Muttering into a microphone he thought was off, John Kerry called the Bush administration “the most crooked, lying group I have ever seen.” That certainly describes the recent torrent of lies poured out by George W. Bush and his minions on Medicare and Social Security.

The administration threatened to fire Richard Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, if he told Congress the real cost of the Medicare prescription drug plan, $140 billion more than the $400 billion cost Bush had been peddling. That lie was aimed at hoodwinking 12 conservative Republicans and Democrats to vote for this huge giveaway to the drug companies which squeaked through by a one-vote margin in the dead of night.

The House Ethics Committee plans to investigate whether threats and bribes were used to ram the bill through. Several of the conservatives say they would have voted “no” if Foster had been allowed to tell the truth.

“I think a lot of people probably would have reconsidered [voting for the bill] because we said that $400 billion was our top of the line,” said Rep. Sue Myrick, a Republican from North Carolina.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) is investigating the $22 million in taxpayer funds spent on television ads promoting the prescription drug scam, thinly-disguised Bush election campaign commercials that critics denounce as misleading if not outright mendacious.

Florida Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler says that when he meets with his constituents, 95 percent tell him they have seen these television ads. Wexler said, “It’s in direct relationship to the importance of Florida to President Bush. The idea that taxpayer dollars would be used to run a commercial for the president is plainly wrong. … Unfortunately, most seniors will learn they are not eligible for any meaningful benefit. … It will further inflame their anger.”

The latest prevarication is the Report of the Social Security Trust Fund Trustees, released March 23, predicting that Medicare will go bankrupt by 2019, seven years earlier than forecast last year. The report claimed that the Social Security Trust Fund will run dry in 2042, the same date projected last year. The trustees, most of them right-wing Bush appointees, made the estimate by projecting Medicare costs “into infinity.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities charged that such a method produces “highly misleading” results. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney commented, “The Bush administration should stop the ‘chicken little’ rhetoric … so we can move on to solving the real problems facing both programs.”

Joan Entmacher, vice president for economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, said both Social Security and Medicare would be solvent in perpetuity if Bush halted his “reckless tax cut policies.”

The Social Security shortfall projected by the trustees is $3.7 trillion, but the cost – if Bush succeeds in his drive to make those cuts permanent – would be nearly three times as much, or up to $12 trillion. “In light of these data,” she said, “to suggest that Social Security benefits should be cut to rein in deficits generated by tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations, as Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently did, is a travesty.”

She blasted claims that it is necessary to privatize Social Security, charging it “would reduce benefits for low- and moderate-income Americans, especially women.”

That view was echoed in a report released March 25 by Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and the Democratic members of the Joint Economic Committee, titled “Keeping the Social Security and Medicare Trustees’ Report in Perspective: The Administration’s Tax and Spending Policies are the Real Crisis.”

Stark said, “Instead of preparing for the retirement of the baby boom generation, the Bush administration squandered a $5 trillion surplus and has pursued a reckless policy of tax cuts for the wealthy that have created crippling budget deficits. Clearly, President Bush would rather give tax cuts to people who don’t need them than provide retirement and health care security for our seniors.”

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