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Articles begin in January of 2005.
Get ready, America. This is what you
voted for. You Bush voters have no one but yourselves to blame. But, of
course, you’ll blame liberals. You always do.
The New York Times
Bigger Republican Majority Plans to Push Bush Agenda
Published: January 2, 2005
WASHINGTON, Jan. 1 - A more Republican and more conservative Congress convenes on Tuesday, with Republicans intending to use their greater strength in the House and Senate to help President Bush pursue a second-term agenda of major changes in bedrock programs like Social Security and income taxes.
"This is going to probably be the most productive two years of our Republican majority," said Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader. "It's not just Social Security and tax reform, it's tort reform, regulatory reform, restraining spending, redesigning the House, redesigning the government."
Nine new senators and 41 House freshmen will be sworn in as the 109th Congress opens at noon on Tuesday, but the ceremony could be quickly overshadowed by a resumption of the sharp partisanship that was a hallmark of the Congress that ended last month.
In the House, the two parties are poised for an opening-day fight over a package of rule changes that Democrats and outside watchdog groups say are intended to dilute the power of the House Ethics Committee after it admonished Mr. DeLay three times last year…
A Big Push On Social Security
Private Accounts Are Bush Priority
By Jim VandeHei
Saturday, January 1, 2005; Page A01
President Bush's political allies are raising millions of dollars for an election-style campaign to promote private Social Security accounts, as Democrats and Republicans prepare for what they predict will be the most expensive and extensive public policy debate since the 1993 fight over the Clinton administration's failed health care plan.
With Bush planning to unveil the details of his Social Security plan this month, several GOP groups close to the White House are asking the same donors who helped reelect Bush to fund an extensive campaign to convince Americans -- and skeptical lawmakers -- that Social Security is in crisis and that private accounts are the only cure…
Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The New York Times
Stopping the Bum's Rush
Published: January 4, 2005
The people who hustled America into a tax cut to eliminate an imaginary budget surplus and a war to eliminate imaginary weapons are now trying another bum's rush. If they succeed, we will do nothing about the real fiscal threat and will instead dismantle Social Security, a program that is in much better financial shape than the rest of the federal government.
In the next few weeks, I'll explain why privatization will fatally undermine Social Security, and suggest steps to strengthen the program. I'll also talk about the much more urgent fiscal problems the administration hopes you won't notice while it scares you about Social Security.
Today let's focus on one piece of those scare tactics: the claim that Social Security faces an imminent crisis.
That claim is simply false. Yet much of the press has reported the falsehood as a fact. For example, The Washington Post recently described 2018, when benefit payments are projected to exceed payroll tax revenues, as a "day of reckoning."
Here's the truth: by law, Social Security has a budget independent of the rest of the U.S. government. That budget is currently running a surplus, thanks to an increase in the payroll tax two decades ago. As a result, Social Security has a large and growing trust fund.
When benefit payments start to exceed payroll tax revenues, Social Security will be able to draw on that trust fund…
There are only two things that could endanger Social Security's ability to pay benefits before the trust fund runs out. One would be a fiscal crisis that led the U.S. to default on all its debts. The other would be legislation specifically repudiating the general fund's debts to retirees…
The long-term cost of the Bush tax cuts is five times the budget office's estimate of Social Security's deficit over the next 75 years. The botched prescription drug bill passed in 2003 does more, all by itself, to increase the long-run budget deficit than the projected rise in Social Security expenses…
Social Security Formula Weighed
Bush Plan Likely to Cut Initial Benefits
By Jonathan Weisman and Mike
Tuesday, January 4, 2005; Page A01
The Bush administration has signaled that it will propose changing the formula that sets initial Social Security benefit levels, cutting promised benefits by nearly a third in the coming decades, according to several Republicans close to the White House.
Under the proposal, the first-year benefits for retirees would be calculated using inflation rates rather than the rise in wages over a worker's lifetime. Because wages tend to rise considerably faster than inflation, the new formula would stunt the growth of benefits, slowly at first but more quickly by the middle of the century. The White House hopes that some, if not all, of those benefit cuts would be made up by gains in newly created personal investment accounts that would harness returns on stocks and bonds.
But by embracing "price indexing," the president would for the first time detail the painful costs involved in closing the gap between the Social Security benefits promised to future retirees and the taxes available to fund them…
[Now remember that the reason why taxes aren’t available to fund the coming benefit requirements is because the current surplus in Social Security contributions is being used for Bush’s huge tax cuts for the wealthy and for his foreign wars. Bush is giving OUR retirement money to Bill Gates (who doesn’t even want it) and to Halliburton (which does).—Caro]
Remember that the only crisis for Social
Security is if the federal government defaults on its promissory notes to the
trust fund. But the Bushistas get whatever they want by scaring people to
death. Don’t fall for it.
Bush Aide Argues for Social Security Cuts
Thu, Jan 06, 2005
By LEIGH STROPE, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - A White House e-mail argues the case for cutting Social Security benefits promised in the future and says support must be built for investment accounts by convincing the public the system is "heading for an iceberg."
Calling President Bush's effort "one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times," Karl Rove deputy Peter Wehner says in the e-mail that "the Social Security battle is one we can win." Doing so would advance the idea of limited government and could transform the nation's political landscape, he said…
Democrats think the White House e-mail "shows the strategy is to instill panic," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee…
The New York Times
Choose and Lose
Published: January 5, 2005
THERE are three arguments being made in favor of privatizing part of Social Security. First, the Social Security Trust Fund needs money and privatization will, in the long run, increase the amount of money available to retirees. Second, privatization will give people choice, and choice is good. And third, "it's your money," and you ought to be able to do with it as you wish.
Each of these arguments is dubious, or disingenuous, or both.
Though experts differ on the urgency and the severity of the problem, most everyone agrees that the trust fund will eventually run out of money unless we do something. Two obvious and painful things we can do are decrease benefits or increase payroll taxes. Privatization, it is argued, solves the problem without the pain. Equity investments return about twice as much, historically, as Treasury bills. So by allowing people to put some of their payroll taxes into equity investments, we will increase the value of that part of their retirement account so we can then decrease the benefits paid out by the standard Social Security program and still leave retirees better off.
There are several problems with this argument, however. For starters, there is no guarantee that equities will return more than Treasury bills…
For example, a person who retired in 2000 after a lifetime of investing half in stocks and half in bonds would have had 50 percent more in his account than a person making the same investments who retired in 2003. A difference like this could mean that the lucky retiree can afford both food and medicine while the unlucky one must choose between them. The risk inherent in equity investments is unavoidable unless you can leave the investment alone indefinitely, which, of course, most retirees can't do.
What's more, the administrative costs of keeping track of these private accounts, according to President Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, will be 10 to 30 times the cost of administering the current system, eating up almost all of the hypothetical gains that equity investments could provide.
Finally, even if we grant the advantages of putting trust fund money into equities, this is something that the government could do without privatizing anything by doing the investing itself…
The New York Times
G.O.P. Divided as Bush Views Social Security
Published: January 6, 2005
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 - As he begins deciding on details of his plan to add personal investment accounts to Social Security, President Bush is confronting a deep split within his own party over how to proceed.
Two Republican camps are pitted against each other over how big the accounts should be and whether the president should embrace cuts in benefits…
[Both sides want to destroy Social Security, but click through if you want to know what kinds of thievery they’re discussing.—Caro]
I HEART Charlie Rangel!
Democrat Disputes Social Security 'Crisis'
Sat Jan 8,11:15 AM ET
WASHINGTON - There is no looming crisis in Social Security, and Congress should not rush to create private accounts, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. said Saturday.
"The facts prove that there is no imminent crisis with Social Security. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says Social Security can pay full benefits for nearly 50 years," Rangel said in the Democratic weekly radio address…
"The White House wants Americans to believe that Social Security is heading for an iceberg. They think that, by scaring people, they will help increase support for privatization," Rangel said.
The cost of moving to add private accounts has been estimated at more than $1 trillion. Rangel said the figure would be about $2 trillion, weakening Social Security and leaving future retirees hoping for a miracle from the stock market…
When will Americans catch on? How many
times will they fall for Bush’s “crises”, before the boy-cries-wolf effect kicks
Bush Paints His Goals As 'Crises'
President Reprises A First-Term Tactic
By Jim VandeHei
Saturday, January 8, 2005; Page A01
President Bush had great success in his first term by defining crises that demanded decisive responses. Now, as he begins a second term, Bush is returning to the same tactic to accomplish three longtime conservative goals.
Warning of the need for urgent action on his Social Security plan, Bush says the "crisis is now" for a system even the most pessimistic observers say will take in more in taxes than it pays out in benefits well into the next decade.
He calls the proliferation of medical liability lawsuits a "crisis in America" that can be fixed only by limiting a patient's right to sue for large damages. And Bush has repeatedly accused Senate Democrats of creating a "vacancy crisis" on the federal bench by refusing to confirm a small percentage of his judicial nominees…
Don’t misunderstand the intention with Social Security.
New York Newsday
Monday, January 10, 2005
PRIVATE OWNERSHIP, COLLECTIVE DEFAULT
The Bush proposals for Social Security are about dismantling the current system - and not saving it
MARMOR AND JERRY MASHAW
Ted Marmor and Jerry Mashaw, co-authors of "America’s Misunderstood Welfare State," teach at the law and management schools of Yale University.
January 10, 2005
President George W. Bush has promised to make Social Security secure for future generations, but claims not to have decided on the details for doing so. Perhaps not, but the trial balloons are getting pretty thick over the Rose Garden.
The emerging plan has three crucial elements. First, permit diversion of part of workers' FICA taxes into private accounts. Second, change the Social Security benefit formula from a wage-indexed to a price-indexed system. Third, exclude all proposals for increasing Social Security trust fund revenues if they involve any increases, however small, in anyone's taxes.
The first element, private accounts, does nothing to make Social Security financing secure. As a number of astute commentators have correctly argued, this part of the plan makes the short-term financing problem much worse. It can make the long-term picture better only by indulging in pie-in-the-sky economic assumptions. This balloon is suspended by nothing but hot air. Unfortunately, too many press reports simply repeat the illusions in the name of journalistic "balance."
The benefit formula change does make a difference. Indeed, it can bring the system back into close actuarial balance while preserving the purchasing power of today's benefits. Sound great? It's not. Indeed, this plan to secure Social Security is the exact equivalent of doing nothing at all…
There are many sensible ways to make Social Security secure without putting disproportionate or unfair burdens on anyone. Why has President Bush chosen to avoid all of the plans that make modest adjustments in benefits and taxes in favor of a radical dismantling of Social Security? Why rule all tax increases off the table?
The president gave his answer at his December "economic summit." "I love the idea of people being able to own something," he said. Privatizing Social Security is a key element of his "ownership society." Social Security, Bush reasons, has to be quietly dismantled because it is not about ownership. It is about social solidarity. It is built on the understanding that we run common risks that can be ameliorated only by collective action. And by making everyone a contributor as well as a recipient it affirms that we recognize our common fate and our obligations of both self and mutual support.
The president's vision of an ownership society is starkly different. He sees citizens as "owners" with the usual ownership right to exclude all others from sharing in their "property." If we end up poor in old age it is because we failed to manage our property successfully. We can then throw ourselves on the mercy of private charity or residual, means-tested welfare benefits.
This is an "us"/"them" vision of society. Every ship is to float on its own bottom…
But that ownership society business is all hooey. The real reason why
Bush wants to privatize Social Security is that he wants to pay off some of his
biggest supporters. When do we start to call it corruption?
Investment pros see bonanza
Social Security proposal would add billions to investments and fees
By Ameet Sachdev and Lorene Yue, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune correspondent Mark Silva contributed to this report
Published January 9, 2005
The prospect of 100 million Americans each having $1,000 of their Social Security contributions to invest every year has investment professionals salivating at the potential financial bonanza.
About $100 billion a year would be freed up for stocks, bonds and other investments under a tentative plan President Bush has floated to fix the Social Security retirement system by creating private investment accounts.
The fees paid to brokers and money managers could run into the billions…
[B]ehind the scenes, investment firms and other pro-privatization business groups have reportedly met with White House and Congressional leaders. Many executives also raised millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Bush and other Republican leaders.
Meanwhile, industry groups have tried to downplay the potential financial boon to Wall Street…
The New York Times
For the Record on Social Security
Published: January 10, 2005
Late February is now the time frame mentioned by the White House for unveiling President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security. The timing is no accident. By waiting until then, the president will conveniently avoid having to include the cost of privatization - as much as $2 trillion in new government borrowing over the next 10 years - in his 2006 budget, expected in early February.
In this and other ways, the administration is manipulating information - a tacit, yet devastating, acknowledgement, we believe, that an informed public would reject privatizing Social Security. For the record:
The administration has suggested that it would be justified in borrowing some $2 trillion to establish private accounts because doing so would head off $10 trillion in future Social Security liabilities. It's bad enough that the $10 trillion is a highly inflated figure, intended to overstate a problem that is reasonably estimated at $3.7 trillion or even considerably less. Worse are the true dimensions of the administration's proposed ploy, which were made painfully clear in a memo that was leaked to the press last week. Written in early January by Peter Wehner, the president's director of strategic initiatives and a top aide to Karl Rove, the president's political strategist, the memo states unequivocally that under a privatized system, only drastic benefit cuts - not borrowing - would relieve Social Security's financial problem…
At a recent press conference, Mr. Bush exaggerated the timing of the system's shortfall by saying that Social Security would cross the "line into red" in 2018. According to Congress's budget agency, the system comes up short in 2052; according to the system's trustees, the date is 2042. The year 2018 is when the system's trustees expect they will have to begin dipping into the Social Security trust fund to pay full benefits. If you had a trust fund to pay your bills when your income fell short, would you consider yourself insolvent?...
[If I had a trust fund that was in George W. Bush’s hands, then yes indeed I’d consider myself insolvent.—Caro]
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Bush's $6 trillion botch
The urgency of President Bush and congressional Republicans to barge ahead with "fixing" Social Security is understandable.
If they let too much time pass, people might wise up to the appalling botch they made in supposedly fixing Medicare and then rein them in before they can deliver the Social Security "reforms" their Wall Street backers want.
In case you missed it during the Christmas holidays, the Government Accounting Office just calculated the staggering scope of that botch.
The Medicare drug benefit the administration muscled through Congress, without even a pretense of funding and with deliberately misleading estimates, will add $6 trillion to $8 trillion to Medicare's shortfall over the next 75 years, the GAO determined.
That is nearly double the Social Security shortfall that President Bush is acting so alarmed about, and it "is one of the largest unfunded liabilities ever undertaken by the federal government," said Comptroller General David Walker, head of the GAO.
Medicare's financial distress, he said, "is much bigger (than Social Security's), it is much more immediate, and it is going to be much more difficult to effectively address."…
Notice any similarities in the before-the-war warnings and Bush’s doomsday
predictions for Social Security?
Capitol Hill Blue
Dubya Turns Up the Scare Tactics on Social Security
By Staff and Wire Reports
Jan 12, 2005, 04:10
President Bush warned younger workers on Tuesday of a grim future for their Social Security benefits but critics accused him of exaggerating the retirement system's problems to try and sell his plan to change it.
Bush used the word "bankrupt" five times at a White House forum to raise alarms about the financial state of Social Security decades into the future.
"By the time today's workers who are in their mid-20s begin to retire, the system will be bankrupt," he told an audience invited to a Social Security forum.
"So if you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act right now."
Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Bush was just trying to scare Americans into supporting his plan to let workers shift part of their Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts.
"There is a challenge here," Levin said. "There isn't a crisis."…
Is there a way to stop the lies?
The Washington Monthly
By Kevin Drum
January 12, 2005
THE PRESS AND THE PRESIDENT.... What's the answer to news stories like this?
Far from his dairy farm in central Utah, 27-year-old Josh Wright stepped onto a stage with President Bush on Tuesday and related the warning his father had given the other day in the barn.
"He looked me in the eye and he said, 'Don't depend on Social Security. You're independent....Don't plan on having Social Security there when you get older.' "
The president looked at Wright approvingly. "At your age," he said, Social Security "will be bust by the time it comes for you to retire."
...."If you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s, and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act now," Bush said.
Now, these are obviously lies designed to convince young people that they will get no Social Security benefits at all when they retire — something that every serious analyst knows to be flatly false. Even in the worst case scenario beloved of Republicans, Social Security will never be bankrupt. It will merely pay out reduced — but still substantial — benefits starting 40 or 50 years from now.
So what's the right thing for the press to do?...
What should a responsible press do when faced with a president who baldly lies over and over about stuff like this in a blatant attempt to scare the hell out of people? Somebody needs to figure it out, because people like George Bush have no incentive to stop lying if the press lets them get away with it. It's a brave new world, guys.
Here’s what happened in Britain.
The New York Times
The British Evasion
Published: January 14, 2005
We must end Social Security as we know it, the Bush administration says, to meet the fiscal burden of paying benefits to the baby boomers. But the most likely privatization scheme would actually increase the budget deficit until 2050. By then the youngest surviving baby boomer will be 86 years old.
Even then, would we have a sustainable retirement system? Not bloody likely.
Pardon my Britishism, but Britain's 20-year experience with privatization is a cautionary tale Americans should know about…
[T]here's an illuminating article on the British experience in The American Prospect, www.prospect.org, by Norma Cohen, a senior corporate reporter at The Financial Times who covers pension issues.
Her verdict is summed up in her title: "A Bloody Mess." Strong words, but her conclusions match those expressed more discreetly in a recent report by Britain's Pensions Commission, which warns that at least 75 percent of those with private investment accounts will not have enough savings to provide "adequate pensions."
The details of British privatization differ from the likely Bush administration plan because the starting point was different. But there are basic similarities. Guaranteed benefits were cut; workers were expected to make up for these benefit cuts by earning high returns on their private accounts.
The selling of privatization also bore a striking resemblance to President Bush's crisis-mongering. Britain had a retirement system that was working quite well, but conservative politicians issued grim warnings about the distant future, insisting that privatization was the only answer.
The main difference from the current U.S. situation was that Britain was better prepared for the transition…
The Independent, U.K.
Russian pensioners take to the streets in protest at benefit cut
By Andrew Osborn in Moscow
13 January 2005
Thousands of Russian pensioners staged protests across the country yesterday against the abolition of generous Soviet-era social benefits.
Though the demonstrations were peaceful, analysts said the protests were the most serious in Russia since 1998, when disgruntled coal miners blocked railway tracks in protest at unpaid wages.
Yesterday was the third consecutive day of demonstrations, which have stretched from Russia's Far East to Moscow itself and at times brought vital transport arteries to a standstill…
FAIR Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
ABC Muddles the Social Security Debate
Not "everyone agrees" with distorted claims
January 14, 2005
As the debate over Social Security privatization continues, so do the mainstream media distortions of the debate. On January 11, ABC News muddied the waters further with two one-sided and inaccurate reports.
On World News Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings started off the distortions in the show's "A Closer Look" segment. Having allowed that there is "some argument" about whether Social Security would, as Bush argued recently, "go bankrupt" without congressional intervention, Jennings continued: "But there's no question that baby boomers will place great strain on Social Security as they retire. And by 2042, by some measures, the system may not have enough cash to pay full benefits."
Actually, there's plenty of question about the notion that baby boomers will strain the system; the whole point of amassing a surplus in the trust fund in the first place was to absorb the strain of their retirement. And if it's true that "by some measures" (i.e., the Social Security trustees) the system won't have enough cash in 2042, it's also true that by other, less pessimistic, measures, it will; for example, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects payment of full benefits through at least 2052-- at which point the oldest boomers will be 106 and the youngest 88 (Economic Reporting Review, 1/10/05).
Some economists point out that the system, if the economy grows about as quickly in the future as it has in the past, will most likely never run short of cash…
Even if the system does need more cash four or five decades from now, it's not clear that this should be characterized as a "great strain."…
The same day, ABC's Good Morning America aired a segment that promised to "cut through some of the political rhetoric and look at the reality of what [Bush's Social Security plan] might mean." The show presented Bill and Vicki Wilson, a two-income couple with two kids and "retirement 20 years off," and turned to Michael Tanner of the pro-privatization Cato Institute for expert analysis of the Wilsons' situation.
Tanner told the Wilsons that under the current system, Bill should receive approximately $2,250 and Vicki $2,200 per month-- but that there's a "catch." ABC's Claire Shipman explained:
"One thing everyone agrees on, the Social Security system as it exists now won't be able to afford those payments for long after the Wilsons retire."
