Defend: 9
Protect, protecting (your neighbors, all Americans, the American homeland, our people, our cities and borders and infrastructure, against every threat): 8
Security (of every American, false sense of, to our own citizens, forces, for our children and grandchildren, for the election, of our country): 7
Democracy (link to any of the above as in "freedom and…"): 6
Hope (usually connected to freedom): 6
Secure (democracy, their freedom, the peace): 3
Mission: 3
Victory: 3
Homeland (American, the): 2
Progress: 1

On our side of the ledger, even God makes a series of cameo appearances (4).

You could yourself take the above words and phrases and, as you might a deck of cards, shuffle them into some of the countless combinations that make up any Bush speech or meeting with the press. And yet there is still a study to be done of how words live and die in given moments. After all, this President has spoken the words terror, war, and freedom literally hundreds of thousands of times since September 11th, 2001, and yet now they are visibly dying on the lips.

Cindy's World of Words

For a long time, George had a knack for speaking to audiences and seeming so personal, no matter how large his crowds, impersonal the setting, or scripted his performance. It was this sense of him that Cindy Sheehan seems to have begun to crack open. Put her words up against his -- she's willing to be no less repetitious, no less fierce in her view of the world -- and hers are the words that now feel personal, that come from the heart and cut to the bone, that connect. They seem like telegrams sent directly from reality, and from an irrefutable core of loss -- of lives, of safety, of security, of well-being -- that ever more Americans are beginning to fear is what George's world is all about. That's undoubtedly why the normal set of right-wing attacks and smears launched against Sheehan, however successful against others in the past, have simply not penetrated. Who, after all, can deny the reality of the individual world of the mother of a war-dead son?

And let's remember, we're talking about a woman who most distinctly does not live on a fantasy planet. Here's how she describes Bush's newest reason to stay in Iraq -- to honor those who already died there: "Since the Freedom and Democracy thing is not going so well and the Iraqi parliament is having such a hard time writing their constitution, since violence is mounting against Iraqis and Americans, and since [George Bush's] poll numbers are going down every day, he had to come up with something." Put that up against the President comparing the ethnic and religious horse-trading inside Baghdad's Green Zone to the American Constitutional Convention.

To illustrate her language, I've taken two brief, recent passages she wrote around the time the President made his speeches in Utah and Idaho. The first is a mere 225 words on "Coming Back to Crawford"; the second, just over 1,000 words and entitled "One Mother's Stand". I've treated them as a single document. Place this set of words against the President's above:

Son/sons (my, their, have been killed): 6
Daughters: 1
[Her son] Casey (Camp, love of): 7
Mother/mom (to feel the pain we feel, Gold Star, regular): 8
Parent/parents: 2
Children (lose their, my other): 2
Country (our, my, an innocent): 4
Grief (unbearable): 1
Pain (as much as I am, feel the, and heartache, feel their): 4
Heartache: 1
Love/loved (of Casey, peace and, ones): 6
War (senseless, George Bush's, his, insane): 4
Invade (an innocent country): 1
Monstrosity (of an occupation): 1
Lies (his): 1
Misuse and abuse (of power): 1
Killed/killing (in George Bush's war, Americans, continue the): 6
Died (Americans have, my son, others who have): 5
Death/deaths (sent him to, meaningless): 3
Responsibility (the president's): 1
Accountable (hold George Bush): 1
Cojones (I do have the… to tell the world that our "emperor" has no clothes): 1

It seems that George Bush was right. "You got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in." He (and his advisers and his speechwriters) simply forgot that others might also do the repeating.

The Wordless Dead Offer Their Own Form of Testimony

Increasingly, the American, if not Iraqi, dead are entering our world and, after a fashion, making themselves heard. Their eloquence lies in their very names, which appear daily in our papers, as they have for two years now. Here, for instance, are the names of the American dead, all thirteen from Arcand, Elden to Seamans, Timothy, reported by the Pentagon for the three days beginning with the President's VFW speech and ending with his Idaho speech. These were presented in a little box on an inside page of the New York Times with the following explanation: "The Department of Defense has identified [number] American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans yesterday:"

August 23, 2005

Bouchard, Nathan K., 24, Sgt., Army; Wildomar, Calif.; Third Infantry Division.
Boyle, Jeremy W., 24, Staff Sgt., Army; Chesterton, Md.; Third Infantry Division.
Fuhrman, Ray M. II, 28, Specialist, Army; Novato, Calif.; Third Infantry Division.
Seamans, Timothy J., 20, Pfc., Army; Jacksonville, Fla.; Third Infantry Division.

