BY RICHARD L. PECK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
George's dream The President of the United States was having a restless night's sleep. He had the unsettling feeling that something unworldly was coming upon him. And he was right.
"Geo-o-rge, Geo-o-rge," moaned a sepulchral voice, "I am the ghost of Social Security past. I am here because 70 years ago Americans were able to get themselves together sufficiently to create a program helping them to look out for each other. They saw that having a large financial pool to draw from would make everyone more secure. Doctors struggling through the Depression used the same concept: They created third-party payment with large insurance pools called Blue Cross and Blue Shield. People really thought big back in those days."
"Bah, hogwash," said the President, and the old ghost disappeared-only to be replaced by a middle-aged−appearing specter who called out heartily, "Mr. President, good evenin'! Social Security present here. We got ourselves a humdinger of a problem here, don't we, with all these old folks comin' along and the taxes lookin' to fall short. But, you know, we can fix this if we can get everyone to agree to some gradual tax increases and modest benefit reductions over the next 35 years or so. I just don't see this as an immediate crisis, though, you know?"
"Double hogwash," said the President, and the crestfallen ghost faded from view.
"Hello, Mr. President," piped a youthful voice. "I'm from the high school class of 2055, and we've been reading about your administration in our history class. We're full of admiration for how you came to a Social Security answer that really worked. Somehow, late in your second term, you figured out that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and long-term care were all part of one big problem. You know, how after getting everyone focused on the problem, you led the way toward creating an affordable public/private partnership that let people find their own way through the system with needed support and gave everyone a decent safety net. It was amazing how you gave these protections new structure but kept their old generous spirit. Everyone agrees, it was one of the great achievements of the 21st century."
The President cried out, awakening the First Lady. "George," said Laura, "are you all right?"
"Laura," he laughed, "I'm more than all right, I've seen the light! I know just what to do! God bless America! God bless us, every one!"
(Two hours later)
Dick Cheney: "My God, did you hear about George's dream last night?"
Karl Rove: "He'll get over it."
(With apologies to Charles Dickens)
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