Not only doesn't "everyone agree" with this statement, it's patently untrue. Since the Wilsons will retire in about 20 years (or 2025), they would enjoy their full payments for nearly 20 years even under the pessimistic assumptions of the Social Security trustees, and nearly 30 years according to the CBO. Statistically, the Wilsons are quite likely to be dead before there is any question about Social Security's ability to pay their full promised benefits…
This is what you voted for, America. Deal with it. Expect them to drag
Harry and Louise out of the closet.
Social Security Push to Tap the GOP Faithful
Campaign's Tactics Will Drive Appeal
By Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page A06
President Bush plans to reactivate his reelection campaign's network of donors and activists to build pressure on lawmakers to allow workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in the stock market, according to Republican strategists.
White House allies are launching a market-research project to figure out how to sell the plan in the most comprehensible and appealing way, and Republican marketing and public-relations gurus are building teams of consultants to promote it, the strategists said.
The campaign will use Bush's campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support -- contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away.
Bush aides said that in addition to mobilizing the Republican faithful and tapping the power of business, they plan to target minority voters who have not been able to afford to save and might be open to the argument that the president's plan would turn them into investors. The campaign will also court younger voters, including many Democrats, who would potentially benefit the most from the change…
[Or, they might potentially be completely screwed out of any security whatsoever in retirement. Who’s touting that?—Caro]
The New York Times
Social Security Enlisted to Push Its Own Revision
Published: January 16, 2005
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 - Over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution.
The agency's plans are set forth in internal documents, including a "tactical plan" for communications and marketing of the idea that Social Security faces dire financial problems requiring immediate action…
[A]gency employees have complained to Social Security officials that they are being conscripted into a political battle over the future of the program. They question the accuracy of recent statements by the agency, and they say that money from the Social Security trust fund should not be used for such advocacy.
"Trust fund dollars should not be used to promote a political agenda," said Dana C. Duggins, a vice president of the Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 50,000 of the agency's 64,000 workers and has opposed private accounts…
[Damn straight! How dare they use my own money to rob me?—Caro]
LAST week, Bush said no tax hike.
Bush: No tax hike for Social Security
President rules out increase in payroll taxes to pay for reforming 64-year-old retirement program.
December 9, 2004: 1:44 PM EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Following a meeting with key advisers, President Bush promised Thursday he would not raise payroll taxes to help pay for overhauling Social Security.
"We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this problem," Bush told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with Social Security experts…
THIS week, it’s another story. When will Americans catch on to Bush’s
Associated Press, posted at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Social Security tax hike feared
Bush official predicts 50% jump with no revamp
Alan Fram - Associated Press
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Washington --- Social Security taxes will have to rise by half if lawmakers don't revamp the giant program, President Bush's budget chief said Friday as the administration sought support for its overhaul plans.
The comments by Joshua Bolten came as Democrats accused the administration of hiding the costs of its plans for shoring up the pension system for the elderly and disabled…
''If we do nothing to fix Social Security, we will eventually need to raise Social Security payroll taxes on Americans by about 50 percent,'' he said.
Such an increase would stifle job creation and prompt employers to lower wages, Bolten said…
[This is tantamount to blackmail. Allow us to give your Social Security money to the Wall Street sharks, or we’ll raise your payroll taxes by 50%. And what will you bet that only the employEE portion of the contribution will be raised, not the employER portion? No chance to steal from the middle class and the poor is ever left behind by these right-wing elites.—Caro]
The New York Times
That Magic Moment
Published: January 18, 2005
White House officials themselves concede - or maybe boast - that their plan to sell Social Security privatization is modeled on their selling of the Iraq war. In fact, the parallels are remarkably exact.
Everyone has noticed the use, once again, of crisis-mongering. Three years ago, the supposed threat from Saddam somehow became more important than catching the people who actually attacked America on 9/11. Today, the mild, possibly nonexistent long-run financial problems of Social Security have somehow become more important than dealing with the huge deficit we already have, which has nothing to do with Social Security.
But there's another parallel, which I haven't seen pointed out: the politicization of the agencies and the intimidation of the analysts. Bush loyalists begin frothing at the mouth when anyone points out that the White House pressured intelligence analysts to overstate the threat from Iraq, while neocons in the Pentagon pressured the military to understate the costs and risks of war. But that is what happened, and it's happening again.
Last week Andrew Biggs, the associate commissioner for retirement policy at the Social Security Administration, appeared with Mr. Bush at a campaign-style event to promote privatization. There was a time when it would have been considered inappropriate for a civil servant to play such a blatantly political role. But then there was a time when it would have been considered inappropriate to appoint a professional advocate like Mr. Biggs, the former assistant director of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Privatization, to such a position in the first place.
Sure enough, The New York Times reports that under Mr. Biggs's direction, employees of the Social Security Administration are being forced to disseminate dire warnings about the system's finances - warnings that the employees say are exaggerated…
[T]he media, if they do their job, can check out the numbers and see that they don't match what Mr. Bush is saying…
[W]e've been here before. Fool me once ...
All Hat No Cattle
New Doubts On Plan For Social Security
House Republican Says Bush Plan Is Doomed, Seeks Review of System
By Mike Allen and Jonathan
Wednesday, January 19, 2005; Page A01
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) predicted yesterday that partisan warfare over Social Security will quickly render President Bush's plan "a dead horse" and called on Congress to undertake a broader review of the problems of an aging nation.
Thomas, one of Capitol Hill's most powerful figures on tax policy, is the highest-ranking House Republican official to cast doubt on the president's plan for creating individual investment accounts. He said that as an alternative, he will consider changes such as replacing the payroll tax as Social Security's financing mechanism and adding a savings plan for long-term or chronic care as "an augmentation to Social Security payments."…
[The idea of a savings plan for long-term care is the first semi-good idea I’ve heard from a Republican in many years. I’d rather that it be an insurance plan, so that everyone benefits equally no matter what their contributions have been, but I probably won’t get my way on that. And I’d really like to know what he means when he says he wants to replace the payroll tax as the funding mechanism.—Caro]
Thomas's comments, which took the White House by surprise, reflected some Republicans' view that the White House has mishandled the plan's rollout and that a fresh start is needed to allow a chance for getting Democratic support….
[I can’t help but doubt that Thomas’s comments took the White House by surprise. This could be a planned ploy, to give Bush an excuse to renege on his campaign promise to privatize Social Security.
The White House could easily take Thomas down, if they wanted to. Remember that as chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, he had an affair with a lobbyist to that committee (click through and then scroll down). They were both married at the time. Since the affair was hardly a blip on the radar screen at the time Thomas was being considered as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, all the Rove minions have to do is plant the information with Drudge and the right-wing bloggers, and order the radio talk show parrots to start pounding on it, and Thomas could be forced to resign in disgrace.
If that doesn’t happen, you can be assured that what Thomas said was with the blessing of, if not at the behest of, the White House.—Caro]
Keep it up, Democrats! Learn to win by losing.
Democrats Attack Bush on Social Security
AP via Yahoo! News - Jan 19 4:12 PM
Top Democrats in Congress toughened their attack Wednesday on President Bush's call for personal investment accounts under Social Security and said remarks by a powerful Republican committee chairman showed GOP lawmakers have little appetite for the accounts, either.
The Freedom to Follow
By Robert Parry
January 21, 2005
What some Americans may have found annoying about George W. Bush’s second Inaugural Address was his use of a rhetorical device in which he stated obvious truisms about “freedom” with the suggestion that opponents of his policies – from invading Iraq to privatizing Social Security – must be people who hate freedom.
Bush has used this rhetorical technique before, as in Campaign 2002 when he created the impression that Senate Democrats who objected to Bush’s version of a Homeland Security bill were “not interested in the security of the American people.”
Though employed more subtly in his second Inaugural, the rhetorical device was back as Bush mixed together platitudes about “freedom” with oblique references to both his foreign and domestic policies.
The presidential message seemed to be that Americans who complain about his defiance of international law in Iraq, his assertion of near-unlimited presidential powers in the War on Terror or his plan to revamp the Social Security system by shifting it toward individual retirement accounts are not just opponents of Bush but opponents of freedom…
Some longtime listeners of Inaugural Addresses might argue that one or two of these fuzzy aphorisms are to be expected as a President tries to grab for immortality with a phrase that may last longer than the next day’s newspapers. But what was unusual about Bush’s speech was that these vapid truisms represented virtually its entire structure.
Bush used the banalities, in effect, to set up a straw man of opposition, as if anyone who didn’t agree with his unilateralist foreign policy was both dishonest and craven. He said, for instance, “America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.”…
Bush is juxtaposing himself as the brave leader who stands up for truth against his imaginary opponents who supposedly want to pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains or that women welcome humiliation or that human beings aspire to be bullied…
[T]he most troubling subtext tucked inside Bush’s paean to “freedom” may have been that the ultimate freedom for Americans today is their freedom to follow him.
Cheers For Bush's Ownership Society
Robert B. Reich
January 20, 2005
Robert B. Reich is the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Brandeis University, and was the secretary of labor under former President Bill Clinton.
I want to be among the first to commend the president for choosing as his major domestic theme the "Ownership Society." What could be more important than giving more Americans an opportunity to own assets and build wealth? The president is obviously concerned that ownership in America is now more concentrated in fewer hands than it's been since the days of the robber barons in the late 19th century. The richest 1 percent now own as much as the bottom 90 percent put together.
I can't tell you exactly what he'll propose, but if his goal is to spread the wealth I expect he'll acknowledge that the present tax system isn't fair. People earning over half a million dollars a year are subject to the lowest tax rate in more than 50 years, and much of their unearned income isn't being taxed at all. Meanwhile, he'll explain that if you figure in payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes, average working Americans are paying more in taxes than ever before. So in the president's Ownership Society, middle and lower-income workers will pay less tax. And this won't bust the budget because he'll reverse course and raise taxes on the rich.
I expect the president will also call for massive new federal investments in education—the key to spreading wealth in the new economy. In the Ownership Society, Washington will spend more on the nation's schools than it now spends on Iraq—starting with universal early childhood education so the minds of toddlers and pre-Ks are ready to learn, followed by smaller classrooms with fewer students and better-paid, highly qualified teachers. And access to college for any young person who can make good use of it, regardless of parental income.
Finally, the president will surprise some by saying he's not in favor of privatizing Social Security after all. That would just line the pockets of Wall Street bankers who'd rake in huge fees managing all those private accounts. No, in the Ownership Society, the first $10,000 of income will be exempt from Social Security taxes—and the president will make up the difference by raising the cap on earnings subject to the tax.
Now I may have some of the details wrong, but assuming the president is serious about creating an Ownership Society, he'll be announcing initiatives just like these. Won't he?
The New York Times
The Free Lunch Bunch
Published: January 21, 2005
Did they believe they would be welcomed as liberators? Administration plans to privatize Social Security have clearly run into unexpected opposition. Even Republicans are balking; Representative Bill Thomas says that the initial Bush plan will soon be a "dead horse."
That may be overstating it, but for privatizers the worst is yet to come. If people are rightly skeptical about claims that Social Security faces an imminent crisis, just wait until they start looking closely at the supposed solution.
President Bush is like a financial adviser who tells you that at the rate you're going, you won't be able to afford retirement - but that you shouldn't do anything mundane like trying to save more. Instead, you should take out a huge loan, put the money in a mutual fund run by his friends (with management fees to be determined later) and place your faith in capital gains.
That, once you cut through all the fine phrases about an "ownership society," is how the Bush privatization plan works…
Sometimes I do find myself puzzled: why don't privatizers understand that their schemes rest on the peculiar belief that there is a giant free lunch there for the taking? But then I remember what Upton Sinclair wrote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
The Guardian, U.K.
A New Deal to scupper a presidency
Bush is taking a huge gamble with his assault on the social contract
Thursday January 20, 2005
In his second term, President Bush is determined on regime change. The country whose order he seeks to overthrow is not ruled by mullahs or Ba'athists. But members of his administration have compared its system to communism. The battle will be "one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times", the deputy to White House political director Karl Rove wrote in a confidential memo. Since the election, the president has spoken often of the "coming crisis" and he has mobilised the government to begin a propaganda campaign to prepare public opinion for the conflict ahead. The nation whose regime he is set on toppling is the United States.
Since the New Deal, the American social contract has been built upon acceptance of its reforms. When Dwight Eisenhower became the first Republican president after Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, he never challenged the New Deal, solidifying the political consensus that had prevailed for decades. But now Bush has launched an assault on the social contract in earnest, seeking to blast away at its cornerstone, social security, which disburses pensions to the elderly and payments to the disabled…
To achieve this conservative dream, the public must first be convinced that social security is "bankrupt". The administration, Wehner writes, must "establish an important premise: the current system is heading toward an iceberg. We need to establish in the public mind a key fiscal fact: right now we are on an unsustainable course". Moreover, Wehner states, the private accounts are simply a wedge for future benefit cuts, though he does not advocate that the administration stresses that point.
And so Bush and Cheney insist that social security will soon be "flat bust". A political front group run by one of Rove's proteges, which produced the television commercials that trumpeted defamations about John Kerry's military record, is spinning out new ads on social security. The social security administration itself has been dragooned into sending out millions of letters telling recipients that the system is in "crisis"…
"It's a badly, badly flawed plan," Robert Rubin, the former secretary of the treasury and current Citigroup director, told me. "From a fiscal point of view it's horrendous. It adds to deficits and federal debt in very large numbers until 2060."
Internet Weekly Report
Dancing in the dark
Social Security `fix'--the next disaster
By R.C. Longworth, former
Tribune senior correspondent and business editor
Published January 23, 2005
President Bush has promised to make Social Security reform the domestic centerpiece of his second term in office. But this reform, to be unveiled next month, shows all the unreality, fiscal irresponsibility and overhyped salesmanship of the keystones of his first term, the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the rich.
Like these two adventures, Social Security reform is a disaster in the making. For that reason, it is necessary to sort the facts from the fiction in this flawed proposal…
In his inaugural address Thursday, Bush said he wants to "build an ownership society" in America, and he has made clear that a key to that would be partial privatization of Social Security.
But he had launched his campaign for partial privatization of Social Security earlier this month with a fear-mongering speech that told young workers, "If you're 20 years old, in your mid-20s, and you're beginning to work, I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act now."
Vice President Dick Cheney followed this up by predicting "fiscal collapse" by 2042, leaving the government no option "other than to suddenly and dramatically reduce benefit payments by over 25 percent, or to impose a massive, economically ruinous tax increase on all American workers."
These two statements, by the two highest officers in the land, are not even remotely true…
No one knows how [Bush’s idea of] private accounts will work in practice. Bush says we will "own" them, which means we'll have control. Can we cash them in, to meet a medical emergency or college tuition? Then what happens when we retire? Can we invest them as we wish? If we invest in Singapore derivatives or Florida swampland and get wiped out, will the government let us starve?
Actually, there probably will be rules against cashing in, and Cheney says there will be government "guidelines" on where we can invest. Some "ownership."
Presumably, those "guidelines" will approve normal, solid, profitable companies. Like cigarette companies or (listen up, conservatives!) condom manufacturers. No? Then which companies will get the government seal of approval? And how many conservatives want the government to have this much clout on the stock market?
None of these questions is close to being answered, and they needn't be asked if Social Security is seen as what it is: an insurance plan, not a get-rich-quick scheme. It pays less than the stock market because, unlike the stock market, it's not risky. Its name is Social Security, not Social Maximum Return.
The New York Times
Some See Risks For the G.O.P. in New Strength
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and RICHARD W. STEVENSON
Published: January 24, 2005
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 - President Bush begins his second term with the Republican Party in its strongest position in over 50 years, but his clout is already being tested by Republican doubts about his domestic agenda, rising national unease about Iraq and the threat of second-term overreaching, officials in both parties say.
With this election producing a second-term Republican president and solid majorities in both the Senate and the House, Mr. Bush's party is more dominant than at any time since Herbert Hoover was elected in 1928. As Mr. Bush embarks on an explicit effort to put an imprint on politics and policy that will long outlast his presidency, his advisers are heady over what several described as an opportunity to make a long-lasting realignment in the nation's political balance of power.
But even those advisers said Mr. Bush had at most two years before he faced the ebb that historically saps the authority of a second-term incumbent, a relatively short time to sell his far-reaching agenda. And Republicans say his situation could be complicated by the absence of an obvious heir, opening the way for competing wings of the party to battle over details and tactics on the very issues Mr. Bush is embracing.
Richard Norton Smith, a presidential scholar who is director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, said the Republican Party had "come closer now than they've been at any time in my lifetime" to being the nation's majority party. But Mr. Smith said historical cycles over the past century suggested that its dominance might be coming to a close.
"The calendar alone tells you this conservative cycle is long in the tooth," he said. "Add to that the divisions, or latent divisions, that exist with your own coalition. Once Bush is removed from the scene, and once he becomes in effect a lame duck, all those tensions are there."
The White House has described the election results as a mandate, and in his Inaugural Address on Thursday, Mr. Bush laid out his vision in sweeping terms.
But some Republicans said they were worried about overconfidence, including Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who invoked his experience serving alongside Speaker Newt Gingrich when Republicans captured the House in 1994. "Hubris is deadly," Mr. Sanford said…
Democrats, even while struggling with their own party divisions and confusion, are showing signs of coalescing into an aggressive opposition party, especially on issues like judicial appointments and Social Security.
Mr. Bush has repeatedly overcome doubts about his ability to win approval of controversial proposals. And his political advisers are confident going into this second term. They say that the party is poised to at least begin the broad political realignment and the diminishment of the Democratic Party that has been a goal of Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove…
[E]ven Republicans acknowledge there are questions about the durability and significance of the changes taking place. Most fundamentally, it is difficult today to measure whether the Republican successes of 2002 and 2004 were merely a ratification of Mr. Bush himself - a president running for re-election in wartime - or the start of a long-lasting shift to the Republican Party…
The critical question for Mr. Bush, his advisers and Democrats say, is the success or failure of his agenda, both in terms of getting it through Congress and winning support for it from the public. Recent polls show apprehension about important aspects of his Social Security plan, and an overwhelming sentiment that Mr. Bush does not know how to end the war in Iraq, which is increasingly unpopular…
[Of course, the reason the Bush administration has had so much success in pushing its agenda through Congress is that they kneecap anyone who gets in their way. Just like a crime family.—Caro]
Los Angeles Times
January 18, 2005
Wall Street Lying Low on Social Security
Discount stock trading pioneer Charles R. Schwab has long supported the idea of diverting a share of Social Security taxes into private investment accounts.
Schwab endorsed a book on the subject in 1999. His San Francisco-based company is helping to fund a group that is lobbying Congress for private accounts. And he has written newspaper op-ed pieces calling for more retirement savings options that would "reduce the dependence on government assistance."
But with the debate over Social Security's future now kicking into high gear, the 67-year-old Schwab is staying out of the public eye. "He has made a specific decision" to decline interview requests on the topic, a spokesman said.
Schwab's reticence is emblematic of the peculiar wallflower role adopted by much of the U.S. financial services industry when it comes to overhauling Social Security.
The nation's brokerages and mutual fund companies could be big winners if the government were to allow Americans to funnel some of their Social Security taxes into private investment accounts each year. Firms such as Fidelity Investments, Vanguard Group, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Schwab collectively could reap billions of dollars in management fees and commissions over the long term.
But the emotions triggered by President Bush's call for restructuring Social Security also have raised the risk that the financial industry could become a target of public ire…
The New York Times
Backers of Gay Marriage Ban Use Social Security as Cudgel
Published: January 25, 2005
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The move came as Senate Republicans vowed on Monday to reintroduce the proposed amendment, which failed in the Senate last year by a substantial margin. Party leaders, who left it off their list of priorities for the legislative year, said they had no immediate plans to bring it to the floor because they still lacked the votes for passage.
But the coalition that wrote the letter, known as the Arlington Group, is increasingly impatient.
In a confidential letter to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, the group said it was disappointed with the White House's decision to put Social Security and other economic issues ahead of its paramount interest: opposition to same-sex marriage…
From the conservative
Congressman Ron Paul
Want to Reform Social Security? Stop Spending.