August 24, 2005

Arcand, Elden D., 22, Pfc., Army; White Bear Lake, Minn.; 360th Transportation Company, 68th Corps Support Battalion, 43rd Area Support Group.
Cathey, James J., 24, Second Lt., Marines; Reno, Nev.; Second Marine Division.
Morris, Brian L., 38, Staff Sgt., Army; Centreville, Mich.; 360th Transportation Company, 68th Corps Support Battalion, 43rd Area Support Group.
Nurre, Joseph C., 22, Specialist, Army Reserve; Wilton, Calif.; 463rd Engineer Battalion.
Partridge, Willard T., 35, Sgt., Army; Ferriday, La.; 170th Military Police Company, 504th Military Police Battalion, 42nd Military Police Brigade.
Romero, Ramon, 19, Pfc., Marines; Huntington Park, Calif.; Second Marine Division.

August 25, 2005

Díaz, Carlos J., 27, First Lt., Army; Juana Díaz, P.R., Third Infantry Division.
Hunt, Joseph D., 27, Sgt., Army National Guard; Sweetwater, Tenn.; Third Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry.
Lieurance, Victoir P., 34, Staff Sgt., Army National Guard; Seymour, Tenn.; Third Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry.


Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of American triumphalism in the Cold War.


Jump to today's TO Features:
Today's TO Features t r u t h o u t Cindy Sheehan: One Mother's Stand -------------- US Forces Kill Reuters Journalist Halliburton Whistle-Blower "Removed" by Army Bush Suffers Ratings Tumble as Sunnis Reject Iraq Charter Crawford, Texas: A Divided Nation Bares Its Pain and Fury Venezuela May Seek Robertson's Extradition Tom Engelhardt | Catapulting the Propaganda Strategizing a Christian Coup d'Etat Australian Group Campaigns to Free Gitmo Prisoner Iraq Worse than Vietnam in Number of Journalists Killed -------------- t r u t h o u t Town Meeting t r u t h o u t Home

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. t r u t h o u t has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is t r u t h o u t endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

"Go to Original" links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted on TO may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the "Go to Original" links.

Krugman On Social Security? Rolling Stone

To hear George Bush tell it, Social Security is about to go broke. Since his re-election, the president has launched a full-scale campaign to convince the public that the retirement system will run out of money starting in 2018. "The system goes into the red," Bush told reporters on December 20th at a rare press conference. "Many times, legislative bodies will not react unless the crisis is apparent, crisis is upon them. I believe that crisis is." Social Security, he concluded, "can't sustain that which has been promised to the workers."
To save Social Security, Bush wants to destroy it -- replacing government-guaranteed retirement benefits with private accounts that will be subject to the whims of the stock market. It's an expensive plan. Allowing workers to divert even a small portion of their payroll taxes into private investments, as Bush is proposing, would require the government to borrow at least $2 trillion to make up the immediate shortfall. It's also completely unnecessary, according to Paul Krugman, a prize-winning professor of economics at Princeton University. In a blistering series of columns in the New York Times, Krugman has marshaled the economic data to show that Social Security is not only solvent, it's in much better financial shape than the rest of the federal government. "The people who hustled America into a tax cut to eliminate an imaginary budget surplus and a war to eliminate imaginary weapons," Krugman wrote recently, "are now trying another bum's rush."

At his tree-shaded home in Princeton, New Jersey, Krugman took a break from working on a new economics textbook to explain why the crisis is phony -- and what's wrong with Bush's plan "to convert Social Security into a giant 401(k)."

What would you say to college students and young workers who are convinced they'll never see a dime of the money they put into Social Security?