January 24, 2005
Social Security reform promises to be the biggest domestic issue this year in Washington, but most of the proposals are nothing more than flim-flam. The only honest solution to the future insolvency of the program is for Congress to stop spending so much money. Unless Congress makes real cuts in spending-- and stops spending Social Security taxes on completely unrelated programs-- millions of Americans simply will not receive even a fraction of the money they paid into Social Security. Ignore the rhetoric about tax increases and cuts in benefits, as though you are to blame for the problem! All Social Security obligations could be met if Congress did not spend so much on other things…
[N]either political party proposes letting people opt out of Social Security, which exposes the lie that your contributions are set aside and saved. After all, if your contributions really are put aside for your retirement, the money will be there earning interest, right? If your money is put away in a trust fund account with your name on it, what difference would it make if your neighbor chooses not to participate in the program?
The truth, of course, is that your contributions are not put aside. Social Security is simply a tax. Like all taxes, the money collected is spent immediately as general revenues to fund the federal government. The Social Security trust fund does not exist, and Social Security “surpluses” are nothing more than an accounting ledger showing that contributions exceeded benefits paid for a given calendar year-- not that the excess was put aside. Social Security benefits are paid each year from general funds, like other federal programs. Since these programs and overall spending keep increasing, the government can’t give up any sources of tax revenue. Allowing people to opt out of Social Security would force the federal government to admit it has been stealing money from Social Security for decades.
The administration speaks of private accounts, but government-managed investment of Social Security funds is not privatization at all…
If the administration truly wants to give people more control over their retirement dollars, why not simply reduce payroll taxes and let them keep their own money to invest privately as they see fit? This is the true private solution.
Your money has never been safe in the government’s hands, and it never will be…
[Well, that’s going a bit too far, Congressman Paul. Social Security is a successful program. People simply do not save for their retirement, and because of Social Security there is much less poverty among the elderly. The program could have continued indefinitely if George Bush hadn’t given away so many tax cuts to the obscenely wealthy and hadn’t gone galumphing around the globe starting expensive wars
When we had a surplus, under Bill Clinton, the government had started paying off the Reagan/Bush debt, which would have left us in a good position to start borrowing again when the baby boomers begin to retire. As to forcing real cuts in spending, I couldn’t agree more. Let’s start by getting out of the war business.—Caro]
Believe George Bush at your own peril, America.
The New York Times
Chile's Retirees Find Shortfall in Private Plan
By LARRY ROHTER
Published: January 27, 2005
SANTIAGO, Chile - Nearly 25 years ago, Chile embarked on a sweeping experiment that has since been emulated, in one way or another, in a score of other countries. Rather than finance pensions through a system to which workers, employers and the government all contributed, millions of people began to pay 10 percent of their salaries to private investment accounts that they controlled.
Under the Chilean program - which President Bush has cited as a model for his plans to overhaul Social Security - the promise was that such investments, by helping to spur economic growth and generating higher returns, would deliver monthly pension benefits larger than what the traditional system could offer.
But now that the first generation of workers to depend on the new system is beginning to retire, Chileans are finding that it is falling far short of what was originally advertised under the authoritarian government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
For all the program's success in economic terms, the government continues to direct billions of dollars to a safety net for those whose contributions were not large enough to ensure even a minimum pension approaching $140 a month. Many others - because they earned much of their income in the underground economy, are self-employed, or work only seasonally - remain outside the system altogether. Combined, those groups constitute roughly half the Chilean labor force. Only half of workers are captured by the system.
Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts - burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment - are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.
Dagoberto Sáez, for example, is a 66-year-old laboratory technician here who plans, because of a recent heart attack, to retire in March. He earns just under $950 a month; his pension fund has told him that his nearly 24 years of contributions will finance a 20-year annuity paying only $315 a month.
"Colleagues and friends with the same pay grade who stayed in the old system, people who work right alongside me," he said, "are retiring with pensions of almost $700 a month - good until they die. I have a salary that allows me to live with dignity, and all of a sudden I am going to be plunged into poverty, all because I made the mistake of believing the promises they made to us back in 1981."…
Bush Faces New Skepticism From Republicans on Hill
By Mike Allen
Friday, January 28, 2005; Page A01
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va., Jan. 27 -- When President Bush flies to this Allegheny mountain resort Friday to meet congressional Republicans, he will encounter a party far less malleable and willing to follow his lead than it has been for the past four years.
Bush is accustomed to getting his way with Congress and finished his first term without suffering a major defeat. But mid-level and rank-and-file Republicans have begun to assert themselves on issues including intelligence reform, immigration and a major restructuring of Social Security, the centerpiece of his second-term agenda…
The New York Times
Little Black Lies
Published: January 28, 2005
Social Security privatization really is like tax cuts, or the Iraq war: the administration keeps on coming up with new rationales, but the plan remains the same. President Bush's claim that we must privatize Social Security to avert an imminent crisis has evidently fallen flat. So now he's playing the race card.
This week, in a closed meeting with African-Americans, Mr. Bush asserted that Social Security was a bad deal for their race, repeating his earlier claim that "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people." In other words, blacks don't live long enough to collect their fair share of benefits.
This isn't a new argument; privatizers have been making it for years. But the claim that blacks get a bad deal from Social Security is false. And Mr. Bush's use of that false argument is doubly shameful, because he's exploiting the tragedy of high black mortality for political gain instead of treating it as a problem we should solve…
First, Mr. Bush's remarks on African-Americans perpetuate a crude misunderstanding about what life expectancy means. It's true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years - but that doesn't mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years' worth of Social Security benefits. Blacks' low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African-American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years - not that far short of the 16.6-year figure for white men.
Second, the formula determining Social Security benefits is progressive: it provides more benefits, as a percentage of earnings, to low-income workers than to high-income workers. Since African-Americans are paid much less, on average, than whites, this works to their advantage.
Finally, Social Security isn't just a retirement program; it's also a disability insurance program. And blacks are much more likely than whites to receive disability benefits…
Internet Weekly Report
The New York Times
For Democrats, Social Security Becomes a Defining Test
Published: January 30, 2005
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 - When Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, unveiled his top 10 legislative priorities earlier this week, the issue that will dominate the Republican-controlled Congress in 2005 - Social Security - was not on the list. But that does not mean Democrats are uninterested.
In fact, Social Security - or, more precisely, beating back President Bush's plan to partly privatize it - is the Democrats' most important priority this year. With the White House and Congress firmly in Republican hands, Social Security has emerged as a make-or-break issue for Democrats, who see confronting the president as politically crucial.
If they can convince Americans that Mr. Bush is trying to dismantle the 70-year-old program, they will have a rallying cry to re-energize them after their bruising losses in November. A victory on Social Security would embolden them to challenge the White House on other issues, like the president's effort to cap jury awards in medical malpractice cases. And they would be strengthened for 2006 and the midterm elections, when the party in power typically loses seats…
The Democratic whip, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, calls Social Security "the most unifying issue you can imagine," and to demonstrate that unity, Senate Democrats staged a one-sided hearing over the issue on Friday. A collection of senators, all Democrats, heard from Social Security employees who said they had been pressured to sell the White House plan, and from James Roosevelt Jr., former official of the Social Security Administration and grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who created the program in 1935.
The session, packed with Capitol Hill aides in the audience to make it look crowded, was conveniently held on a day when most Republicans were far away, at a retreat in West Virginia. One Democrat after another lambasted the president's plan. "A tragic mistake," said Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota. A plot to sacrifice the financial security of retirees, said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, "so that more equity traders can buy summer homes in the Hamptons."…
[“[P]acked with Capitol Hill aides in the audience to make it look crowded”? Do you think the Republicans have never used such a tactic? Do you think any reporter has ever used that phrase about Republican audience packing?—Caro]
Some see Democrats taking a page from the House Republicans of a decade ago, who stood firm against President Bill Clinton when he called for a government-created universal health care program and who then rode that issue to victory in the 1994 midterm elections…
Message passing around the Internet
My husband has a long record of money problems. He runs up huge credit card bills and at the end of the month, if I try to pay them off, he shouts at me, saying I am stealing his money.
He says pay the minimum and let our kids worry about the rest, but already we can hardly keep up with the interest. Also he has been so arrogant and abusive toward our neighbors that most of them no longer speak to us.
The few that do are an odd bunch, to whom he has been giving a lot of expensive gifts, running up our bills even more.
Also, he has gotten religious in a big way, although I don't quite understand it. One week he hangs out with Catholics and the next with people who say the Pope is the Anti-Christ. And now he has been going to the gym an awful lot and is into wearing uniforms and cowboy outfits, and I hate to think what that means. Finally, the last straw. He's demanding that before anyone can be in the same room with him, they must sign a loyalty oath.
It's just so horribly creepy!
Can you help?
Signed, Lost in DC
Stop whining, Laura. You can divorce the jerk any time you want. The rest of us are stuck with him for four more years!
fighting poverty ought to include saving Social Security from the
Congressional Republicans Agree to Launch Social Security Campaign
By Mike Allen
Monday, January 31, 2005; Page A04
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Congressional Republicans, after three months of internal debate, this weekend launched a months-long campaign to try to convince constituents that rewriting the Social Security law would be cheaper and less risky than leaving it alone, as the White House opened a campaign to pressure several Senate Democrats to support the changes.
The Republicans left an annual retreat in the Allegheny Mountains with a 104-page playbook titled "Saving Social Security," a deliberate echo of the language President Bill Clinton used to argue that the retirement system's trust fund should be built up in anticipation of the baby boomers' retirement.
The congressional Republicans' confidential plan was developed with the advice of pollsters, marketing experts and communication consultants, and was provided to The Washington Post by a Republican official. The blueprint urges lawmakers to promote the "personalization" of Social Security, suggesting ownership and control, rather than "privatization," which "connotes the total corporate takeover of Social Security." Democratic strategists said they intend to continue fighting the Republican plan by branding it privatization, and assert that depiction is already set in people's minds.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to say Monday in a "prebuttal" to President Bush's State of the Union address that her party will not "let a guaranteed benefit become a guaranteed gamble."…
Common Dreams News Center
Published on Wednesday,
January 26, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Goodbye New Deal; Hello Raw Deal
by Karen Dolan
In the wake of somewhat of an uproar from progressives, Democrats and even some Republican leaders, President George W. Bush is now backing away from saying that Social Security faces a “crisis.” He has toned down the rhetoric and now refers to a slightly less ominous significant “problem” when he refers to the system that keeps millions of elderly Americans out of poverty.
Let’s get some perspective: Many economists, notably those at the Center on Economic and Policy Research and the Congressional Budget Office, have made it clear that Social Security will remain sound, at least until 2052. Even after that date, the program will still be able to pay out benefits at least equivalent, even adjusted for inflation, to those being distributed today. Indefinitely. With no change whatsoever. The reality is that Social Security is the most financially sound today than it has been since its conception 70 years ago…
So, why is this administration focusing on the issue, initially as a “crisis” and at least as a major “problem”? Because the radically conservative powers-that-be see the opportunity to dismantle the New Deal that brought the Democrats into power for many of the last 70 years. It’s part of this administration’s goal and ideology, to reverse the New Deal and replace it with a system driven by the conservative ideology of privatization to support business and a failed “trickle-down” economic theory. They wish to a shred the social safety net that has enhanced the quality of life in our country for most of the 20th century. Privatization, even partially, of the Social Security program is a boon for Wall Street that poses great risks and increases the likelihood of a fall into poverty for retiring Americans.
The only conceivable way that Bush’s dream of maximizing the benefits of his policies to corporations and the wealthiest Americans on the backs of the majority of our middle class and working poor families can succeed is through perpetuating the myth of crisis and manufactured fear and confusion. This is the hallmark of the current administration. This is a calculated and politically savvy move to continue a rule of coercion by fear…
As citizens who care not only about our futures and the futures of our children and grandchildren, but about maintaining the integrity of this society as one which cares for its most vulnerable and its elderly, we can’t bow to fear and inflated rhetoric that causes people to support policies which run counter to reality and to the interest of Americans. We must not accept a Raw Deal in exchange for the New Deal…
Stealing from old people isn’t exactly a new idea.
Los Angeles Times
January 30, 2005
They Invested Years in Private Accounts
Conservatives who want to alter Social Security have long worked to nudge public opinion. Bush will likely advance the cause this week.
By Janet Hook, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Back in 1997, proponents of overhauling Social Security met with the man who would become their most powerful convert: Texas Gov. George W. Bush, whose presidential ambitions were beginning to gel.
The governor dined with Jose Piñera, architect of Chile's 1981 shift from government pensions to worker-owned retirement accounts, in a meeting that helped bring Bush a big step closer to embracing a similar plan for Social Security in his emerging presidential platform.
"I think he wanted to support the idea but needed to be convinced," said Edward H. Crane, president of the libertarian Cato Institute, who was at the dinner. "I really think Jose convinced him."
This week, President Bush's plan to allow younger workers to divert Social Security taxes into personal investment accounts will be a centerpiece of his State of the Union address and a barnstorming tour of the country. It is a tough sell to an uncertain public, but Bush has a secret weapon: A generation of free-market conservatives like Crane and Piñera has been laying the groundwork for this debate…
Now, Bush is drawing on a deep reservoir of resources — including policy research, ready-to-hire experts and polling on how to discuss the issue — that conservatives have created over the last 20 years…
January 31, 2005
"Everything is at Stake" in Social Security Fight
New MoveOn Ads Reaching Media, Congress and the Public with Focused Message
In a phone conference today with progressive news sites and bloggers, MoveOn.org announced the launch of new hard-hitting TV and print ads on Social Security, the methodology behind those ads, and the ways Democrats can win this fight.
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo discussed the political and policy landscape of the Social Security fight, and MoveOn.org Executive Director Eli Pariser discussed the grassroots plan…
[Well, I guess I’m not progressive, a news site, or a blogger, because I wasn’t invited to participate in this phone conference. Please join with me in protesting to MoveOn.org their continuation of support to the mainstream media—they keep putting money in the pockets of Rupert Murdoch, General Electric, and Disney, whose media outlets are mere scribes for the administration. Not to mention their willingness to denigrate every Democrat while seldom reporting Republican wrongdoing.
MoveOn.org should be putting its money into truth-telling media, not those that pass on the administration’s lies to the American people. Click here for their forum, and scroll down to rate and respond to the thread I started, below. Make your voice heard.—Caro]
Why are you supporting the mainstream media
I take serious exception to your continued financial support of the mainstream media, the same media that profit from Republican administrations and even profit from war. The same media that denigrate liberals and seldom report wrongdoing by conservatives.
You should be putting the funds you raise into independent media that tell the truth, and that call this administration to account.
This is what you voted for, America!
Cutting Out the Poor
By William Raspberry
Monday, January 31, 2005; Page A21
I've been talking to Peter Edelman, a Georgetown University law professor who is thoughtful, liberal, incredibly decent -- and alarmed over the national budget President Bush will shortly propose.
"For virtually all of my adulthood," he said, "America has had a bipartisan agreement that we ought to provide some basic framework of programs and policies that provide a safety net, not just for the poor but for a large portion of the American people who need help to manage.
"There've been exceptions -- the first Reagan term with David Stockman, the brief ascendancy of Newt Gingrich -- but while we've argued about the specifics, the basic framework has been there.
"With this budget, the basic framework is being dismantled."
Before you dismiss it as partisan hyperbole, hear Edelman's specifics: The basic structure of Social Security is under attack (on the grounds that the program is in crisis, though most respected economists say it isn't). Pell Grants for college tuition are on the cutting block. So are Section 8 housing vouchers (which started under Richard Nixon) and food stamps. Programs that have offered some protection for people in the lower third of the economy are under threat of evisceration…
[As I’ve said before and will keep saying, we all pay for poverty, one way or another. We pay by having a living wage included in the prices of the products we buy, or we pay extra taxes to support the working poor, or we pay by having to step over the bodies of those who die in the streets, which is where the Bush administration is taking us. I say we should pay for a living wage in the prices of products. Then, if a product is too expensive, it deserves to lose in the marketplace.—Caro]
Congressional Research Service
Estimated Effect of Price-Indexing Social Security Benefits on the Number of Americans 65 and Older in Poverty
January 28, 2005
According to the Census Bureau, 3.552 million Americans age 65 or older had total family incomes below the federal poverty threshold in 2003. This number was 10.2% of the 34.659 million noninstitutionalized persons who were age 65 or older in 2003. If Social Security benefits had been reduced that year by the ratio of CPI/AWI with both indices based on their 1940 level, benefits would have been reduced for the average recipient by approximately 55%.8 Our analysis indicates that a reduction in Social Security benefits in 2003 based on the decline in the ratio of CPI/AWI since 1940 would have resulted in an increase in the number of Americans age 65 or older with incomes below the poverty threshold from 3.552 million to 10.537 million. This number would have been equal to 30.4% of the 34.659 million noninstitutionalized persons who were age 65 or older in 2003. Our estimates are consistent with those published by the Social Security Administration on the effect that Social Security has on the number of Americans living in poverty. The Social Security Administration has estimated that without income from Social Security, the number of people 65 and older living in poverty in 2000 would have increased by 9.2 million…
[MakeThemAccountable ResearchSpeak translator: Had George Bush’s plan to decrease Social Security benefits been effective in 2003, 7 million more old people would now be on the poverty rolls. Hey, we can just let them die in the streets. Old farts shouldn’t live that long, anyhow.—Caro]
February 3, 2005
SOTU: The Morning After
With a nose running and arm aching, I am in no state to take yesterday's State of the Union speech seriously. It was classic Bush. Devious and Deceptive. And effective. CBS reinforced the power of televised political theater by taking one of those totally unscientific junk journalism online polls while the speech was underway to report that many Americans who believed that Bush had no plan on Iraq now believe he has one. There apparently were no questions asked about the tooth fairy. Why does Rather seems to need to ingratiate himself to the White House this way. Its a bit late. He is being temporarily replaced by Bob Schiefer until they find a trio of younger news readers. The old CBS is history.
CNN used the word "dissected" to blandly summarize the President's well honed message points. On Social Security, AP's "fact checker," Calvin Woodward, took the speech apart:
"Bush explained in detail how, under his proposal, younger workers would be able to divert some of their Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts 'so you can build a nest egg for your own future.'
"Nowhere in his State of the Union speech did he give the other side of the equation—that Social Security benefits for those workers would be reduced as a result. He stated 'your account will provide money for retirement over and above the check you will receive from Social Security,' without explaining that check would be smaller…
George Bush thinks YOU’re the easiest person to fool. Some “ownership.”
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
by John in DC - 2/2/2005 11:51:02 PM
This just in from the Associate Editor of the Washington Post:
Even more curiously, a "senior administration official" who briefed reporters on the Social Security proposal earlier today disclosed details of the White House plan that I don't think will play well in Peoria. Most significantly, this official revealed that most or all of the earnings from new "personal" or privatized accounts will be paid not to the holder of the account, but to the government. The senior official called this a "benefit offset." It's one way to finance the creation of these private accounts, but it's going to cause quite a political stir, I think.
Those little liars. So we get to speculate with "our" money, and then Uncle Sam will take it away from us in the end anyway? Nice. What a son of a bitch. That's not really giving us "ownership," now is it?
The New York Times
Gambling With Your Retirement
Published: February 4, 2005
A few weeks ago I tried to explain the logic of Bush-style Social Security privatization: it is, in effect, as if your financial adviser told you that you wouldn't have enough money when you retire - but you shouldn't save more. Instead, you should borrow a lot of money, buy stocks and hope for capital gains…
If you put part of your payroll taxes into a personal account, your future benefits will be reduced by an amount equivalent to the amount you would have had to repay if you had borrowed the money at a real interest rate of 3 percent.
Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution got it exactly right: "It's not a nest egg. It's a loan."…
[I]f you invested your private account in government bonds, you would face benefit cuts equal in value to your investment, so you would be no better off than under the current system.
The only way to get ahead would be to invest in risky assets like stocks, and hope for higher yields. But if the investment went wrong and you earned less than 3 percent after inflation, your benefit cuts would leave you poorer than if you had never opened that private account.
So people are expected to take a loan from the government and use it to buy stocks, and if that turns out to have been a mistake - well, too bad…
Do you believe that we should replace America's most successful government program with a system in which workers engage in speculation that no financial adviser would recommend? Do you believe that we should do this even though it will do nothing to improve the program's finances? If so, George Bush has a deal for you.
Turning government agencies into partisan propaganda tools:
American Federation of Government Employees
January 28, 2005
SOCIAL SECURITY EMPLOYEES COUNCIL BLOWS WHISTLE ON AGENCY PROPAGANDA EFFORTS
(WASHINGTON) – On Friday January 28, officers of the National Social Security Council, which represents workers of the Social Security Administration (SSA), testified before the Democratic Senate Policy Committee regarding reports in the media that employees have been instructed to hype negative projections for Social Security and to promote privatizing Social Security.