You've been sold a scare story. Right now Social Security has a large and growing trust fund -- a surplus that has been collected to pay for the surge in benefits we'll experience when the baby boomers start to retire. If you're twenty now, you'll be hitting retirement around 2052. That's the year the Congressional Budget Office says the trust fund will run out. In fact, many economists say it may never run out. If the economy continues to grow at an average rate, the trust fund could quite possibly last forever.

But what happens if it doesn't?

Even if the trust fund does run out, Social Security will still be able to pay eighty percent of promised benefits. The actual shortfall would be a pretty small part of the federal budget, quite easily made up from other sources. Once the whole baby-boomer generation is into the retirement pool, Social Security's share of the gross domestic product will only increase by about two percent. Well, President Bush's tax cuts are more than two percent of GDP -- and they're happening right now, not fifty years from now. So the idea that there's this Social Security thing that is a huge problem is just wrong.

But if the trust fund does run out, the government would have to raise taxes or cut benefits, or some combination of both, to keep Social Security solvent.

Yes, if the trust fund is ever depleted, then something will have to be done. But you need to have some perspective on the seriousness of this whole thing. On the day the trust fund is exhausted, Social Security revenue will cover about eighty percent of the cost of benefits. Right now -- today -- if you look at the U.S. government outside of Social Security, revenue covers only about sixty-eight percent of total government spending. So on the day the trust fund is exhausted, forty-seven years from now, Social Security will be in better financial shape than the rest of the U.S. government is today.

So if there's no crisis in Social Security, why is President Bush pushing so hard to privatize it?

It's politics. Since the days of Barry Goldwater, the Republican right has really wanted to dismantle Social Security. And now they have a degree of political dominance that lets them push it to the top of the agenda -- even though no rational analysis of the actual problems facing the U.S. government would say that it belongs there.

Why do they want to dismantle it?

It's hard to understand why anyone would want to return us to the days before the New Deal, when millions of elderly people lived in poverty. But if you really dislike the notion that the government provides a safety net for the poor, then Social Security is the prime target. The U.S. government is a big insurance company, with a side business in national security. Social Security is the biggest social-insurance program that we have. It's been highly successful, and it's extremely popular. It's one of the things that makes people feel somewhat good about government -- and so, therefore, it must go.

And some people stand to profit from abolishing it. Wall Street poured a lot of money into both of Bush's campaigns, hoping he will divert Social Security into the stock market.

That's a factor, but I don't think it's the reason behind it. Attacking Social Security is a lot like attacking Iraq -- just because a lot of people stood to get lucrative contracts from it, that doesn't mean that's why they did it. If you privatize Social Security, there's going to be a tremendous amount of income for the mutual-fund industry. That's one reason there is a constituency for this on Wall Street. And that's one of the important reasons why this is really gonna work very badly.

What do you mean? Those who are pushing privatization say that our financial markets are one of our greatest strengths -- that private investment will work better in the long run than government-managed accounts with lower rates of return.

There are two problems with that. First, the fees charged on private accounts will be a significant drain on returns. In a typical portfolio, we're probably looking at a return of four percent. But fees are likely to take at least one percent, like they do in Britain. So now we're down to a return of three percent or less on private accounts. And since Bush wants to borrow $2 trillion to pay for the transition, we're talking about borrowing at interest rates of three percent to establish private accounts that will yield three percent -- with a lot of additional risk. So it's a lose-lose proposition, except for the mutual-fund industry.

The second problem with the market is that some people -- probably many people -- will end up getting much less than they would have under the current system, depending on which funds they pick and how the market does. A lot of people will hit age sixty-five with very little in their private account -- and that means a big return of poverty among the elderly, which is exactly what's happening in Britain right now. As a result, the government will have to step back in and rescue people. We'll have more suffering and bigger bills. People will ask: Where did all that money go? The answer will be: It basically went into mutual-fund fees.

But what if stocks do well? Isn't it possible that privatization would work?

The only possible way that stock returns can be high enough to make privatization work is if the U.S. economy grows at three to four percent a year for the next fifty years. But Social Security's own trustees expect the economy's growth rate to slow to 1.8 percent. If that happens -- if their own assumptions are correct -- then privatization would be a disaster. And if that doesn't happen -- if the economy continues to grow at a steady rate -- then the trust fund is good for the rest of the century, and we don't need privatization.

In selling the idea that there's a crisis, Bush has a lot of powerful words on his side: "choice," "freedom," "ownership society." What words do you have to counter his sales job?

Scam. Three-card monte. I've been thinking a lot about flying pigs. The privateers are claiming that you can have something for nothing. They're basically saying, "Let's assume that pigs can fly." And when you say, "You know, it's not good to assume that pigs can fly," they respond by saying, "What's wrong with you? Don't you understand the enormous advantage of flying pigs?"

The only reason they talk about how wonderful an ownership society would be is because we managed to win the battle over the word privatization. The Cato Institute -- which is the intellectual headquarters for all this stuff -- founded something in 1995 called the Project on Social Security Privatization. But focus groups don't like that word, so in 2002 they changed the name to the Project on Social Security Choice. They didn't announce a name change -- they just went back and scrubbed their Web site, so there's no indication that it was ever called "privatization."

If there's no crisis in Social Security, why aren't the Democrats saying that more clearly and forcefully?

There's a lot of timidity. They're desperately afraid of seeming like "Oh, well -- we have our heads in the sand, and we're not active." I would like to see them step up to the plate and say that these claims that we're going to have a crisis sometime in the next fifteen years is just garbage. Bush is handing them an opportunity by making this the centerpiece of his agenda. Democrats should treat privatizing Social Security the way Republicans treated Clinton's health-care plan -- they should say, "This is a disaster, and we will stand against it." Social Security is simply not the biggest problem facing the government today.

What is?

If you really want to get scared about something that can happen between now and 2052, you should talk about Medicare and Medicaid. The entire system of private health insurance is gradually collapsing. And as the share of people getting medical insurance through their employers continues to decline, the number of people who have to rely on the government for health insurance keeps going up. At the same time, medical costs keep on rising, because doctors keep on figuring out new stuff to do -- procedures that didn't exist ten or twenty years ago.

So what needs to be done to shore up Medicare?

In our system, we have huge administrative costs -- which are mostly driven by insurance companies spending huge amounts of money trying to avoid covering people. Our health-care costs are eighty percent higher than those in other advanced countries. The best way to contain those costs is to go to a single-payer system, one in which the government insures everyone. That would probably cut the cost of health care by at least twenty-five percent.

But there's no way that will happen under Bush.

He actually wants to do the opposite. If he manages to privatize Social Security, he'll try to privatize Medicare next. He'll try to strip away guaranteed health care and turn it into some kind of system of individual health accounts. The right says that what we need is more choice, more competition. But every piece of evidence suggests that health care is an area in which privatization actually raises costs. If they succeed at dismantling both Social Security and Medicare, then you're pretty much back, on domestic policy, to the days of Warren Harding -- which is exactly where they want to go.

(Posted Jan 13, 2005)

Politics Main

Frank Rich on Iraq

August 28, 2005
The Vietnamization of Bush's Vacation
ANOTHER week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for "completing work on a democratic constitution" even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?

We have long since lost count of all the historic turning points and fast-evaporating victories hyped by this president. The toppling of Saddam's statue, "Mission Accomplished," the transfer of sovereignty and the purple fingers all blur into a hallucinatory loop of delusion. One such red-letter day, some may dimly recall, was the adoption of the previous, interim constitution in March 2004, also proclaimed a "historic milestone" by Mr. Bush. Within a month after that fabulous victory, the insurgency boiled over into the war we have today, taking, among many others, the life of Casey Sheehan.

It's Casey Sheehan's mother, not those haggling in Baghdad's Green Zone, who really changed the landscape in the war this month. Not because of her bumper-sticker politics or the slick left-wing political operatives who have turned her into a circus, but because the original, stubborn fact of her grief brought back the dead the administration had tried for so long to lock out of sight. With a shove from Pat Robertson, her 15 minutes are now up, but even Mr. Robertson's antics revealed buyer's remorse about Iraq; his stated motivation for taking out Hugo Chávez by assassination was to avoid "another $200 billion war" to remove a dictator.