Union testimony exposed ways in which SSA employees were instructed to promote the idea that Social Security is in a crisis and that private investment accounts are the solution to this financial situation. The testimony suggests that SSA may have violated federal law prohibiting agencies from using funds for propaganda purposes unless those funds are specifically designated for such use by act of Congress. Additionally, the testimony refuted recent White House assertions and a statement that SSA employees are now required to read, on behalf of Social Security Commissioner Jo Anne B. Barnhart, in the event that they are questioned about the recent media reports.
"Previously, our employees had shared information with the public about Social Security's financial condition, but had never been encouraged to support any particular 'reform' proposal. In fact, they were always expected to remain neutral on political and legislative matters," testified Steve Kofahl, regional vice president of the Council and president of AFGE Local 3937.
"Over the years, through Republican Administrations and Democratic Administrations, there was one constant: the work of the Social Security Administration should not be politicized," testified Debbie Fredericksen, Council executive vice president, now, "frontline Agency employees are being instructed to provide the American public with information that is designed to promote the idea that Social Security is in crisis and that Social Security privatization is the answer."…
The American Prospect, posted at CBS News
The Other Side Of Wall Street
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2005
by Robert B. Reich
President Bush's agenda, as outlined in his State of the Union, is certainly ambitious. You may think that the president's success enacting it depends on how many votes he can round up in Congress. This is the standard way of viewing the political process, but it leaves out a constituency that may play the most important role. I'm talking about Wall Street bond traders.
Remember, the bond traders were the ones who forced Bill Clinton to scale back his ambitious plan for public investments in education and health care…
[T]he bond traders … [are] beginning to worry about the size of the deficits likely to result from Bush's plans, just like they worried about Clinton's potential deficits. They've heard estimates of the trillions of dollars the government will have to borrow over the next decade in order to privatize Social Security, not to mention making Bush's tax cuts permanent.
All the borrowing will create a deluge of new Treasury securities on the market. This will put extra pressure on interest rates because there's only a limited amount of savings out there to be borrowed -- and it'll push bond prices down.
The White House is telling bond traders not to worry because the extra borrowing will be paid back in 30 to 60 years when Social Security benefits are cut. But that may not convince the bond traders…
Bush's $2.57T Budget Plan Seeks Steep Cuts
Mon, Feb 07, 2005
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON - President Bush sent Congress a $2.57 trillion budget plan Monday that would boost spending on the military and homeland security but seeks spending cuts across a wide swath of other government programs. Bush's budget would reduce subsidies paid to farmers, cut health programs for poor people and veterans and trim spending on the environment and education.
"It is a budget that sets priorities," Bush said after a meeting with his Cabinet. "It's a budget that reduces and eliminates redundancy. It's a budget that's a lean budget."
Bush acknowledged that it would be difficult to eliminate popular programs but he said programs must prove their worth. "I look forward to explaining to the American people why we made some of the requests that we made in our budget," the president told reporters…
Democrats immediately branded the budget a "hoax" because it left out the huge future costs for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and did not include the billions of dollars that will be needed for Bush's No. 1 domestic priority, overhauling Social Security…
The New York Times
Spearing the Beast
Published: February 8, 2005
President Bush isn't trying to reform Social Security. He isn't even trying to "partially privatize" it. His plan is, in essence, to dismantle the program, replacing it with a system that may be social but doesn't provide security. And the goal, as with his tax cuts, is to undermine the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt.
Why do I say that the Bush plan would dismantle Social Security? Because for Americans who entered the work force after the plan went into effect and who chose to open private accounts, guaranteed benefits - income you receive after retirement even if everything else goes wrong - would be nearly eliminated…
Why expose workers to that much risk? Ideology. "Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state," declares Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute. "If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."
By the welfare state, Mr. Moore means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - social insurance programs whose purpose, above all, is to protect Americans against the extreme economic insecurity that prevailed before the New Deal. The hard right has never forgiven F.D.R. (and later L.B.J.) for his efforts to reduce that insecurity, and now that the right is running Washington, it's trying to turn the clock back to 1932.
Medicaid is also in the cross hairs. And if Mr. Bush can take down Social Security, Medicare will be next.
The attempt to "jab a spear" through Social Security complements the strategy of "starve the beast," long advocated by right-wing intellectuals: cut taxes, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse for cuts in social spending…
WHouse Balks at Submitting Social Security Plan
Tue Feb 8, 2005 08:31 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House has told lawmakers it has no immediate plans to submit its own detailed proposal to Congress for overhauling Social Security, sources briefed by the administration said on Tuesday.
President Bush has made adding private retirement accounts to the Social Security system his top domestic priority. The proposal has run into opposition from Democrats and some of Bush's fellow Republicans.
Bush bases his call for a broad overhaul of the 70-year-old Social Security program on his contention it is headed into a financial crisis, a characterization Democrats, and many in his own Republican Party, say exaggerates the problem.
Republican and Democratic congressional aides said the White House made clear in briefings this week it would not submit a legislative proposal, at least not for the time being. Instead, the White House will try to coordinate efforts with lawmakers crafting their own proposals.
A senior Bush administration official said no final decision had been made. "If there comes a point when the president needs to spell out specific legislation, he won't hesitate," the official said.
A Democratic congressional aide said the White House was "backsliding" in the face of stiffer-than-expected opposition…
You can’t fool most of the people most of the time.
Poll: Wealthy should bolster Social Security
Tuesday, February 8, 2005 Posted: 7:17 PM EST (0017 GMT)
(CNN) -- Americans think the wealthy should help bolster Social Security, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released Tuesday suggests.
More than two-thirds of 1,010 adults contacted from Friday to Sunday said it would be a good idea to limit benefits for wealthier retirees and for higher income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all their wages.
Currently, the cap on wages taxed for Social Security is set at $90,000…
About 55 percent of respondents thought Bush's proposal that would allow wage earners to invest some of their Social Security taxes in private investment accounts in the future is a "bad idea" -- the same percentage as a month ago before the president began his campaign for the plan.
Forty percent said it was a good idea in both polls…
Bush attempts to legitimize his attempt to destroy Social Security. (This
is not a satire.)
The White House
February 4, 2005
President Discusses Strengthening Social Security in Florida
Tampa Convention Center
4:07 P.M. EST
… THE PRESIDENT: Yes, she's asking about the cost of the transition. It's estimated about $600 billion over a 10-year period of time to get the personal accounts started on the -- the way we've suggested they grow. It's a good question.
Q -- really understand how is it the new plan is going to fix that problem?
THE PRESIDENT: Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.
Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.
Okay, better? I'll keep working on it. (Laughter.)
Poll: Seniors Key to Slip in Bush Rating
Fri, Feb 11, 2005
By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The public's confidence in President Bush's job performance and the nation's direction has slipped in the opening weeks of his second term, particularly among people 50 and older, according to an Associated Press poll.
Adults were evenly divided on Bush's job performance in January, but now 54 percent disapprove and 45 percent approve. The number who think the country is headed down the wrong track increased from 51 percent to 58 percent in the past month…
Older Americans, especially those 65 and above, were most responsible for the declining confidence and approval numbers. Middle-aged people between 30 and 50 were about evenly split on Bush's job performance…
The poll was a taken at a time that some leaders in both parties have begun to question elements of the president's proposal to change Social Security, said Robert Shapiro, a specialist on polling and politics at Columbia University. During that time, details of Bush's proposed 2006 budget cuts have been emerging…
Breaking ranks. At last!
Hastert: Public not sold on Social Security plans
`You can't jam change down the American people's throat,' speaker says
By Jill Zuckman
Published February 11, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Despite President Bush's intensive public campaign to revamp Social Security, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Thursday that voters are not yet persuaded that the retirement program is in crisis or that it needs a dramatic overhaul to save it.
As Bush travels the country promoting his plan, Hastert cautioned in his first extensive interview on the president's top domestic priority that much selling needs to be done and a hard fight in Congress lies ahead, because "you can't jam change down the American people's throat."
Hastert (R-Ill.) said he thinks Bush is doing a good job, but he also said it would be difficult to tackle the issue without Democrats' participation and that it would take the House and the Senate "to be able to lift this load."
Hastert said he is open to combining Social Security reform with tax legislation to spur the economy, but he declined to specify what sort of tax changes he would like to see. He said the road to reform could be a lengthy one, taking as much as two years…
Conservatives Join Forces for Bush Plans
Social Security, Tort Limits Spur Alliance
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page A04
With billions of dollars at stake, a large network of influential conservative groups is mounting a high-priced campaign to help the White House win passage of legislation to partially privatize Social Security and limit class-action lawsuits.
Corporate America, the financial services industry, conservative think tanks, much of the Washington trade association community, the Republican Party and GOP lobbyists and consultants are prepared to spend $200 million or more to influence the outcome of two of the toughest legislative fights in recent memory.
Many of these same interest groups backed Bush administration tax cuts, the 2003 Medicare prescription drug legislation and proposed energy initiatives. As President Bush begins his second term, the alliance has become an institutional fixture, providing both money and manpower to further the Bush agenda and strengthen the Republican Party apparatus…
But just as Social Security and lawsuit legislation have united right-of-center groups, they have also joined together, in opposition, much of the left: the influential AARP seniors organization; labor unions; the Association of Trial Lawyers of America; consumer, civil rights and environmental groups; and much of the Democratic Party.
The emergence of the center-right phalanx backing the Social Security proposal is a major victory for the Cato Institute, a prominent libertarian group. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Cato was almost alone in its willingness to challenge the legitimacy of the existing Social Security system, a politically sacrosanct retirement program…
Letter to the editor regarding the article above
It's very interesting how you categorize left, center, and right in the article, "Conservatives Join Forces for Bush Plans."
Those who support policies that the majority of Americans are in favor of, especially when they are policies that benefit the most Americans, must certainly be described as centrist.
The cabal of business groups and the extremely right-wing Cato Institute, which are determined to feather the nests of business owners at the expense of most of us, cannot be described as being center-right. It is actually a reactionary group. And the coalition you describe as being on the left, according to the definition above, is actually centrist.
Activism works, friends.
Brokerage Leaves Coalition
Edward Jones Pressed On Bush Plan Support
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 12, 2005; Page E01
A large Midwest brokerage abruptly withdrew from a business coalition that backs President Bush's Social Security proposals after the AFL-CIO staged protests at two of the firm's offices and attacked it on the Internet.
Edward D. Jones & Co., which operates under the trade name Edward Jones, resigned from the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, a coalition of corporations and trade associations that has long pressed for the creation of private accounts as part of Social Security. The St. Louis company has been a member of the coalition since 1998, the year of its inception…
Haven’t I been saying this, too? That we should be using
the Social Security surplus to pay down the national debt, because the
government will need to borrow so much when the baby boomers start to retire?
Funny that a bond expert agrees with me.
Sizing Up Social Security
… Wall Street, K Street, and increasingly Main Street are all "abuzz" about Social Security and the size of our future liability to senior citizens. Can we afford it and what year does the system go bankrupt? (2052 according to the CBO - the day after tomorrow if you listen to Bush’s urgent tones). But this argument about insolvency and how much money is or will be in the Social Security Trust fund is really all so silly. It is an argument to promote an agenda that has little to do with seniors and more to do with Bush, his ownership society, and ultimately his domestic legacy alongside the likes of Ronald Reagan and FDR. Without a blockbuster of a program in his second term it is unlikely that Bush can go very far in the history books on the back of a paltry 3 or 4 percentage point tax cut for the rich. Presto! We now have partial privatization of Social Security heading the agenda upon which the President intends to spend his well-advertised political capital. Privatization, however, is advanced as a simple way to salvage a sinking system when in fact the problem has more to do with demographics than the lack of ownership.
Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates LLC, sub-advisor of PIMCO’s all asset strategy and a co-collaborator with Peter Bernstein on several articles about risk and future asset returns, has advanced what I consider to be the most realistic take on Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Pre-funding these systems, he argues, "is basically irrelevant." And (in my own words) it matters little whether the system is pre-refunded with Treasury bonds or privately held stocks. The fact is that both of these financial assets represent a call on future production. If that production could possibly be saved, like squirrels ferreting away nuts for a long winter, then Treasury IOUs or corporate stocks might make some sense. But they can’t…
[F]future IOUs would be of little help in providing senior boomer goods and services but there’s little doubt that the minimizing of those IOUs will make the job a lot easier. By reducing budget deficits now, and especially that portion of the deficit owed to foreign governments, we would be able to keep more of our domestic production within our borders and therefore available to senior citizens…
It seems to me that the existing set of politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are either shortsighted or legally blind. Common sense would inform even the most inexperienced Washington bureaucrat that Social Security (and Medicare) imbalances are curses of demographics and not financial funding. Keeping the "size" of our future IOUs low and out of foreign hands would minimize inflationary pressures and the transfer of goods and services overseas in future decades. It would also make it possible in future decades to borrow more overseas production than we could have with an excessive debt load. But it cannot avoid the baked-in-the-cake increase in the dependency ratio shown in Chart I. It’s the diminishing "size" then of our working population, or if you will, the increasing "size" of our future retirees that makes the critical difference and raises the spectre of crisis. No amount of privatization or Social Security reform with the exception of higher Social Security taxes (and therefore lower effective deficits) will change that. Size, as they say - in this case demographic size - does make a difference.
William H. Gross
[Of course we could just line the baby boomers up before a bunch of firing squads.—Caro]
New York Newsday
Investment pros: Don’t touch Social Security
February 12, 2005
Put aside, for the moment, the well-worn political, economic and academic arguments on the future of Social Security and ask your financial adviser this simple question: Is it a good idea to trade in the guaranteed benefit of Social Security for a private investment account?...
"Personally, I don't favor privatized accounts," Bill told me via e-mail. "I think Social Security should be a guaranteed benefit no matter what happens in the stock market." Earlier he had praised Social Security's benefits because they are adjusted for inflation and progressive, meaning that the lower a worker's final salary, the higher the percentage that benefits replace.
But recognizing that Social Security could run into the red in 40 years, as the system's trustees report, he added, "my own favorite remedy is to delay the age at which benefits pay out." For Bill and many other conservative financial advisers, a "guaranteed" return from Social Security - quite literally, money in the bank - is a better deal than anything speculative. And despite promised returns from privatization, nothing in the stock market is guaranteed. Stocks are sold with the legally required caveat that they could decline in value.
As you know, President George W. Bush's plan to privatize part of Social Security would begin with the creation of millions of individual retirement savings accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s. So I asked an acknowledged guru of these savings plans, Rockville Centre CPA Ed Slott, what he thought.
His reply was practical.
"I am against them [private accounts as part of Social Security]," he wrote. "While everyone wants to think they can invest better than the government, all of these people screaming to keep government out of Social Security and invest on their own will be the first on line to cry to the government to bail them out when they lose their money through their own investing mistakes or fraud. ... Having this much money up for grabs on Wall Street is scary. ... Private accounts seem to have all the makings of a breeding ground for massive fraud, followed by a government bailout that would make the savings and loan bailout look like a mere warm-up....
"Social Security is the only system that guarantees a monthly check, and that is something that I believe is sacred and should not be tampered with.... Who will protect the people that will lose their money? It sounds great to take control of your money, and I am all for that through funding your own IRA and other retirement accounts, but not at the expense of Social Security."…
Los Angeles Times
February 13, 2005
A Personal Burden
Chile switched to a privatized pension system nearly 25 years ago, and millions of workers still fall through the cracks
By Marla Dickerson, Times Staff Writer
Weary from decades of working nights and weekends at a public hospital, nursing assistant Inelia Pardo Acevedo recently retired.
But the 64-year-old plans to look for a part-time job to pad the nest egg in her personal retirement account. The $225 a month she draws under Chile's privatized system doesn't stretch far. And what galls her is that colleagues who stuck with traditional pension plans get three times as much, guaranteed for the rest of their lives.
The government "painted this wonderful picture of private accounts," Pardo said. "They fooled me. They fooled us all."
As the Social Security debate heats up in the United States, many are looking south to Chile, where nearly a quarter century of experience with privatization hasn't settled the question of how to best construct an old-age safety net…
Tom Tomorrow, Working for Change
Media Matters for America
James Roosevelt Jr: Hume's "outrageous distortion" of FDR "calls for a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation"
MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and former Social Security associate commissioner James Roosevelt Jr. examined how FOX News Washington managing editor Brit Hume and other pundits distorted a quote by Roosevelt Jr.'s grandfather, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in order to claim that the former president would have supported privatizing Social Security.
During their discussion, Olbermann referenced the distortions by Hume, nationally syndicated radio host and former Reagan administration official William J. Bennett, and Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund -- which Media Matters for America has documented. Roosevelt Jr. echoed Air America Radio host Al Franken's call for Hume to resign, saying that "he rearranged those sentences in an outrageous distortion, one that really calls for a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation."…
Agence France Presse
Greenspan comments spark fresh debate on private social security accounts
Thu Feb 17, 6:10 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's comments on private social security retirement accounts this week intensified the debate on President George W. Bush's controversial reform proposal.
The powerful central bank chief endorsed the concept of private accounts within the public pension system. But, appearing in Congress this week, said any reform effort should proceed with caution…
But Greenspan stopped short of specifically backing the Bush proposal to allow young workers to place part of their Social Security payroll contributions in "personal savings accounts."
Greenspan also avoided using the term "crisis" to describe the situation and said an even bigger problem may come in Medicare, the public health program that covers retirees.
Bush nonetheless took the Greenspan comments as an [sic] blessing for his plan…
Center for American Progress
Greenspan Explains Problems with Bush's Privatization Plan
February 17, 2005
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan yesterday admitted that the president's current Social Security privatization plan has major flaws. Although the mainstream press focused on Greenspan's theoretical support for private accounts, his testimony revealed deep reservations about the transition costs and his belief that Bush's plan will do nothing to alleviate long-term funding problems in the system.
· Greenspan admitted Social Security privatization will not increase overall national savings. During his testimony, Greenspan argued that the key to fulfilling our commitments to future retirees is to increase national savings. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) asked Greenspan, "Would you also agree…that the private accounts will basically leave national savings unchanged since the government is borrowing money to give to individual citizens to invest in the market?" Greenspan replied, "Yes, I do."
· Greenspan believes private accounts will do nothing to save Social Security. Greenspan expressed concern about Social Security's long term financial stability under privatization schemes. Sen. Chuck Shumer (D-NY) asked if "setting up a private account under current conditions, not starting from scratch...does anything to alleviate the problem." Greenspan replied that setting up private accounts "surely doesn't alleviate the current problem."
· Greenspan would not endorse borrowing trillions of dollars to finance Social Security privatization. Notably absent from Greenspan's theoretical defense of private accounts was any solid defense of the president's plan to borrow trillions to finance the phase-out of Social Security. He warned of negative consequences from borrowing huge sums of money and stated, "We don't know how the markets respond to that…And if we were to go forward in a large way and we were wrong, it would be creating more difficulties than I would imagine."
Rove to GOP: Don't Grow 'Tired or Timid'
Thu Feb 17,11:21 PM ET
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Karl Rove, President Bush's top political strategist, on Thursday pronounced conservatism the "dominant political creed in America" and coached fellow conservatives on how to support his boss.
"The next time one of your smartypants liberal friends says to you, `Well, he didn't have a mandate,' you tell him of this delicious fact: This president got a higher percentage of the vote than any Democratic candidate for president since 1964," Rove said…
"Republicans cannot grow tired or timid," he said.
Rove told a gathering at the Conservative Political Action Conference that Bush is committed to the members' ideas of fostering morality and values, including protecting the culture of life for every human person — a goal that generated applause from the crowd at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
"Conservatism is the dominant political creed in America," Rove said, adding that more needed to be done.
He also said the administration was committed to spreading democracy across the Middle East and reforming and modernizing Social Security, health care, public education and the tax code.
"Those who oppose this agenda are in a difficult position," Rove said. "They're attempting to block reforms to systems that almost every serious-minded person concedes need reform. ... That's not a good place to be in American politics."…
So are Tom DeLay and Dennis Hastert not in
a good place?
Idea to Raise Social Security Wage Limit Criticized
GOP House Leaders Say President's Proposal Would Amount to a Tax Increase
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page A04
The House's top two Republicans swiftly rejected an idea floated by President Bush to raise the ceiling on wages subject to the Social Security payroll tax, with Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay saying yesterday that they would consider that a tax increase.