In the wake of Ms. Sheehan's protest, the facts on the ground in America have changed almost everywhere. The president, for one, has been forced to make what for him is the ultimate sacrifice: jettisoning chunks of vacation to defend the war in any bunker he can find in Utah or Idaho. In the first speech of this offensive, he even felt compelled to take the uncharacteristic step of citing the number of American dead in public (though the number was already out of date by at least five casualties by day's end). For the second, the White House recruited its own mom, Tammy Pruett, for the president to showcase as an antidote to Ms. Sheehan. But in a reversion to the president's hide-the-fallen habit, the chosen mother was not one who had lost a child in Iraq.

It isn't just Mr. Bush who is in a tight corner now. Ms. Sheehan's protest was the catalyst for a new national argument about the war that managed to expose both the intellectual bankruptcy of its remaining supporters on the right and the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.

When the war's die-hard cheerleaders attacked the Middle East policy of a mother from Vacaville, Calif., instead of defending the president's policy in Iraq, it was definitive proof that there is little cogent defense left to be made. When the Democrats offered no alternative to either Mr. Bush's policy or Ms. Sheehan's plea for an immediate withdrawal, it was proof that they have no standing in the debate.

Instead, two conservative Republicans - actually talking about Iraq instead of Ms. Sheehan, unlike the rest of their breed - stepped up to fill this enormous vacuum: Chuck Hagel and Henry Kissinger. Both pointedly invoked Vietnam, the war that forged their political careers. Their timing, like Ms. Sheehan's, was impeccable. Last week Mr. Bush started saying that the best way to honor the dead would be to "finish the task they gave their lives for" - a dangerous rationale that, as David Halberstam points out, was heard as early as 1963 in Vietnam, when American casualties in that fiasco were still inching toward 100.

And what exactly is our task? Mr. Bush's current definition - "as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" - could not be a better formula for quagmire. Twenty-eight months after the fall of Saddam, only "a small number" of Iraqi troops are capable of fighting without American assistance, according to the Pentagon - a figure that Joseph Biden puts at "fewer than 3,000." At this rate, our 138,000 troops will be replaced by self-sufficient locals in roughly 100 years.

For his part, Mr. Hagel backed up his assertion that we are bogged down in a new Vietnam with an irrefutable litany of failure: "more dead, more wounded, less electricity in Iraq, less oil being pumped in Iraq, more insurgency attacks, more insurgents coming across the border, more corruption in the government." Mr. Kissinger no doubt counts himself a firm supporter of Mr. Bush, but in Washington Post this month, he drew a damning lesson from Vietnam: "Military success is difficult to sustain unless buttressed by domestic support." Anyone who can read a poll knows that support is gone and is not coming back. The president's approval rating dropped to 36 percent in one survey last week.

What's left is the option stated bluntly by Mr. Hagel: "We should start figuring out how we get out of there."

He didn't say how we might do that. John McCain has talked about sending more troops to rectify our disastrous failure to secure the country, but he'll have to round them up himself door to door. As the retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey reported to the Senate, the National Guard is "in the stage of meltdown and in 24 months we'll be coming apart." At the Army, according to The Los Angeles Times, officials are now predicting an even worse shortfall of recruits in 2006 than in 2005. The Leo Burnett advertising agency has been handed $350 million for a recruitment campaign that avoids any mention of Iraq.

Among Washington's Democrats, the only one with a clue seems to be Russell Feingold, the Wisconsin senator who this month proposed setting a "target date" (as opposed to a deadline) for getting out. Mr. Feingold also made the crucial observation that "the president has presented us with a false choice": either "stay the course" or "cut and run." That false choice, in which Mr. Bush pretends that the only alternative to his reckless conduct of the war is Ms. Sheehan's equally apocalyptic retreat, is used to snuff out any legitimate debate. There are in fact plenty of other choices echoing about, from variations on Mr. Feingold's timetable theme to buying off the Sunni insurgents.

But don't expect any of Mr. Feingold's peers to join him or Mr. Hagel in fashioning an exit strategy that might work. If there's a moment that could stand for the Democrats' irrelevance it came on July 14, the day Americans woke up to learn of the suicide bomber in Baghdad who killed as many as 27 people, nearly all of them children gathered around American troops. In Washington that day, the presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a press conference vowing to protect American children from the fantasy violence of video games.

The Democrats are hoping that if they do nothing, they might inherit the earth as the Bush administration goes down the tubes. Whatever the dubious merits of this Kerryesque course as a political strategy, as a moral strategy it's unpatriotic. The earth may not be worth inheriting if Iraq continues to sabotage America's ability to take on Iran and North Korea, let alone Al Qaeda.

As another politician from the Vietnam era, Gary Hart, observed last week, the Democrats are too cowardly to admit they made a mistake three years ago, when fear of midterm elections drove them to surrender to the administration's rushed and manipulative Iraq-war sales pitch. So now they are compounding the original error as the same hucksters frantically try to repackage the old damaged goods.

IN the new pitch there are no mushroom clouds. Instead we get McCarthyesque rhetoric accusing critics of being soft on the war on terrorism, which the Iraq adventure has itself undermined. Before anyone dare say Vietnam, the president, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld drag in the historian David McCullough and liken 2005 in Iraq to 1776 in America - and, by implication, the original George W. to ours. Before you know it, Ahmad Chalabi will be rehabilitated as Ben Franklin.

The marketing campaign will crescendo in two weeks, on the anniversary of 9/11, when a Defense Department "Freedom Walk" will trek from the site of the Pentagon attack through Arlington National Cemetery to a country music concert on the Mall. There the false linkage of Iraq to 9/11 will be hammered in once more, this time with a beat: Clint Black will sing "I Raq and Roll," a ditty whose lyrics focus on Saddam, not the Islamic radicals who actually attacked America. Lest any propaganda opportunity be missed, Arlington's gravestones are being branded with the Pentagon's slogans for military campaigns, like Operation Iraqi Freedom, The Associated Press reported last week - a historic first. If only the administration had thought of doing the same on the fallen's coffins, it might have allowed photographs.

Even though their own poll numbers are in a race to the bottom with the president's, don't expect the Democrats to make a peep. Republicans, their minds increasingly focused on November 2006, may well blink first. In yet another echo of Vietnam, it's millions of voters beyond the capital who will force the timetable for our inexorable exit from Iraq.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company Home Privacy Policy Search Corrections XML Help Contact Us Work for Us Back to Top

The Big Muddy

August 27, 2005
Bike-Deep in the Big Muddy

W. has jumped the couch.

Not fallen off the couch, as he did when he choked on that pretzel.

Jumped it.

According to, "jump the couch" has now become slang for "a defining moment when you know someone has gone off the deep end. Inspired by Tom Cruise's recent behavior on 'Oprah.' Also see 'jump the shark.' "

The former stateside National Guardsman who was sometimes M.I.A. jumped the shark by landing on that "Mission Accomplished" carrier. (With Tom Cruise cockiness.)

Then, as president, he jumped the couch by pedaling through the guns of August - the growing carnage and chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He did do a few minutes of work this month, calling a Shiite leader in Baghdad a few days ago to lobby him to reach a consensus with the Sunnis, so Iraq doesn't crack apart. But the Shiites and Kurds ignored the president and skewered the Sunnis.

Iraq, it turns out, is the one branch of American government that the Republicans don't control.

W. had a barbecue for the press on Thursday night. (If only the press had grilled him instead.) He mingled over catfish and potato salad with the reporters, who had to ride past Cindy Sheehan's antiwar encampment to get to the poolside party.

Dan Froomkin wrote on the Washington Post Web site that many of the reporters "fawned over Bush, following him around in packs every time he moved." W. chatted about sports and the twins, still oblivious to the cultural shift that is turning 2005 into 1968.

As the news correspondent Dan Harris noted on ABC on Wednesday, the mood is much different now from what it was when the Dixie Chicks got pilloried for criticizing the president just before the war began.

The No. 1 music video requested on MTV is Green Day's antiwar song, "Wake Me Up When September Ends," about the pain of soldiers and their families. On Sunday, Joan Baez sang peace anthems at Camp Casey, including "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" The N.F.L. did not cancel its sponsorship of the Rolling Stones tour, even though the band has a new song critical of Mr. Bush and the war.

Gary Hart began his Washington Post op-ed piece this week by quoting from an anti-Vietnam War song, "Waist-deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool said to push on."