Underscoring the fluidity of the debate over Bush's proposal for restructuring the 70-year-old retirement program, DeLay (Tex.) said Congress should look at a more flexible retirement age. But he flatly opposed subjecting more of the earnings of higher-income people to the Social Security tax.
"This Republican House didn't come here to raise taxes," DeLay said on Fox News. "We can solve this problem without raising taxes."…
The New York Times
Published: February 22, 2005
The campaign against Social Security is going so badly that longtime critics of President Bush, accustomed to seeing their efforts to point out flaws in administration initiatives brushed aside, are pinching themselves. But they shouldn't relax: if the past is any guide, the Bush administration will soon change the subject back to national security.
The political landscape today reminds me of the spring of 2002, after the big revelations of corporate fraud. Then as now, the administration was on the defensive, and Democrats expected to do well in midterm elections.
Then, suddenly, it was all Iraq, all the time, and Harken Energy and Halliburton vanished from the headlines.
I don't know which foreign threat the administration will start playing up this time, but Bush critics should be prepared for the shift. They must curb their natural inclination to focus almost exclusively on domestic issues, and challenge the administration on national security policy, too…
Mr. Bush's critics are falling into an unnecessary trap if they focus only on domestic policies, and allow Mr. Bush to keep his undeserved reputation as someone who keeps Americans safe. National security policy should not be a refuge to which Mr. Bush can flee when his domestic agenda falls apart.
From the communists at
Privatization's desperate little secrets
High cost, low returns and a backdoor tax increase
By Paul B. Farrell,
Last Update: 7:25 PM ET Feb. 20, 2005
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Television reflects cultural trends. Take Wall Street's obsession with privatization. It plays like ABC's hit show "Desperate Housewives."
Wall Street wants to get its hands on trillions in your retirement savings. The lovely ladies of Wisteria Lane want to get their hands on the hunks. Both are grabbing assets. Both are desperate.
But why is Wall Street is so desperate? Simple: Trillions in new private accounts mean billions in new fees for The Street. And while I favor private accounts in theory, the numbers just don't add up for Main Street investors.
Everything points to hidden costs, expensive funds and lower returns. And that amounts to a backdoor tax increase. But nobody's talking about that. Instead, we're being pitched a rosy scenario, just like last year with the grossly underestimated Medicare drug program. All other Social Security reform issues are only talking points in Wall Street's aggressive pro-privatization sales pitch…
When they’re losing on the issues, the
trot out the vicious attack dogs.
The New York Times
A New Target for Advisers to Swift Vets
Published: February 21, 2005
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 - Taking its cues from the success of last year's Swift boat veterans' campaign in the presidential race, a conservative lobbying organization has hired some of the same consultants to orchestrate attacks on one of President Bush's toughest opponents in the battle to overhaul Social Security.
The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush's plan.
"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."…
How objective journalism can fail to reveal the truth
February 20, 2005
When President George W. Bush came out with his 2006 budget recently, it received a lot of attention in the press.
Too bad that most of it missed the most obvious problem with it.
While stating the budget was in line with his commitment to cut the deficit in half by 2009, Bush failed to mention the three items that weren't in the budget. First, there is the cost the war in Iraq. Next up, we have the $1 trillion (at least) price tag to privatize Social Security. And lastly, there is the continuation of the tax cuts, which are set to expire, but that Bush said he wants to make permanent.
In other words, this budget isn't very truthful. In fact, deceptive is about the nicest description you can use for it.
This is a time when I wished someone would ask the obvious question of the president: Are you really bad at math, or are you lying to us?
But of course, you won't hear that question at the next press conference. There's something about calling the president a liar on live TV that scares the willies out reporters, even when it's this blatant.
Certainly, they'll ask a much nicer question, and they will dutifully report his answer, even if it makes no sense.
That's what we call objective journalism…
Of, By and For Big Business
By Robert Scheer, AlterNet. Posted February 22, 2005.
What is so phony about the much ballyhooed tort reform is that it aims not at overzealous lawyers but only at those who happen to represent poorer plaintiffs.
Watching the 109th Congress, one would be forgiven for thinking our Constitution was the blueprint for a government of Big Business, by Big Business and for Big Business. Forget the people – this is Robin Hood in reverse.
Here's the agenda, as laid out by the president and the Republicans who control Congress: First, limit people's power to right wrongs done to them by corporations. Next, force people to repay usurious loans to credit card companies that make gazillions off the fine print. Then, for the coup de grace, hand over history's most successful public safety net to Wall Street.
Of course, the GOP and the White House use slightly different language for this corporate-lobbyist trifecta: "Tort reform," "eliminating abuse of bankruptcy" and "keeping Social Security solvent" are the preferred Beltway phrasings for messing with the little guy.
The first installment came last week with the passage of a law that will make it more difficult for consumers to win class-action lawsuits against private companies. Because state courts, which are closer to the people, have proved sympathetic to the liability claims of ordinary folks, the new legislation puts many class-action suits in federal courts, which turn out decisions more attuned to the heartfelt pleas of corporate attorneys.
What is so phony about the much ballyhooed tort reform is that it aims not at overzealous lawyers but only at those who happen to represent poorer plaintiffs. Corporate lawyers are very much in play in writing this new legislation…
Next on the corporate wish list is savaging Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief, which is offered to individuals who can't pay their debts. It allows them to give up nonessential assets in exchange for a fresh start. Chapter 7 has been a tool for family and societal stability for decades; torquing it in the favor of credit card companies has been a fantasy of the industry for almost as long.
Never mind that it is obvious to everybody who gets junk mail that lenders should be far more responsible about how they hand out credit cards…
[T]he GOP's legislative calendar looks like a wish list sent over to the White House from the Chamber of Commerce across the street… After all, the chamber spent $168 million to push the anti-class-action lawsuit bill along. Still to come this session: raising allowable emissions standards on major pollutants, oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the granddaddy of all corporate payouts: privatization of Social Security.
So what's the big revelation? That, almost 2,000 years after Jesus routed those scoundrels, the money changers have not merely reentered the temple – they are the temple.
St. Louis Post-Gazette
Santorum finds many minds made up on Social Security
Senator on tour seeking support for Bush plan
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
By Maeve Reston, Post-Gazette National Bureau
JOHNSTOWN -- Sen. Rick Santorum launched a 10-stop tour of Pennsylvania yesterday to advocate for changes to the Social Security system, but landed -- even at his very first stop -- at the center of an already-roiling debate about the proposals.
This week, Santorum and other Republicans members of Congress are hosting a series of town hall events around the country at which they hope to convince the public that Congress must act this year to address the Social Security program's long-term financial difficulties.
One of their chief goals is to soothe anxiety about President Bush's proposal to allow workers younger than 55 to divert a portion of their payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts that would be invested in a conservative blend of stocks and bonds.
But minutes into Santorum's first presentation at Duquesne University, jeers and skeptical questioning arose from a considerable segment of the crowd. Some of the most pointed questions came from older workers whose benefit payouts would not be altered under the president's plan.
A brighter spot for Santorum, though, was that a number of younger participants -- including college students -- said his presentation had sold them on the concept of personal retirement accounts…
[I guess those young people haven’t read anything about how detrimental the private accounts will be.—Caro]
The young people who like private accounts apparently don’t read
The New York Times
Published: February 23, 2005
As he stumps for Social Security privatization, President Bush always gets a big round of applause for promising that the money in a private account could be passed on to one's heirs.
If those happy clappers only knew the details.
Under the president's proposal, when you retired you would not be able to start spending the money in your private account until after you bought an annuity, a financial contract in which you hand over a lump-sum payment and, in return, get a monthly stream of income for life. The upside of buying such an annuity would be that you'd be protected against outliving all of your money. The downside is that even if you died immediately after retirement, the most your heirs would inherit would be the amount that remained in your private account after you had paid for the mandatory annuity. (If you lived longer, of course, you might well need to spend the remainder to supplement the annuity's low monthly payout. )
The idea of making the private accounts part of one's estate is particularly appealing to low- and middle-income earners, who may not have all that much to leave to their heirs under normal circumstances. But those are exactly the people who would have to use the largest share of their accounts to buy annuities…
What if you died before you retired?...
[T]he government could take its cut from your private account before the money went to your survivors - a grab that could wipe out your stash.
The White House would hotly deny that the last alternative could happen. Nothing freaks out the Bush administration more than the suggestion that the government would ever tap someone's private account - even for money that is owed to the government. It doesn't, however, seem too bothered about gutting your traditional benefits. Go figure.
And those same young people who like private accounts apparently don’t
Los Angeles Times
States' Private Pensions Make a Weak Showing
Tue Feb 22, 7:55 AM ET
By Peter G. Gosselin Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — President Bush believes Americans are so eager to join the "ownership society" that, given a chance, two-thirds of those eligible would divert funds from Social Security into the personal investment accounts he proposes.
But when public employees in seven states were offered the opportunity for similar accounts during the last decade, nowhere near two-thirds signed up for them. In many instances, the figure was closer to 5%.
Bush has argued in campaign-style events from Fargo, N.D., to Blue Bell, Pa., that Social Security account holders could make more money for retirement on their own than they can count on from the New Deal-era fixed-benefit program.
But when Nebraska's state and county workers were given do-it-yourself accounts, they made so many investment errors that they ended up making less than colleagues with fixed-benefit pensions — and less than what analysts have said is needed for old age. Their poor performance led the Nebraska Legislature two years ago to junk the accounts for new employees…
Pablo on Politics
New York Newsday
Bash-the-AARP effort off to a smarmy start
February 23, 2005
It's like a Washington sequel to "Reservoir Dogs."
Finally rested up from their cynical assault last year on John Kerry's patriotism, the most ruthless smear squad in American politics is back together again.
And they're revving up for another nasty job.
Their latest ugly enterprise? Sliming the AARP, which had the nerve to come out against President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.
This is the same gang of rhetorical hatchet men behind the deceptively named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. During last year's presidential campaign, they were telling vicious lies about Kerry's combat record in Vietnam. Now, they're turning their trash talk on the nation's largest and most effective senior citizens lobbying group, which they'll try to tar as an extreme left-wing cabal…
Money certainly won't be a problem, not with the deep-pocketed Republican donors and well-crafted direct-mail network this crowd can depend on. Bringing the old gang together and coughing up the dough - $10 million just for starters, by one estimate - is an organization called USA Next.
Founded as the United Senior Association by legendary Republican direct-mail jockey Richard Viguerie in 1991, USA Next is a bare-knuckles conservative lobbying group masquerading as a senior citizens association. Viguerie and the group's current president, Charlie Jarvis, have developed quite a knack for scaring old people with dire warnings about their Social Security checks.
Now they'll try to demonize the insufficiently compliant AARP.
"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," USA Next president Charlie Jarvis told New York Times reporter Glen Justice the other day. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."…
The USA Next bash-the-AARP campaign is getting off to a truly reprehensible start: An Internet ad titled "The REAL AARP Agenda." It was posted Monday to various right-wing Web sites.
The ad makes the preposterous claim that the AARP hates the troops and loves gays…
By yesterday, a roar of outrage had risen from Democrats on Capitol Hill, and the ad seemed to have been pulled, at least temporarily.
But if this is any indication of the tactics to come, it could be a very nasty spring in Washington, for those [AARP] card-carriers especially.
February 22, 2005
Government Control of the Stock Market Coming
It's called "privatizing Social Security" - but that's not what it really is. A side effect of Bush's plan is the government takeover of the stock market.
Think about it. With two trillion dollars of buying and selling power the federal government - or the private parties who are doing the government's investing - become, by a factor of 100, the biggest single investor in the world. And I doubt that anyone will ever make a stock decision without wondering what move the government is going to make.
Besides - who is going to enforce laws and ethical standards against the government? The government? The possibilities for insider trading are endless. And how do you feel about the idea that the single biggest owner of "free enterprise" is the government? Isn't that an oxymoron?
Because the market goes up over time doesn't mean all investors make money. There are winners and there are losers. There is nothing out there that will ensure that the government doesn't lose it all. The market is a gamble and if you don't understand that - you don't understand the market.
Bush proposes that we are going to borrow two trillion dollars to gamble in a market that will be completely changed by this new super investor. And we are going to borrow that money from Muslin Saudi oil barons - some of whom are members of the family of Osama bin Laden - and the rest is going to be borrowed from the Communist Chinese…
[There’s another problem with all that money flowing into the stock market. Remember when limited partnerships were the big deal for reducing taxes? What happens in these situations is that eventually more money flows into the system than there are good investments. But the money has to be invested. So the investments go into worse and worse deals, with much lower returns than the original investments. I know, because I used to work for one of the companies that created and sold those partnerships.—Caro]
The New York Times
Kansas on My Mind
Published: February 25, 2005
Call it "What's the Matter With Kansas - The Cartoon Version."
The slime campaign has begun against AARP, which opposes Social Security privatization. There's no hard evidence that the people involved - some of them also responsible for the "Swift Boat" election smear - are taking orders from the White House. So you're free to believe that this is an independent venture. You're also free to believe in the tooth fairy.
Their first foray - an ad accusing the seniors' organization of being against the troops and for gay marriage - was notably inept. But they'll be back, and it's important to understand what they're up to…
[B]efore the anti-privatization forces assume that winning the rational arguments is enough, they need to read Mr. Frank.
The message of [Thomas] Frank's book [What’s the Matter with Kansas?] is that the right has been able to win elections, despite the fact that its economic policies hurt workers, by portraying itself as the defender of mainstream values against a malevolent cultural elite. The right "mobilizes voters with explosive social issues, summoning public outrage ... which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends."
In Mr. Frank's view, this is a confidence trick: politicians like Mr. Santorum trumpet their defense of traditional values, but their true loyalty is to elitist economic policies. "Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. ... Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization." But it keeps working.
And this week we saw Mr. Frank's thesis acted out so crudely that it was as if someone had deliberately staged it. The right wants to dismantle Social Security, a successful program that is a pillar of stability for working Americans. AARP stands in the way. So without a moment's hesitation, the usual suspects declared that this organization of staid seniors is actually an anti-soldier, pro-gay-marriage leftist front…
Their first attack may have missed the mark, but it's the shape of smears to come.
They’re attacking from another perspective, as well. For more than 30
years, the right-wing elites have been putting their paid shills on television
to pretend to be unbiased and objective while promoting the point of view of
Media Matters for America
Pro-privatization Social Security experts on TV are paid for by the right
A Media Matters for America analysis of guests who have appeared on cable or network news since the November 2, 2004, election to discuss Social Security failed to find one independent expert with a graduate degree in economics who supported allowing workers to divert Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts.
Media Matters found eight guests who held graduate degrees in economics; three supported privatizing Social Security, and five opposed it. While all five opponents of privatization are supported by independent universities and organizations, all three privatization proponents are funded by right-wing organizations and foundations…
How long can Bush get away with lies?
February 25, 2005
BY ANDREW GREELEY
As the criminal, sinful war in Iraq enters its third year, the president goes to Europe to heal the wounds between the United States and its former allies, on his own terms of course. The White House propaganda mill will hail it as another victory for the president and ignore the fact that most Europeans still consider the war dangerous folly and the president a dangerous fool.
One hears new rationalizations for the war on this side of the Atlantic. After the hearings on Secretary of State Rice, a Republican senator, with all the self-righteous anger that characterizes many such, proclaimed, "The Democrats just have to understand that the president really believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." This justification is not unlike the one heard frequently at the White House, "The president believed the intelligence agencies of the world."
Would it not be much better to have a president who deliberately lied to the people because he thought a war was essential than to have one who was so dumb as to be taken in by intelligence agencies, especially those who told him what he wanted to hear?...
How long can the administration get along with its policies of spinning big lies into truth -- as it has more recently done on Social Security?...
You can still get away with the "big lie" as long as Karl Rove and his team of spinners keep providing persuasive rationalizations. The American public is still supine, uneasy about the war, but not willing yet to turn decisively against it. Will that still be the case next year when we "celebrate" the third anniversary of the war? Is the patience of the American people that long suffering? Is there no outrage left in the country?
[That’s FATHER Andrew Greeley, for those who don’t know.—Caro]
Project for the Old American Century
Give Sleaze A Chance
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2005
(CBS) This column was written by CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer.
Earnest and well-intentioned people across our earnest and well-intentioned country are all lathered because some of the folks who brought us the Swift Boat Veterans ads against John Kerry have now started a group called USA Next that is running ads against the AARP. They don't want the AARP to fight against President Bush's Social Security proposals. So the ads say that the AARP opposed our boys in uniform but supports boys who want to marry each other.
The earnest and well-intentioned think it's scurrilous and degrading to bring campaign dirty tricks into the serious business of fundamental social policy. I mean this is heavy stuff — intergenerational ethics, greedy geezers, the fiscal rights of the unborn, out years, privatization, assumed rates of returns. This is for the grown-ups.
Well, I say let's give sleaze a chance.
It's not like the "grown-ups" have done such a great job. This is like the fifth Social Security "crisis" we've had just since they cancelled "Dynasty."…
Let's give the dirty tricksters a turn. After all, they have managed to provide the couple of presidents of the United States of America and that's not chopped liver.
I think linking the AARP to gay marriage is brilliant. The response is obvious: George Soros and Rob Reiner need to secretly fund a Cayman Island based 527 advocacy group called Anti-Social Security (ASS) that will spend $487 million on television ads that link the Bush private accounts plans to forced female circumcision right here in America. Duh.
Obviously, the White House would then set up a slush fund run out of the bovine research shop at USDA to bribe Paul Krugman, Al Franken and The Nation magazine to flip-flop and support private accounts. Blackmail is reasonable option, too, and maybe cheaper. Maybe more fun.
The Dems could hit back in a couple ways. First they need to dig up some dirt on the economists who came up with whole private accounts concept. I heard there's a public finance economist at the University of Chicago had an illegal nanny for a couple months when his wife was in rehab a few years ago.
They obviously need front a group called Gulf War Vets With Really Sad Stories Against Private Social Security Accounts (GWVWRSSAPSSA) and book them on Oprah, Dr. Phil and The Daily Show.
And they really need some push polling that asks millions of Americans questions like, "If you knew that privatizing Social Security, as George W. Bush wants to do right this very second, would cause 56 percent of all seniors to eat dog food and also spark an outbreak of nostril-based psoriasis in women between 22 and 53…would you still support the president's plan?"
Finally, the Republicans need a Willie Horton ad…
Mike Lane, Baltimore Sun
GOP May Seek a Deal on Accounts
Anxious Lawmakers Negotiate With Democrats on Social Security Changes
By John F. Harris and Jim
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 27, 2005; Page A01
President Bush is still in the opening phase of a campaign to sell the public and Congress on his ambitious plans for Social Security, but some Republicans on Capitol Hill have decided it is not too early to begin pondering an exit strategy.
With polls showing widespread skepticism of Bush's proposed individual investment accounts and Democratic lawmakers expressing nearly uniform opposition, some allies of the president are focused on possible split-the-difference deals…
The American Prospect
February 25, 2005
DEALING WITH THE DEVIL. Josh Marshall hints that some dastardly Democrat is contemplating a deal with Lindsey Graham wherein "current payroll tax revenues are left in place for now and private accounts are funded in whole or in part from new payroll tax revenues generated by raising or even lifting the payroll tax cap." This is a moderately bad idea on policy terms, and a simply terrible political idea.
Most crucially, the House Republican leadership has already ruled it out. Thus, the only possible effect of brokering a compromise of this sort with moderate Senate Republicans would be to create a conference committee in which whatever concessions the GOP makes to turncoat Democrats will be purged from the bill. Then, having already conceded the high ground on the need to "do something" and on the point that the "something" ought to involve private accounts, turncoat Democrats will be forced to argue that the only problem with the conference report on the phase-out is that it doesn't raise taxes. This will, at best, transform a political winner for the Democrats into a political loser and, at worst, lead to the passage of a bad phase-out bill.
Democrats are winning this fight, and should accept nothing less than surrender…
In case you were doubting the real intention on Social Security,
Longview News-Journal, TX
Ex-House leader: Social Security should go away
By GLENN EVANS
Saturday, February 26, 2005
TYLER – Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Friday that Social Security should be phased out rather than saved.
"I think if you leave people free to choose, it will be phased out by competition," the former Republican congressman from Lewisville told reporters before sharing a President's Day Dinner with the Smith County Republican Club.