The former campaign manager for George McGovern's antiwar campaign in 1972 wrote: "We've stumbled into a hornet's nest. We've weakened ourselves at home and in the world. We are less secure today than before this war began. Who now has the courage to say this?"

Anxiety is growing among politicians on both sides of the aisle. More and more Americans don't want to stay-the-course on stay-the-course.

You'd think that by now, watching the meshugas in Iraq, the Bush crowd would have learned some lessons about twisting facts to suit ideology, and punishing those who try to tell the truth. But they're still behaving like Cinderella's evil stepsisters, who cut their feet to fit them into the glass slipper: butchering reality to make the fairy tale come out their way.

Eric Lichtblau reported in The Times this week that the administration was dumping the highly respected Lawrence Greenfeld, appointed by President Bush in 2001 to head the Bureau of Justice Statistics, because he refused superiors' orders to delete from a press release an account of how black and Hispanic drivers were treated more aggressively by the police after traffic stops. The Justice Department study showed markedly higher rates of searches and use of force for black and Hispanic drivers, compared with white drivers.

Fearing that the survey would give ammunition to members of Congress who object to using racial and ethnic data in terrorism and law enforcement investigations, Mr. Greenfeld's supervisors buried it online with no press release or briefing for Congress.

Mr. Lichtblau wrote that when Mr. Greenfeld sent the planned press release to the office of his supervisor, Tracy Henke, then an acting assistant attorney general, the section on the treatment of black and Hispanic drivers was crossed out with a notation: "Do we need this?" Ms. Henke herself had added a note: "Make the changes."

Like Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, John Bolton and others who helped spin reality to suit political ends, Ms. Henke was rewarded by the president. She has been nominated for a senior post in the Homeland Security Department.

I feel safer already.


Education and the Poor

August 29, 2005
Left Behind, Way Behind
First the bad news: Only about two-thirds of American teenagers (and just half of all black, Latino and Native American teens) graduate with a regular diploma four years after they enter high school.

Now the worse news: Of those who graduate, only about half read well enough to succeed in college.

Don't even bother to ask how many are proficient enough in math and science to handle college-level work. It's not pretty.

Of all the factors combining to shape the future of the U.S., this is one of the most important. Millions of American kids are not even making it through high school in an era in which a four-year college degree is becoming a prerequisite for achieving (or maintaining) a middle-class lifestyle.

The Program for International Assessment, which compiles reports on the reading and math skills of 15-year-olds, found that the U.S. ranked 24th out of 29 nations surveyed in math literacy. The same result for the U.S. - 24th out of 29 - was found when the problem-solving abilities of 15-year-olds were tested.

If academic performance were an international athletic event, spectators would be watching American kids falling embarrassingly behind in a number of crucial categories. A new report from a pair of Washington think tanks - the Center for American Progress and the Institute for America's Future - says an urgent new commitment to public education, much stronger than the No Child Left Behind law, must be made if that slide is to be reversed.

This would not be a minor task. In much of the nation the public education system is in shambles. And the kids who need the most help - poor children from inner cities and rural areas - often attend the worst schools.

An education task force established by the center and the institute noted the following:

"Young low-income and minority children are more likely to start school without having gained important school readiness skills, such as recognizing letters and counting. ... By the fourth grade, low-income students read about three grade levels behind nonpoor students. Across the nation, only 15 percent of low-income fourth graders achieved proficiency in reading in 2003, compared to 41 percent of nonpoor students."

How's that for a disturbing passage? Not only is the picture horribly bleak for low-income and minority kids, but we find that only 41 percent of nonpoor fourth graders can read proficiently.

I respectfully suggest that we may be looking at a crisis here.

The report, titled "Getting Smarter, Becoming Fairer," restates a point that by now should be clear to most thoughtful Americans: too many American kids are ill equipped educationally to compete successfully in an ever-more competitive global environment.

Cartoonish characters like Snoop Dogg and Paris Hilton may be good for a laugh, but they're useless as role models. It's the kids who are logging long hours in the college labs, libraries and lecture halls who will most easily remain afloat in the tremendous waves of competition that have already engulfed large segments of the American work force.