Armey, who left Congress in 2002 after 18 years, said younger Americans already believe personal investments produce greater retirement savings than Social Security will.
"We now have a generation of people that are thoroughly committed to investing their hopes and futures in private IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts)," Armey said. "People will always do better for themselves when they are free to choose from among competing options than if they are compelled. Most thoughtful people could do better."…
[Unthoughtful people or unlucky people can just be damned, I guess.—Caro]
Los Angeles Times
February 28, 2005
Attack on AARP, Like 'Religious War,' Built on Either/Or Fallacy
As synonyms for the word "vile," my thesaurus offers some of the following: offensive, objectionable, odious, repulsive, repellent, repugnant, revolting, disgusting, sickening, loathsome, foul, nasty, contemptible, despicable and noxious.
Any of those words would aptly describe the advertising attack launched last week against AARP, the largest advocacy group for seniors, by the conservative interest group USA Next. But there's one word that unfortunately can't be applied: surprising.
The salvo against AARP crystallizes trends developing both in the debate over Social Security and more broadly in the competition between the parties in Washington. On both fronts, the news isn't good…
Last week, USA Next announced it would spend $10 million on an ad campaign attacking AARP over its opposition to Bush's proposal to create private investment accounts funded by the Social Security payroll tax. USA Next opened the campaign with an Internet-only ad that uses logic so contorted it verges on parody to accuse AARP of opposing the military and supporting gay marriage.
Charlie Jarvis, USA Next's chairman and a former aide to President Reagan and religious conservative powerhouse James Dobson, promised that was just the start for AARP…
USA Next accused of stealing photo of gay couple for anti-AARP ad campaign
by John in DC - 2/28/2005 10:29:00 AM
Thanks to the DailyKos folks for discovering this story. I got in touch with the couple in the photo on Friday and put them in touch with a lawyer (a rather big lawyer at that). I'm now working as their publicist - not that I wouldn't have covered this anyway. Please help spread the word on this, it's outrageous.
Below is the press release we just sent out. And attached here is the letter the couple's lawyer just sent to USA Next.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2005
“USA NEXT” MISAPPROPRIATED COUPLES’
IMAGE FOR ANTI-GAY AD CAMPAIGN
Couple: Image Stolen for Campaign Against AARP
WASHINGTON, DC - Conservative front organization USA Next was accused today of illegally using a gay couple’s wedding photo in an anti-gay ad campaign supporting President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security.
The couple in the photo, Richard M. Raymen and Steven P. Hansen of Portland, Oregon, have come forward through an attorney to demand that USA Next stop using their image, and that the organization publicly apologize for using their image in a homophobic and libelous way. The demand, contained in a letter sent today to USA Next Chairman and CEO Charles Jarvis, references the couples’ right to seek damages for the misappropriation of their image…
A copy of the ad can be viewed online here:
"In 2004, our clients allowed their picture to be taken at their public celebration, as couples getting married do every day,” Christopher Wolf, a partner in the Washington, DC office of the New York-based law firm Proskauer Rose LLP and counsel for Raymen and Hansen. . “They did not volunteer to be models for a 2005 right-wing hate campaign, and never would have consented to having their images plastered in an ad of any kind, much less the one USA Next chose to run. USA Next has violated the law and must take responsibility for the consequences. Tort law is quite clear that USA Next acted illegally.”
“The USA Next ad communicates the false message that gay marriages generally, and our clients specifically, are the antithesis of supporting American troops during wartime,” said Wolf. “Gay marriage, and our clients’ ceremony, have nothing to do with support of the troops. Our clients are patriotic Americans who strongly support our service members.”…
But even with nonstop propaganda, you still can’t fool most of the people
most of the time.
Poll: Make wealthy pay for Soc. Sec.
Majority say high-income earners should pay Soc. Sec. tax on all their wages and get lower benefits.
February 8, 2005: 3:30 PM EST
ATLANTA (CNN) - Wealthier Americans should take the hit to bolster Social Security, according to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted over the weekend and released Tuesday.
More than two-thirds of 1,010 adults contacted between Feb. 4 and Feb. 6 said it would be a "good idea" to limit benefits for wealthier retirees and to make higher income workers pay Social Security taxes on all their wages. Currently, all workers pay the tax on the first $90,000 in wages…
Meanwhile, 55 percent think President Bush's proposal to allow future wage-earners to invest some of their Social Security taxes in private investment accounts is a "bad idea." That's the same percentage as thought so a month ago, before the president began his campaign for the plan…
Posted 2/28/2005 3:47 PM Updated 3/1/2005 2:14 AM
Poll: Social Security plan support drops
By Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Only one in three Americans approve of President Bush's handling of Social Security, his lowest rating on the issue since he took office.
A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll conducted Friday-Sunday found that 35% approved of Bush's Social Security record, 56% disapproved and 9% had no opinion. That was down from three weeks ago, when 43% approved. In March 2001, just after he took office, 49% approved. (Related: Poll results)
The poll included several pieces of bad news for Bush on the issue, which he has made his top priority this year. The president traveled to eight states in February to make the case for an overhaul…
Democrats, DO NOT snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The New York Times
Just Say No
Published: March 1, 2005
President Bush's effort to hustle the nation into dismantling Social Security as we know it seems to be faltering: the more voters hear about how privatization would work, the less they like it.
As a result, some Republicans are reported to be talking about a compromise in which they would agree to some kind of tax increase, probably a rise in the maximum level of earnings subject to the payroll tax. They would offer to use the revenue from that tax increase, rather than borrowed funds, to establish private accounts, thereby assuaging fears about the huge debt buildup that would take place under the administration's plan. They might even agree to make private accounts an add-on to traditional benefits, not a replacement.
But it would still be a bad deal. Creating private accounts in the current environment, no matter how they are financed, would be a mistake…
[A]nyone who wants to see the nation return to fiscal responsibility, wants to preserve Social Security as an institution or both should be opposed to any deal creating private accounts. And there is also, of course, the political question: Why should any Democrat act as a spoiler when his party is doing well by doing good, gaining political ground by opposing a really bad idea? (Hello, Senator Lieberman.)…
It isn’t a failure of George Bush’s. He never fails. It’s the Democrats’
Final Soc. Sec. Action May Not Happen Yet
Tue Mar 1, 7:28 PM ET
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON - After a week sampling public sentiment, Republican congressional leaders stressed support Tuesday for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security but conceded final action may not be possible this year.
This is the mother of all issues," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, adding that opponents of the president's plans "are better organized than we are."
DeLay, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and numerous other GOP lawmakers said Bush's public campaigning has begun to show results. "People have bought into the fact that we have a problem" with Social Security's future financing, said Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia…
Republican leaders began surveying their rank-and-file after a weeklong absence from the Capitol as Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid offered his own blunt assessment of the Bush's signature issue. "I don't think the Republicans are very happy about the position the president is putting them in," he said.
"In two months, the president has created a firestorm against" his own plan, taunted Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y…
The Raw Story
Social Security “fright mail” targeting seniors helped fund GOP leader’s trips to UK, Asia
Social Security scams helped fly House GOP leader on London, Moscow junkets
RAW STORY EXCLUSIVE
By John Byrne and Larisa Alexandrovna | RAW STORY Staff
A think tank which raised money by targeting elderly Americans with Social Security scare letters paid for more than $130,000 in travel expenses for the House Republican leader, his wife and his staff, RAW STORY has learned.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a highly controversial and little-known conservative think tank which has been sending Social Security “fright mail” for years, paid for two posh trips for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) in 1996 and 2000, each at the cost of at least $64,000.
NCPPR also gave $1,000 to DeLay’s legal defense fund in 2004…
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay enjoyed the generosity of the group at least twice. The group paid for a $64,064 trip for himself and his staff to Moscow and St. Petersburg when he was Majority Whip in the summer of 1997.
NCPPR also picked up a hefty $70,000 tab for trip for DeLay and his aides made in mid-2000 to Europe. DeLay and his staff took a junket where he met with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and took a round of golf with conservative leaders in Scotland…
House rules stipulate that members or members’ employees cannot accept payment from a registered lobbyist to cover travel costs…
The New York Times
New Poll Finds Bush Priorities Are Out of Step With Americans
Published: March 3, 2005
Americans say President Bush does not share the priorities of most of the country on either domestic or foreign issues, are increasingly resistant to his proposal to revamp Social Security and say they are uneasy with Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll underscores just how little headway Mr. Bush has made in his effort to build popular support as his proposal for overhauling Social Security struggles to gain footing in Congress. At the same time, there has been an increase in respondents who say that efforts to restore order in Iraq are going well, even as an overwhelming number of Americans say Mr. Bush has no clear plan for getting out of Iraq.
On Social Security, 51 percent said permitting individuals to invest part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts, the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's plan, was a bad idea, even as a majority said they agreed with Mr. Bush that the program would become insolvent near the middle of the century if nothing was done. The number who thought private accounts were a bad idea jumped to 69 percent if respondents were told that the private accounts would result in a reduction in guaranteed benefits. And 45 percent said Mr. Bush's private account plan would actually weaken the economic underpinnings of the nation's retirement system…
Social Security blues
March 3, 2005
WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush, who is not prone to confessing mistakes, has confided to close associates that he committed a whopper on Social Security. He admitted error in pushing for new personal accounts while not stressing the repair of the safety net for seniors. As a result, Republicans returned to Washington this week from the congressional recess deeply shaken by what they encountered back home.
Thanks to the orchestrated effort of the AARP and organized labor even in the most Republican districts, GOP lawmakers encountered angry opposition to President Bush's plans at town meetings. These pressure groups have overwhelmed the campaign for personal accounts by planting fear among 50-something voters. Republicans face a dilemma: strengthening the safety net means higher taxes and lower benefits that would make the package unpalatable to members of Congress from both parties.
For many Republicans, the Bush Social Security bill is beginning to look like a bridge too far. They would like to abandon what they see as an impossible quest. However, the president is committed -- a commitment that now is not limited to personal accounts but necessarily includes basic revision of how Social Security is financed and distributed…
Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi … are determined to block Bush's proposal, and compromise is not in their lexicon. A party in search of a theme and purpose, Democrats want to deal the president a humiliating defeat.
So, the question is whether there will be any Democratic defectors in the Senate…
None of this seems realistic to many Republicans, stunned by the organized opposition and minimal support they encountered in their home districts over the recess. One idea is to forget about compromising and pass an unadulterated Bush bill in the House, sending it to certain death in the Senate. Rather than compromise, some conservative activists would await another election (2006) and perhaps another presidential election (2008) before trying Social Security reform…
[Please notice the excuses—the right-wing crazies like Novak MUST blame the usual suspects, the AARP and organized labor, for this failure. Novak simply can’t admit that WHAT BUSH IS PROPOSING IS JUST PLAIN BAD POLICY. To Novak, it’s the anti-privatization “pressure groups” who are scaring seniors, not the Republicans with their lies about Social Security going “bankrupt.” And up is down. Black is white. Ignorance is bliss, especially purposeful ignorance.—Caro]
The Illustrated Daily Scribble
Democrats: Losing on Social Security
Thu Mar 3rd, 2005 at 08:31:26 PST
The Democrats may have gotten a temporary win against Bush's social security privatization plan, but it is almost inevitable that with their current approach, they will lose the battle eventually…
[W]hy reinforce the GOP frame that we need to do something drastically now to "save" Social Security? Why even provide Bush a "compromise solution" which he and the GOP will use repeatedly in 2006 and beyond to claim they somehow "saved" social security - even when they will not? Why lose the confidence and trust of the public to dishonest ideologues over an issue whose importance is not even remotely in the same league as that of others I have mentioned above? Instead, why not raise the facts about the egregious budget deficits and tax cuts, offensive pork-barrel spending, and bloated corporate welfare, every time that social security is brought up and point out that the way to save social security is to stop spending the Social Security surplus to finance the General Fund deficits (as Bush promised in 2000 and flip-flopped)? That the way to save Social Security is to get rid of some of the Bush tax cuts (as some Democrats have indeed proposed)?
The point, folks, is that reinforcing the GOP frame that something needs to be "done now" to "save" Social Security will only lead to eventual defeat for the Democrats. You simply do not win battles (especially against a determined enemy that has openly declared war on the Left and the Democrats) by agreeing with their false definition or framing of issues. You win by creating an alternative, factual frame and fighting for it. (Indeed, if you look at the business sector, good companies never let their competition define the market or their own products for their customers; rather, they take charge and define it for the customer.)
If the Democrats do not ensure that Bush's social security dreams go down in flames without any "compromise" Bill, then they will have only themselves to blame in 2006 and beyond. For, make no mistake, the GOP will loudly advertize through the Republican Misinformation Machine that they "saved" Social Security.
Republicans Attack Democrats, AARP on Pensions
Wed Mar 2, 6:51 PM ET
By Donna Smith and Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Frustrated that President Bush's plan to restructure Social Security is failing to win widespread support, top Republicans on Wednesday attacked Democratic opponents and the country's largest retiree organization.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, criticized Democrats for refusing to negotiate with Republicans.
He also accused the AARP, a powerful group which claims more than 35 million members over age 50, of being "hypocritical" for criticizing private Social Security accounts as too risky while selling mutual funds to its members.
"It is incredibly irresponsible to try to convince the American people that there is no problem. It is incredibly irresponsible for the AARP to be against a solution that hasn't even been written yet," DeLay said after a closed-door meeting with Republican members of the House of Representatives…
[Well, Tom, it’s incredibly irresponsible of you to demand that the AARP support a solution you haven’t even written yet. The AARP is smart enough to know that you can’t give George Bush a blank check, like the one the Congress gave him to wage war on a practically defenseless country.—Caro]
House Speaker Dennis Hastert said the current pay-as-you-go retirement system was like a "pyramid game" with early participants getting out more than they put in and that it needed change now. He accused Democrats of sticking their head in the sand "like an ostrich" and saying there was no problem…
[No, Dennie, it’s not like a “pyramid game,” it’s like an INSURANCE PLAN. It’s exactly like your car insurance. Is GEICO a “pyramid game”?—Caro]
The New York Times
Deficits and Deceit
Published: March 4, 2005
Four years ago, Alan Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes, asserting that the federal government was in imminent danger of paying off too much debt.
On Wednesday the Fed chairman warned Congress of the opposite fiscal danger: he asserted that there would be large budget deficits for the foreseeable future, leading to an unsustainable rise in federal debt. But he counseled against reversing the tax cuts, calling instead for cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid…
To put Mr. Greenspan's game of fiscal three-card monte in perspective, remember that the push for Social Security privatization is only part of the right's strategy for dismantling the New Deal and the Great Society. The other big piece of that strategy is the use of tax cuts to "starve the beast."…
According to starve-the-beast doctrine, right-wing politicians can use the big deficits generated by tax cuts as an excuse to slash social insurance programs. Mr. Bush's advisers thought that it would prove especially easy to sell benefit cuts in the context of Social Security privatization because the president could pretend that a plan that sharply cut benefits would actually be good for workers.
But the theory isn't working. As soon as voters heard that privatization would involve benefit cuts, support for Social Security "reform" plunged. Another sign of the theory's falsity: across the nation, Republican governors, finding that voters really want adequate public services, are talking about tax increases…
[T]he consequence of the failure of the starve-the-beast theory is a looming fiscal crisis - Mr. Greenspan isn't wrong about that. The middle class won't give up programs that are essential to its financial security; the right won't give up tax cuts that it sold on false pretenses. The only question now is when foreign investors, who have financed our deficits so far, will decide to pull the plug.
So Now Bush Cares?
By Eugene Robinson
Friday, March 4, 2005; Page A21
I have to assume that President Bush's sudden concern for my life expectancy, and that of my homies, is just breathtaking political cynicism, nothing more. He isn't sincere. If he were, it would mean a road-to-Damascus transformation as profound as his earlier conversion from jejune, fun-loving frat boy to sober, responsible man of God.
Here's what he said in January, pitching his dodgy private Social Security accounts at a forum: "African American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people. And that needs to be fixed."…
Why would infant mortality in black America be nearly twice as high as in impoverished, repressed Cuba, to cite one comparison? For one thing, the mothers of those doomed black baby boys are twice as likely to be teenagers as the mothers of white baby boys, and those too-young black mothers are twice as likely to have had no prenatal care. Blacks are less likely than whites to have health insurance and more likely to use hospital emergency rooms as their primary source of physician care.
Please, no lectures about personal responsibility and choice. That was the old you. I agree we're all responsible for our decisions, but nobody gets to choose his parents. Nor do black boys choose, in much larger numbers than whites, to grow up in single-mother households, often in desperate, violent, drug-ridden neighborhoods. Black men 15 to 24 are eight times more likely to be murdered than white men that age. Fix it, please.
Black men are also much more likely to suffer from stress-related diseases such as hypertension and to suffer "serious psychological distress" -- if they're poor, that is. If they're not poor, they have fewer mental problems than whites.
That's the real reason we black men go to our reward so soon, Mr. Bush -- poverty…
Raise the minimum wage. Put some real money into health care, especially prenatal care, and, while you're at it, put some real money into No Child Left Behind -- serious money, Iraq-scale money, enough to put decent teachers and new books in the classrooms of inner-city schools and toilet paper in the bathrooms. Stop slashing every discretionary program your budget-cutters can find. Care as much about what's happening on the streets of Washington, Detroit and Chicago as you care about Baghdad, Mosul and Basra.
Until you do, please, no more crocodile tears for my posse and me.
Bush's huge gamble on dismantling the cornerstone of the New Deal will fail. And if the Democrats remain disciplined, his defeat will be profound.
- - - - - - - - - -
By Sidney Blumenthal
March 3, 2005 | The coming defeat of President Bush on Social Security will be the defining moment in domestic policy and politics for his second term and for the future of the Republican Party. It will be a central, clarifying event because Bush alone chose to make this fight…
Bush launched his initiative to privatize Social Security with a bang, promoting it in his State of the Union address and stumping the country at rallies. Rove has been put in charge of organizing the campaign as an extension of the 2004 effort. From the White House, Rove directs the lobbyists of K Street in Washington and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and the religious right. Suddenly, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have reappeared as warriors against the pro-Social Security AARP…
Even the Social Security Administration has been inducted in the campaign…
And yet the more the public has learned of Bush's plan, the more it has buckled. Poll after poll reveals that increased information leads to heightened resistance. Growing majorities oppose Bush's program, Bush's favorability rating has plunged to the lowest level of any president at this point in his second term, and trust in the Democrats has steadily risen.
In the face of public rejection, Bush retreats and attacks at the same time…
Republican leaders have become studies in hesitation and anxiety…
For Bush and the Republicans, the problem is salesmanship. If only they hone the pitch, convince the wary customers that they really mean well, saving them from a bad investment and delivering a bargain, they will clinch the deal. Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant who has made a specialty out of wordplay, has advised them on how to make friends and influence people. In a memo circulated among the Republican leadership last month, he urged that Republicans appeal to emotions, not facts…
When all else fails, Republicans should simply resort to the fear factor: "September 11th changed everything. So start with September 11th…"
But Luntz's rhetorical twists and turns, adopted by Bush and the Republicans, are hardly innovative. They are as ancient as the earliest arguments made by Republicans against Social Security when it was first introduced. Social Security is in crisis, Social Security will not be there, only the Republicans can save the system by privatizing it -- all these themes were advanced in the 1936 Republican Party platform. This yellowing document reads like the most recent Republican declaration…
Only Bush as president has attempted to make good on the reactionary rhetoric against Social Security since its inception. He has tried to dress up his effort as a "reform," as a "new idea," but the language, upon historical examination, turns out to be recycled from the 1936 Republican platform, the Landon and Goldwater campaigns, and words that Reagan discarded as president.
Bush's impending defeat on Social Security is no minor affair. He has made this the centerpiece of domestic policy of his second term. It is the decades-long culmination of the conservative wing's hostility against Social Security and the Democratic Party. Projecting images of Roosevelt and Kennedy cannot distract from Bush's intent to undermine the accomplishments of Democratic presidents. The repudiation of Bush on Social Security will be fundamental and profound and will shake the foundations of conservative Republicanism. Bush's agony is only beginning, if the Democrats in the Senate can maintain their discipline.
The Illustrated Daily Scribble
[Oh, they used the hook. I thought they had kneecapped him.—Caro]
Bush's Defunct Economist
by Fred Block
The case for privatizing Social Security depends on an error of logic. If in the future, there are too few wage earners to support too many retirees, private accounts will not solve the problem.