The report makes several recommendations. It says the amount of time that children spend in school should be substantially increased by lengthening the school day and, in some cases, the school year. It calls for the development of voluntary, rigorous national curriculum standards in core subject areas and a consensus on what students should know and be able to do by the time they graduate from high school.

The report also urges, as many have before, that the nation take seriously the daunting (and expensive) task of getting highly qualified teachers into all classrooms. And it suggests that an effort be made to connect schools in low-income areas more closely with the surrounding communities. (Where necessary, the missions of such schools would be extended to provide additional services for children whose schooling is affected by such problems as inadequate health care, poor housing, or a lack of parental support.)

The task force's recommendations are points of departure that can be discussed, argued about and improved upon by people who sincerely want to ramp up the quality of public education in the U.S. What is most important about the report is the fact that it sounds an alarm about a critical problem that is not getting nearly enough serious attention.


Greenspan's Failing Wisdom

August 29, 2005
Greenspan and the Bubble
Most of what Alan Greenspan said at last week's conference in his honor made very good sense. But his words of wisdom come too late. He's like a man who suggests leaving the barn door ajar, and then - after the horse is gone - delivers a lecture on the importance of keeping your animals properly locked up.

Regular readers know that I have never forgiven the Federal Reserve chairman for his role in creating today's budget deficit. In 2001 Mr. Greenspan, a stern fiscal taskmaster during the Clinton years, gave decisive support to the Bush administration's irresponsible tax cuts, urging Congress to reduce the federal government's revenue so that it wouldn't pay off its debt too quickly.

Since then, federal debt has soared. But as far as I can tell, Mr. Greenspan has never admitted that he gave Congress bad advice. He has, however, gone back to lecturing us about the evils of deficits.

Now, it seems, he's playing a similar game with regard to the housing bubble.

At the conference, Mr. Greenspan didn't say in plain English that house prices are way out of line. But he never says things in plain English.

What he did say, after emphasizing the recent economic importance of rising house prices, was that "this vast increase in the market value of asset claims is in part the indirect result of investors accepting lower compensation for risk. Such an increase in market value is too often viewed by market participants as structural and permanent." And he warned that "history has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low-risk premiums." I believe that translates as "Beware the bursting bubble."

But as recently as last October Mr. Greenspan dismissed talk of a housing bubble: "While local economies may experience significant speculative price imbalances, a national severe price distortion seems most unlikely."

Wait, it gets worse. These days Mr. Greenspan expresses concern about the financial risks created by "the prevalence of interest-only loans and the introduction of more-exotic forms of adjustable-rate mortgages." But last year he encouraged families to take on those very risks, touting the advantages of adjustable-rate mortgages and declaring that "American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage."

If Mr. Greenspan had said two years ago what he's saying now, people might have borrowed less and bought more wisely. But he didn't, and now it's too late. There are signs that the housing market either has peaked already or soon will. And it will be up to Mr. Greenspan's successor to manage the bubble's aftermath.

How bad will that aftermath be? The U.S. economy is currently suffering from twin imbalances. On one side, domestic spending is swollen by the housing bubble, which has led both to a huge surge in construction and to high consumer spending, as people extract equity from their homes. On the other side, we have a huge trade deficit, which we cover by selling bonds to foreigners. As I like to say, these days Americans make a living by selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from China.

One way or another, the economy will eventually eliminate both imbalances. But if the process doesn't go smoothly - if, in particular, the housing bubble bursts before the trade deficit shrinks - we're going to have an economic slowdown, and possibly a recession. In fact, a growing number of economists are using the "R" word for 2006.

And here's where Mr. Greenspan is still saying foolish things. In his closing remarks he suggested that "an end to the housing boom could induce a significant rise in the personal saving rate, a decline in imports and a corresponding improvement in the current account deficit." Translation, I think: the end of the housing bubble will automatically cure the trade deficit, too.

Sorry, but no. A housing slowdown will lead to the loss of many jobs in construction and service industries but won't have much direct effect on the trade deficit. So those jobs won't be replaced by new jobs elsewhere until and unless something else, like a plunge in the value of the dollar, makes U.S. goods more competitive on world markets, leading to higher exports and lower imports.

So there's a rough ride ahead for the U.S. economy. And it's partly Mr. Greenspan's fault.