George W. Bush’s arguments about Social Security perfectly illustrate an observation made by the economist John Maynard Keynes. “Practical men,” Keynes wrote, “who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” President Bush has demonstrated slavish devotion to T.R. Malthus, one of the founders of political economy who promoted the idea that human population grows geometrically while the food supply grows only arithmetically.
Sadly, the President lacks the intellectual honesty of his notorious forebear who argued that the threat of overpopulation justifies withholding public assistance from the hungry. Malthus insisted that society has, at any particular moment, a limited supply of food. By giving food to those who are not working, there is less for those who are working. And if the employed get too little, they won’t work as hard and production will decline. The consequence is a vicious cycle of increasing conflict for limited resources between those who work and those who are dependent on transfers.
Malthus’ solution was to let the poor starve. He acknowledged that his conclusion was harsh, but he saw it as nature’s way of balancing population and food supply.
Current discussions no longer focus solely on food, but on a broader range of basic consumer goods that include food, shelter, heat, and medicines…
If there are not enough goods and services to go around, there will be destructive social conflicts even if some people have access to substantial private accounts…
Malthus … would say that if there are going to be too many old people living too long, then let the poorest ones either go back to work or starve, and the ratio between workers and nonworkers will inevitably improve. This is the logic of George W. Bush’s argument, but he doesn’t dare admit it—at least not publicly…
Future Malthusian struggles can be averted if we invest now to grow the economy. The privatizers insist that we must rely only on low taxes and the benevolence of corporate CEO’s, but they are wrong. We need active public sector leadership to invest in the skills of our young people and in the new technologies that are the keys to our future economic well-being. The first step to a moral economy and future prosperity is to reverse George Bush’s irrational and destructive tax giveaways to the wealthiest of our citizens. Investing those billions in education and new technologies is the real way to protect Social Security.
The Black Commentator
Purchased Pulpits and Spiritual Exploitations
By Jasmyne Cannick
" I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves..." – Harriet Tubman
Recently, a group of Black pastors under the name of the Hi Impact Coalition, held a press conference and summit in Los Angeles to announce the kick off for their "Black Contract with America on Moral Values." Led by Bishop Harry Jackson of Washington and white Christian evangelical Reverend Lou Sheldon and his Traditional Values Coalition, the press conference and summit gave new meaning to the phrase "Sleeping with the enemy."
According to the newly formed coalition, topping the list of issues that Black Americans need to focus on is the protection of marriage. Never mind the war, access to healthcare, HIV/AIDS, education, housing and social security, the number one problem facing Black America is same-sex marriage…
Black pulpits are for sale to the highest bidder and Black Christians are quite possibly being sold to the GOP under the guise of protecting America's moral values. With claims that gays are "hi-jacking" the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s message, Sheldon is bribing Black pastor after pastor and church after church with check after check to take another look at the GOP and partnering with their white Christian counterparts all while using the Bible as a justification for their commonality. Yes, the same book that was used to justify racism, sexism and anti-Semitism has both Black and white Christian evangelicals reading from the same page…
Black pastors who have aligned themselves with white Christian evangelicals and Conservatives, are the ideological descendents of the same people who opposed Dr. King in the 50's but today want to claim his message as their own in the name of protecting the institution of marriage, thereby giving new meaning to the name "Uncle Tom."
However, don't think that these new partnerships come without strings attached. The Black vote is expected to be hand delivered on legislation that supports discrimination against gays and lesbians and their right to protect their families, denying a woman's right to choose and pushing the President's abstinence only campaign. In addition, our religious leaders are also expected to remain silent and not be the prophetic voices they should be on issues of critical importance to Blacks. In exchange for money, they've essentially sold their congregations to people who continue to oppose universal access to healthcare, education and housing, the very issues at the core of the Black struggle…
Los Angeles Times
March 6, 2005
Social Security Overhaul Splinters GOP
Factions of economic or social conservatives are questioning Bush's plan on priorities and costs. Party unity is put at risk.
By Janet Hook, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — President Bush's proposal to overhaul Social Security is falling flat across the country, to judge from recent polls, but public opinion is not his only problem. The whole idea splits Bush's party — along fault lines he masterfully bridged during his first term in the White House.
A Social Security overhaul is the Holy Grail for the GOP's free-market advocates, but it is a low priority for social conservatives who care more about banning abortion and same-sex marriage. The costly initiative gives heartburn to the party's antideficit hawks. Even some of the Republicans' loyal business allies are lukewarm on Bush's effort to rewrite the program and allow workers to divert part of their Social Security payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts.
The divisions highlight potential weaknesses in the GOP coalition that Bush hopes to turn into an enduring governing majority by the time he leaves the White House.
On Capitol Hill, the open disagreement among Republicans over the issue — and over the political strategy for dealing with it — is a departure from the unity and discipline they showed on most major issues during Bush's first term.
That is in part because overhauling Social Security is a more ambitious and politically difficult issue than Bush's priorities in his first term — such as tax cuts and Medicare expansion — which tended to unify rather than divide his party…
Music to my ears!
Senate Democratic Leader Blasts Greenspan
By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 4, 2005; Page A06
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan generally gets accolades for his public pronouncements. Yesterday he got a brickbat from Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who blasted Greenspan as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."
Reid ripped Greenspan during an interview on CNN's "Inside Politics." He said the Fed chairman has given President Bush a pass on deficits that have built up in the past four years and should be challenging Republicans on their fiscal policies, rather than promoting Bush's plan to introduce personal accounts into Social Security…
The Emerging Democratic Majority
March 9, 2005
Unpopular from Coast to Coast
There’s been a rather remarkable string of polling data released in the last ten days or so detailing how public opinion is turning against Bush and, particularly, his proposal to privatize Social Security. A second term that was to have been turbocharged by the Iraq elections and his grandiloquent inauguration and State of the Union speeches seems to have gone sour more quickly than his opponents dared hope.
A Zogby poll released on February 27 included the following dreadful job approval numbers for Bush: 46 percent overall, 44 percent on taxes, 40 percent on foreign policy, 39 percent on the Iraq war, 37 percent on jobs/economy, 37 percent on education, and 32 percent on the environment. He only cracks 50 percent on one issue: the war on terror (54 percent). In addition, this poll found only 39 percent saying that the Iraq war was worth the cost, compared to 54 percent saying that it wasn’t worth the cost.
Then there was the NPR poll that I wrote about in last week’s Public Opinion Watch. In that poll, voters said that they opposed Bush’s “proposed changes to Social Security” 53 percent to 30 percent, bad enough on the face of it. But subsequently released charts of the poll data make the situation seem even more dire for Bush.
To begin with, the more familiar people were with Bush’s Social Security plan, the more likely they were to say they opposed it, including 64 percent to 31 percent opposition among those who were “very familiar.” Even worse, voters living in counties carried by Bush in 2004 actually said that they opposed his plan 49 percent to 34 percent. And changing the wording of the question to Republican-leaning language resulted only in a split 45 percent to 45 percent verdict among Bush county voters, while Democratic-leaning language elicited solid 53 percent to 39 percent opposition among these same voters…
Internet Weekly Report
The New York Times
Slanting Social Security
Published: March 11, 2005
Many people involved in the debate over Social Security's future worry that the 2005 trustees' report will be slanted in favor of privatization.
I don't expect to see books that are literally cooked: Stephen Goss, the agency's chief actuary, has an excellent reputation. But it's not out of the question. After all, in 2003 the chief actuary of Social Security's sister agency, which oversees Medicare, was told that he would be fired if he gave Congress accurate information about the cost of the Bush Medicare bill.
Even if the numbers aren't fabricated, however, it's a good bet that they will be presented in a way intended to make Social Security's financial outlook seem much bleaker than it really is.
Why should we expect a slanted report?
First, this administration has politicized analysis across the board, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Food and Drug Administration.
Second, the White House has been using taxpayers' money to sell its privatization plans in ways that would have been considered out of bounds for any previous administration. The Treasury Department has set up a "war room" to promote privatization; its first three hires were former aides in the Bush-Cheney campaign.
Third, Social Security officials have been playing a clearly partisan role…
Wave3.com, Louisville, KY
Protesters Greet President During Visit To Tout Social Security
March 10, 2005, 05:20 PM CST
(LOUISVILLE) -- President Bush promoted his overhaul of Social Security to a mostly friendly audience on Thursday while protesters a few blocks away railed against the central part of his plan -- allowing workers to create private investment accounts…
[P]rotesters in a downtown square waved signs and shouted slogans while denouncing Bush's plan as a "risky scheme" that would saddle the nation with trillions of dollars in additional debt without fixing Social Security's long term financial problems.
The protest began a couple hours before Bush stopped in Louisville as part of a cross-country blitz to his top domestic priority.
"If you're going to spend 60 days traveling the country, fix something that's broke, not something that's worked perfect for 70 years," said Dan Borsch, 28, of Louisville, who was among the protesters.
The president was interrupted four times by people yelling protests of his Social Security plans. Outside the arena, protesters shouted "No more lies, don't privatize!" and some held signs that read "Hands off my Social Security." Demonstrators inside the arena were drowned out by either Bush talking over them or the crowd's cheers, or both.
|Thu Mar 10, 1:58 PM ET||
|John Greathouse, right, of Prospect, Ky., protests President Bush's visit Thursday, March 10, 2005, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Brian Bohannon)|
March 10, 2005
Dean slams Bush on town-hall meetings
By Jonathan E. Kaplan
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said yesterday that President Bush’s policy of excluding non-Republicans from town-hall meetings on Social Security reform was “not an American thing to do.”
Dean spoke at the House Democrats’ weekly meeting for 15 minutes and took questions from lawmakers, according to several sources inside the well-attended closed-door gathering. He made the comments about the town-hall meetings at a press conference after the closed-door session.
At the press conference, House Democratic leaders said they were most exercised about Bush’s town-hall meetings, which are open only to Republican voters and party activists.
“We continue to hold hundreds of town-hall meetings that are open to all Americans. … We have honest discussions,” said Rep. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)…
Dean has spent this week meeting with congressional Democrats; he met Tuesday with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Democrats. Pelosi speaks frequently to Dean on the phone and has let it be known that she is pleased with the enthusiasm he brings to the party…
Media Matters for America
Bob Schieffer's CBS Evening News debut featured conservative misinformation on Social Security
On his first night as interim replacement for Dan Rather as anchor of CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer labeled Chile's privatized government pension system a "success story," while failing to note the substantial problems the system has created for millions of low- and middle-income Chileans.
On March 10, following a report noting the lack of support President Bush's Social Security plan is garnering, even among Republicans, Schieffer stated: "A South American country already has a version of what President Bush wants for Social Security: personal retirement accounts. And later in the broadcast, we'll show you how it's working." As Schieffer spoke, a graphic appeared behind him that read "Chile Success Story." In fact, Chile's privatized system has provided lower retirement benefits for low- and middle-income workers than the guaranteed benefits in the systems that they replaced, as Media Matters for America has noted.
CBS News correspondent Trish Regan did note in her report on Chile's system that it has "serious flaws," pointing out that many workers in Chile can't afford to contribute the required 10 percent of their wages and salaries to the privatized system. But she failed to note other serious flaws in the program, which affect even those who can afford to participate in the privatized system, reporting instead that "most of the people who consistently contribute to their accounts ... say the system works."
In fact, while the Chilean program does earn "an average 10 percent annual return on investments" as Regan's report and a January 27 New York Times article noted, the Times also stated that "many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts -- burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment -- are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system."
March 12, 2005
I Got Ejected from a George Bush Event!
A BUZZFLASH READER
by Mike Bailey
… I sat there like a good boy, up in the nosebleed section, clapping for Anne Northup (our Bush clone congresswoman), praying in Jesus' name, and all that good stuff. Then Bush got up and gave his one-sided Social Security talk. I finally couldn't take it anymore, and I stood up and shouted my opinions. "Let's not use Social Security money for private accounts! I like private accounts, I've got two! A 401k and a Roth. But let's not steal from Social Security! How about private accounts outside of Social Security?" People started shushing me with furrowed brows and shocked expressions. "Shhh. That's rude!" I just kept on yelling. "Mr. President, can't you hear me?" I repeated my mantra over and over and he kept on talking, trying to ignore me. He began to stumble a bit on words. I don't blame the guy. It's hard to keep your lies straight when someone is yelling the truth at you. And the acoustics at Whitney Hall are amazing! The truth was echoing from the rafters.
Well the good Republican folks of Louisville began to get very upset. They started yelling and clapping to drown me out, and they succeeded. They drowned out poor George too, so he had to sit quietly and watch the chaos. I figured the Secret Service or police would have grabbed me within seconds, but they never came to get me. I had been yelling for at least 20-30 seconds before the crowd shut me down with their yells, and I knew my seat mates were not about to allow me to sit back down. They were glaring at me with eyes filled with hate and shock. How could a well-dressed, polite, white boy betray his own kind? I figured sitting back down was fairly dangerous, so I walked away from my seat and moseyed out of the large balcony I was in…
Stay tuned for the further adventures of wacko liberal pinko commie scum Mike and his band of gay-loving America-hating troop-bashing baby-killing degenerates (and don't you believe a word from the radical right, including all the previous names they call folks like me.)
Social Security: On With the Show
President's 'Conversations' on Issue Are Carefully Orchestrated, Rehearsed
By Jim VandeHei and Peter
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 12, 2005; Page A03
MEMPHIS, March 11 -- It sounded as if all of Graceland were clamoring for President Bush's plan to restructure Social Security.
The mostly white audience in this mostly black southern city clapped wildly as Bush took what he called the "presidential roadshow" to its 14th state Friday. He was greeted like Elvis -- adoring fans hooting and hollering, and hanging on his every word.
The few dissenting voices in the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts were quickly silenced or escorted out by security. One woman with a soft voice but firm opposition to Bush was asked to leave, even though her protests were barely audible beyond her section in the back corner of the auditorium. The carefully screened panelists spoke admiringly about Bush, his ideas, his "bold" leadership on Social Security.
If the presentations sound well rehearsed, it's because they often are. The guests at these "Oprah"-style conversations trumpet the very points Bush wants to make…
These meticulously staged "conversations on Social Security," as they are called, replicate a strategy that Bush used to great effect on the campaign trail. But instead of appealing to his political base in hopes of driving up turnout, Bush this time is targeting a far narrower audience of swing voters in the Senate -- centrists who so far appear unswayed by the president's public salesmanship. And Democrats, led by their new party chairman, Howard Dean, have begun firing back, belittling the forums as rigged spectacles rather than true town hall meetings.
The White House follows a practiced formula for each of the meetings. First it picks a state in which generally it can pressure a lawmaker or two, and then it lines up panelists who will sing the praises of the president's plan. Finally, it loads the audience with Republicans and other supporters…
From the Republican playbook on Social
Security. There are lies, damned lies, and Frank Luntz focus-group-tested
Posted at PoliticalStrategy.org
SOCIAL SECURITY = RETIREMENT SECURITY
THE SOCIAL SECURITY 10--STEP LANGUAGE LADDER
IF YOU READ NOTHING ELSE IN THIS CHAPTER, READ THIS. Remember: when we are talking about Social Security, we are really talking about retirement security.
1. It is a fundamental principle that “Americans have a right to a safe, secure retirement.”
2. Our current and near retirees deserve the “peace of mind” of knowing they will get full benefits for their entire retirement.
3. To achieve “generation fairness,” we have a responsibility to save Social Security RIGHT NOW so that our children and generations to come receive the same benefits we have enjoyed.
4. It would be easier to turn away and leave the tough decisions to others down the road. But we do things in life not because they are easy but because they are necessary — no matter bow hard they are. And delay just makes the solution more difficult and costly.
5. Social Security is a financially broken system; it will start going bankrupt in 13 years and will be completely bankrupt in a matter of decades. For the tens of millions of Americans who depend on Social Security, this is simply unacceptable.
6. Washington has done a terrible job managing the Social Security Trust Fund. A 1.6% return on your Social Security dollars is unacceptable. It’s time to give the American people a say in how THEIR money is invested and the opportunity to do better.
7. Improving our Social Security system CANNOT be a partisan issue. We must all work together and put the partisan bickering behind us.
8. Remember, it’s YOUR money. It’s YOUR future. It’s YOUR life.
9. You should have the right, if you wish, to invest YOUR Social Security taxes in safe, diversified funds like a thrift savings plan because the return has been proven to be better than with any government fund.
10. I ask you to focus on the facts, study the issue, and then make up your own mind. When it comes to financial literacy and Social Security, the more you know, the better off we’ll be.
March 14, 2005
Craig Crawford's 1600: Winning the 'Debate'
By Craig Crawford, CQ Columnist
Imagine a “conversation” where one person does all the talking, except for a few laudatory comments from well-wishers, while those who speak up in disagreement are forcibly removed from sight before anyone can hear what they say.
That is what the White House is calling “A Conversation on Strengthening Social Security” — when the president appears in middle America, as he did here on March 10, to promote his ideas for changing the nation’s 70-year-old retirement system.
It is more like a conversation with himself. These orchestrated events, before crowds of mostly handpicked supporters, serve the purpose of helping George W. Bush get his message out directly. But I suspect there’s another reason for keeping the naysayers at bay.
That could be why the president is so good at sticking to his guns on issues ranging from Iraq to Social Security: He is protected from opposing views. It is much easier to be inflexible when a vast staff of White House handlers and security forces prevent any chance that he will hear alternative ideas…
Bush Attacks Social Security 'Scare Ads'
Sun Mar 13, 2:53 PM ET
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - President Bush and Democrats took their differences over Social Security to the airwaves on Saturday, with Bush complaining about "scare ads" against his plan and Democrats denouncing his proposal as a "risky privatization scheme."…
You see, according to Bush Rules, only he is allowed to scare the American
Bush Says Opponents of Social Security Plan Play Down Problem
March 12 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush said opponents of his proposal to overhaul Social Security are ``playing down the problem'' and called for lawmakers to discuss a range of fixes, including raising the retirement age…
Pablo on Politics
Skepticism of Bush's Social Security Plan Is Growing
Polling and Interviews Find Concerns Across Age Groups
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page A01
Three months after President Bush launched his drive to restructure Social Security by creating private investment accounts, public support for his program remains weak, with only 35 percent of Americans now saying they approve of his handling of the issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
While the White House has helped convince more than two-thirds of those polled that Social Security is heading for a crisis or possible bankruptcy without change, 56 percent disapprove of his approach, a survey of 1,001 adults conducted March 10-13 shows. By comparison, 38 percent approved of his handling of the issue and 52 percent disapproved of it in mid-December.
Moreover, 58 percent of those polled this time said the more they hear about Bush's plan, the less they like it…
The Free Speech Zone
Crooks and Liars
A reporter finally does his job (video available)
David Gregory of NBC pressed President Bush about his Social Security plan, or lack of...
David: Mr. President, you say you're making progress in the Social Security debate. Yet private accounts, as the centerpiece of that plan, something you first campaigned on five years ago and laid before the American people, remains, according to every measure we have, poll after poll, unpopular with a majority of Americans. So the question is, do you feel that this is a point in the debate where it's incumbent upon you, and nobody else, to lay out a plan to the American people for how you actually keep Social Security solvent for the long-term?
PRESIDENT: First of all, Dave, let me, if I might correct you, be so bold as to correct you, I have not laid out a plan yet, intentionally. I have laid out principles, I've talked about putting all options on the table, because I fully understand the administration must work with the Congress to permanently solve Social Security. So one aspect of the debate is, will we be willing to work together to permanently solve the issue. Personal accounts do not solve the issue...
Bush admits to not having a plan and also acknowledges that private accounts will not help the solvency of Social Security. Gone is the talk about Social Security going bankrupt, and is in crisis.
Few families have made more money from the military-industial complex than
the Bushes. Barbara Bush’s grandchildren won’t have to worry about living on
Social Security when THEY retire.
Barbara Bush Aids in Social Security Fight
Mar 18, 4:54 PM (ET)
By DEB RIECHMANN
PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - President Bush, needing more converts to his plan for Social Security reform, brought his mom to help with the sales pitch Friday.
Wearing her trademark pearls, Barbara Bush took the stage with the president and another of her sons, Gov. Jeb Bush. George W. Bush opened the program by reassuring people born before 1950 that their Social Security benefits would not change.
On cue, the 79-year-old former first lady joked that she showed up so she could tell her two sons what to do.
"That's really not why I'm here," she quickly admitted. "I'm here because your father (President George H.W. Bush) and I have 17 grandchildren, all born after 1950. And we want to know, is someone going to do something about it (Social Security). That's the whole reason - other than seeing my boys."…
The Free Speech Zone
You can’t fool most of the people most of the time.
The president, whose approval ratings are down on almost every issue, has yet to sell the country on his plan for Social Security
By Brian Braiker
March 19 - Although President George W. Bush has been traveling the country touting a new plan to overhaul the Social Security system, campaigning in 15 states over six weeks, the majority of Americans remain unswayed, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. Only one-third of all Americans (33 percent) approve of his proposal to create investment accounts under Social Security, the poll found, while 59 percent disapprove. More Americans (44 percent) trust Congressional Democrats with managing the 70-year-old program. The poll also found that, with the exception of his handling of terrorism and homeland security, his approval numbers are down across the board…
The week he won re-election in November, President Bush declared: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it." And spend it is what he appears to have done: the president’s overall approval rating has slipped below the 50 percent mark, his lowest score since being sworn in again in January. Forty-five percent of all Americans approve of the way he is doing his job, a five-point dip from early February; 48 percent disapprove, up six points. Bush's approval numbers have fallen the most among the demographic at whom his Social Security overhaul is targeted at: just 43 percent of 18-29 year olds approve of his performance (down from 56 percent a month ago).
Social Security aside, the president’s numbers are down on just about every issue except for his handling of terrorism and homeland security…
The New York Times
Enron: Patron Saint of Bush's Fake News
Published: March 20, 2005
JUST when Americans are being told it's safe to hand over their savings to Wall Street again, he's baaaack! Looking not unlike Chucky, the demented doll of perennial B-horror-movie renown, Ken Lay has crawled out of Houston's shadows for a media curtain call.
His trial is still months away, but there he was last Sunday on "60 Minutes," saying he knew nothin' 'bout nothin' that went down at Enron. This week he is heading toward the best-seller list, as an involuntary star of "Conspiracy of Fools," the New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald's epic account of the multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme anointed America's "most innovative company" (six years in a row by Fortune magazine). Coming soon, the feature film: Alex Gibney's "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," a documentary seen at Sundance, goes into national release next month. As long as you're not among those whose 401(k)'s and pensions were wiped out, it's morbidly entertaining. In one surreal high point, Mr. Lay likens investigations of Enron to terrorist attacks on America. For farce, there's the sight of a beaming Alan Greenspan as he accepts the "Enron Award for Distinguished Public Service" only days after Enron has confessed to filing five years of bogus financial reports. Then again, given the implicit quid pro quo in this smarmy tableau, maybe that's the Enron drama's answer to a sex scene.
The Bush administration, eager to sell the country on "personal" Social Security accounts, cannot be all that pleased to see Kenny Boy again. He's the poster boy for how big guys can rip off suckers in the stock market. He also dredges up some inconvenient pre-9/11 memories of Bush family business. Enron was the biggest Bush-Cheney campaign contributor in the 2000 election…
Revisiting the Enron story as it re-emerges in 2005 is to be reminded of just how much the Enron culture has continued to shape the Bush administration long after the company itself imploded and the Lays were eighty-sixed from the White House Christmas card list.
The enduring legacy of Enron can be summed up in one word: propaganda. Here was a corporate house of cards whose business few could explain and whose source of profits was an utter mystery - and yet it thrived, unquestioned, for years. How? As the narrator says in "The Smartest Guys in the Room," Enron "was fixated on its public relations campaigns." It churned out slick PR videos as if it were a Hollywood studio. It browbeat the press (until a young Fortune reporter, Bethany McLean, asked one question too many). In a typical ruse in 1998, a gaggle of employees was rushed onto an empty trading floor at the company's Houston headquarters to put on a fictional show of busy trading for visiting Wall Street analysts being escorted by Mr. Lay. "We brought some of our personal stuff, like pictures, to make it look like the area was lived in," a laid-off Enron employee told The Wall Street Journal in 2002. "We had to make believe we were on the phone buying and selling" even though "some of the computers didn't even work."
If this Potemkin village sounds familiar, take a look at the ongoing 60-stop "presidential roadshow" in which Mr. Bush has "conversations on Social Security" with "ordinary citizens" for the consumption of local and national newscasts. As in the president's "town meeting" campaign appearances last year, the audiences are stacked with prescreened fans; any dissenters who somehow get in are quickly hustled away by security goons. But as The Washington Post reported last weekend, the preparations are even more elaborate than the finished product suggests; the seeming reality of the event is tweaked as elaborately as that of a television reality show…
Like Enron's stockholders, American taxpayers pay for the production of such propaganda, even if its message, like that of the Enron show put on for visiting analysts, misrepresents and distorts the bottom line of the scheme that is being sold…
The Times reported last weekend that the administration told executive-branch agencies simply to ignore a stern directive by the Congressional Government Accountability Office discouraging the use of "covert propaganda" like the Karen Ryan "news reports." In other words, the brakes are off, and before long, the government could have a larger budget for fake news than actual television news divisions have for real news. At last weekend's Gridiron dinner, Mr. Bush made a joke about how "most" of his good press on Social Security came from Armstrong Williams, and the Washington press corps yukked it up. The joke, however, is on them - and us…
America's economy is losing its competitive edge and Washington hasn't noticed.
By Benjamin Wallace-Wells
… During the last six months, we have begun, quietly, to enter a newly tense moment, with university presidents, business leaders, and columnists delivering ominous-sounding reports and editorials about the threat to American innovation posed by a freshly competitive world—the renewed vitality of western Europe, Japan and Korea, and the ravenous growth of China and India. “We no longer have a lock on technology,” David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate and the current president of the California Institute of Technology, wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times. “Europe is increasingly competitive, and Asia has the potential to blow us out of the water.”
What worriers like Baltimore are beginning to grasp is that these changes are emerging just as the American economy is being made more vulnerable by the movement of manufacturing and service jobs overseas. As a result, we've become increasingly dependent on maintaining our edge in discovering the new technologies and applications that create whole new industries—just as other countries are closing that gap.
This is a fundamentally new threat…
[W]hen you survey economists, policymakers, and business leaders about America's long-term future, it's hard to find many rank optimists; there are the Panicked, and then there are the Merely Tense. Richard Lester, the head of MIT's Center for Innovation, told me he belongs in the latter camp: “Things look somewhat bleak in the long-term, but if you look around Boston, at the incredible concentration of talent and opportunity here, we've still got a head start, and if we're smart we can probably build on it.” Among the Panicked are economists such as MIT Nobelist Paul Samuelson, who has recently argued that the rapid spread of innovative capacity to other countries with lower labor costs makes him doubt the whole doctrine of “comparative advantage,” on which much of modern economics rests.
If there's a way to escape this grim future, economists agree, it is for America to reverse its slowly slumping innovation machine. Perhaps the hottest area of economic research right now centers around technology, trying to figure out what exactly the United States did in the '90s and how we can do it again. In university economics departments and corporate executive suites across the country, the sense that we're in a pivotal fight for continued economic preeminence is already common knowledge.
But in Washington, these new economic realities have barely been noticed…
[Perhaps Washington hasn’t noticed because Washington doesn’t care. Bush only cares about the CEOs of the multi-national corporations, who are doing just fine. He doesn’t give a damn about the rest of us.—Caro]
Washington has always affected the long-term health of the economy: by making investments, regulatory changes, and infrastructure improvement to spur the economy forward, creating new industries and giving new tools to old ones. This category of policies has not traditionally been given a single name but might best be called “microeconomic policy.” Historically, this has been the heroic side of economic policy: The Louisiana Purchase may have been a shrewd maneuver for continental expansion, but it was also a jobs program for landless citizens eager to carve their own farms in the wilderness—which is how Jefferson sold the treaty to Congress. The land grant college system, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln, provided the nation's farmers with expert guidance on the latest agricultural techniques to improve their crop yields. No entrepreneur could figure out how to mass produce cars profitably, writes Harold Evans in his excellent new book They Made America, until Henry Ford fought an aggressive bid against restrictive patents. The pharmaceutical, financial, and airline industries blossomed thanks to the creation of the FDA, SEC, and FAA, which gave customers some assurance of safety when they popped pills, traded stocks, or boarded flights. The G.I. Bill provided a generation of veterans with the college educations they needed to build the post-war middle class. The creation of the federally-guaranteed 30-year mortgage proved the decisive tool in the growth of the post-war American suburb.
These investments and regulatory changes aren't merely tools of the past; it is impossible to imagine the '90s boom emerging without them. Early investment from the Pentagon helped nurture the Internet. The algorithm that powered Google was developed when co-founder Larry Page, then a Stanford graduate student, won a federal grant to write a more efficient sorting and search engine for libraries. The innovative new medicines that have driven the expansion of the biotech and pharmaceutical industries arose from university research largely financed by the National Institutes of Health. The commercialization of these and other discoveries was financed by a venture capital industry that developed only after legislation, sponsored by Republican lawmakers and signed by President Jimmy Carter, enabled an advisory firm to hold significant stock in a start-up.
For most of the country's history, both political parties have favored various microeconomic initiatives—though Democrats have been more comfortable with using government to intervene in the marketplace, while Republicans have tended towards a laissez-faire approach that stressed lowering the cost of capital…
Under President Bush, however, the GOP's natural economic policy tendencies have been hyper-charged by a grand political vision. Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, and other Republican strategists have argued that massive annual tax cuts and the privatization of Social Security will not only increase the flow of capital into the marketplace, but will also put Democrats at a long-term electoral disadvantage and usher in a new era of GOP dominance. That these policies also require the government to take on trillions of dollars in extra debt, just as the first baby boomers are reaching retirement and trade imbalances are reaching historic levels, is seen by GOP leaders as a risk worth taking. And so the White House and Congress have pursued tax cutting and Social Security privatization with relentless focus, to the exclusion of almost everything else…
Technology today is diffusing faster than ever. As the Council on Competitiveness has noted, it took 55 years for the automobile to spread to a quarter of the country, 35 years for the telephone, 22 years for the radio, 16 years for the personal computer, 13 years for the cell phone, and only seven years for the Internet. Because technologies are adopted so quickly, it has become more important than ever for a country's industries to be at the cutting edge—there's simply much less catch-up time. (Fall five years behind on building car factories in the early 20th century and you lost some profits; fall five years behind on hybrid cars and you may have lost an industry).
For this reason, the last four years of drift may have already done significant damage to America's long-term economic prospects. The pity is, there was no good reason for the drift…
But what worries economists even more than the past four years of drift is the prospect of continued inaction. The speed of technological change is now too fast, and the economic competition too fierce, for America to afford that. There is no law that says the United States will be the world's preeminent economic power forever. But neither is there any reason we can't rise to the challenge, as we did in the 1980s and 1990s. Then, as now, becoming more innovative is the solution to our problem. But first, we must recognize that we have a problem.
Toledo Blade, OH
Article published Friday, March 18, 2005
Americans just ignore the devil in the details
I AM not a love-it-or-leave-it American. I'm an in-it-for-the-long-haul American, celebrating progress, lamenting regression, and plugging away for the new and improved. But I'm perplexed about one problem plaguing the state of the union that is particularly resilient to rescue. I'm afraid we are afflicted with an outbreak of shallow thinking in the land. The condition is widespread and the cure is elusive…
In the prevailing shallowness of America, the shrewd can inherit the earth. They can lead an anxious but trusting nation into a war of choice by sounding as if they had no other option. They can push through tax breaks that cost trillions and plump up record deficits by sounding as if fiscal restraint would be folly. They can promote private accounts as saving supplements to Social Security by sounding as if personal investment is preferable to government checks, reliability notwithstanding.
Shallowness allows schemers to gut environmental programs by sounding as though they advocate them with cleverly named initiatives that only a profit-seeking polluter could love. They can sell their propaganda as mainstream news without disclaimer by sounding sincere in their unorthodox approach to winning friends and influencing voters. They can even obscure the tangled web of deceit that Condi Rice lugs around in first-term baggage by sounding like 2008 could be her year.
And America the beautiful will bite at whatever sounds good or seems right if it's smartly delivered by someone who simply must know more than the average bloke about politics, prosperity, and pre-emptive war. Besides, how wrong can it be when those leading us all off the cliff sound as if pain is precluded altogether? If the consequences of poor policy from fiscal to foreign ever raise the specter of sacrifice, as they surely will and surely are, the shallow won't know what to think.
Or how. It's that bad and policy makers only pray it gets worse.
Posted 3/21/2005 10:03 PM Updated 3/21/2005 10:17 PM
Some ask who belongs in 'ownership society'
By Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — In President Bush's vision of an "ownership society," people would have more choices and assume more risk in nearly every part of their lives. The result, in theory: They would save more, own more and rely less on the government — even if they're elderly, low-income or both.
"I think all public policy, or as much public policy as possible, ought to encourage people to own something," Bush says. The more people own, he adds, "the more they'll have a stake in the future of this country." (Related item: Some decisions easier to 'own', poll finds)
In practice, skeptics say, Bush's version of an "ownership society" would mean "you're on your own" — unless you are well-heeled, well-informed and already an owner. "It's a wonderful phrase," says former Clinton Labor secretary Robert Reich, a professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. "But in fact, it's going to further concentrate ownership in fewer and fewer hands."…
Aside from the question of financial resources, Bush assumes that people want more choices and will make good ones. Enthusiasts say there's evidence that's true.
"People generally are able to make decisions in areas where they're allowed to make decisions," Boaz says, even complicated ones. "How complicated is it to buy a car? But I don't know any American who says I'm afraid to buy a car."
But psychologists and behavioral economists say everyone makes bad choices, even the affluent and well-educated. Shaver cites dot-com workers who had all their money tied up in their own companies: "Diversification is one of the oldest rules of investing. And a whole lot of people ignored that rule and lost everything they had."
Other analysts point to new research that shows too much choice can result in paralysis, bad choices or what psychologist Barry Schwartz calls "vague angst."
"It's never occurred to anyone that choice could be a bad thing," says Schwartz, a professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and author of the 2004 book The Paradox of Choice…
This is what George Bush wants for America.
The Herald, U.K.
UK’s crisis in pensions given new dimension
KARL WEST, City Editor
ONE of Britain's leading pensions experts yesterday dubbed the string of high-profile company collapses that have left thousands of people without an income in their old age "the biggest social injustice of our time".
In a meeting of the Pensions Action Group at Westminster, Dr Ros Altmann, governor of the London School of Economics and an independent policy adviser, pointed the finger of blame straight at the government for consistently encouraging people to invest in an occupational pension without detailing the risks.
She said confidence in the whole pension system had been "rocked to the core" because of the increasing examples of hard-working people who were promised a guaranteed minimum pension, but who have ended up with nothing…
Bush's First Defeat
The president has lost on Social Security. How will he handle it?
By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2005, at 4:19 AM PT
George W. Bush's plan to remake the Social Security system is kaput. This is not a value judgment. It's a statement of political fact. In the months since the president first presented the idea as his top domestic priority, Democrats in Congress have unexpectedly unified in opposition to any reform based on private accounts. Several Republican senators whose votes would be needed for passage are resisting private accounts as well. And public opinion, which has never favored any form of privatization, is trending even more strongly against Bush's scheme. At this point, there's just no way that the president can finagle enough votes to win.
This means that Bush is about to suffer—and is actually in the midst of suffering—his first major political defeat…
[T]here have … been some recent indications that Bush knows he is in trouble and is laying the groundwork to try to co-opt the more popular position of his opponents. Already Bush is subtly backing away from his defining idea of "carve-out" private accounts (which would be funded out of FICA contributions, as opposed to "add-on" accounts) and creeping stealthily toward the notion of prolonging the lifespan of the Social Security trust fund…
[I]f Bush is shrewd enough to euthanize carve-out accounts while shifting to make solvency his goal, he will leave his Democratic opponents in a quandary. A package of innocuous tax increases and benefit cuts could extend the life of the trust fund out to 75 years in a fairly painless way. Substantively, it would be hard for even the most partisan Democrats to oppose this kind of compromise, which serves their goal of protecting the future of Social Security. But politically, Democrats would be loath to help Bush turn his first major defeat into another political victory.
Most Americans no good at investing
Wed Mar 23, 6:15 AM ET
By Adam Shell, USA TODAY
Robin Neil Haberle, 45, wants the chance to manage every penny of his Social Security payroll taxes. The marketing professional from Media, Pa., cites the main reason he backs President Bush's plan to create private accounts: "I've proven to be a more prudent investor than the federal government. I know what I'm doing."
But Haberle is not your ordinary investor. In fact, when it comes to managing money, studies done by a leading human resources firm to track the financial acumen of the masses show that most Americans don't know what they are doing. That's a big negative for Bush, whose plan is based on his belief that most Americans want to, and are capable of, building a profitable portfolio made up of stocks and bonds.
"I have a Ph.D., have belonged to an investment club for 10 years and have studied the market - and even I have invested badly over the years," says Marjorie Abrams, 67, a retiree from Gainesville, Fla. "What will those who don't understand the market do with their savings? How much time can they be expected to devote to it?"
Certainly not the long hours logged by professional Wall Street analysts, traders and money managers. Research confirms that a huge swath of U.S. workers have little or no interest in serving as their own personal portfolio managers…
Social Security Misrepresented by the Associated Press
This is the headline and lead that went out from the AP yesterday afternoon:
Trustees: Social Security Broke in 2041
AP via Yahoo! News - Mar 23 1:49 PM
The trust fund for Social Security will go broke in 2041 — a year earlier than previously estimated — the trustees reported Wednesday. Trustees also said that Medicare, the giant health care program for the elderly and disabled, faces insolvency in 2020.
The above headline and lead were picked up by:
Trustees: Social Security Broke in 2041
ABC News - 33 minutes ago
Trustees: Social Security broke in 2041
Miami Herald - 51 minutes ago
Trustees: Social Security Broke in 2041
AP via Yahoo! Asia News - 59 minutes ago
Trustees: Social Security to go broke by 2041
Sun-Sentinel - 2 hours, 8 minutes ago
Though others had a more truthful recap of the situation much earlier in the day:
US Social Security Fund Exhausted in 2041-Trustees
Reuters via Yahoo! News - Mar 23 9:37 AM
The U.S. Social Security trust fund will exhaust its assets in 2041 instead of 2042 as forecast last year, while the Medicare trust fund will be depleted in 2020, rather than 2019, the funds' trustees said on Wednesday.
Social Security Plan to Run Out of Assets in 2041,
Bloomberg.com - Mar 23 9:19 AM
March 23 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Social Security system will be exhausted of assets in 2041, one year earlier than previously forecast, its trustees said today.
Message I sent to the Associated Press and to my media contacts as soon as I saw the AP headline that Social Security will “go broke”:
It is simply not true that Social Security will "go broke" in 2041, and I wish your news service wouldn't help spread that lie.
Read down in any of the articles with the "go broke" headline and you will find out that what the trustees actually said was that the government bonds bought by the trust fund, which the Republicans have been trying to tell us are worthless anyway, will be exhausted in 2041. But there will still be millions of workers paying FICA every paycheck at that time, just as there are today. They will be able to provide 80% of the promised benefits to the people receiving payments then. And yes, the government will have to start borrowing to make up the shortfall, which is exactly why it should be using the FICA surplus right now to pay down the debt, rather than put it in the pockets of Halliburton and other Bush crony executives.
Please stop falling for the lying talking points engineered by the Bush administration.
Soon after that message was sent, this article suddenly became the primary AP output:
Social Security Said to Pay Out in 2017
AP via Yahoo! News - 46 minutes ago
Social Security will begin paying out more in benefits than it receives in taxes in 2017, twelve years from now and a year earlier than previously estimated, trustees said Wednesday in a forecast adding fuel to the debate over changes President Bush wants.
And below is what the AP is saying today. But the damage is done, friends. Millions of people saw the headline that Social Security is going to “go broke,” and that’s what they’ll continue to believe.
Soc. Sec. Report Changes Numbers Slightly
AP - Thu Mar 24, 2:10 AM ET
A new report on the financial health of Social Security changed the numbers only slightly and the terms of the political debate even less so.
Just look at how USA Today handled it—as a horse race, rather than as one of the most important issues facing us today. They don’t explain what new fodder Bush was given, except for the damning and incorrect statement handed to him by his lackey trustees that Social Security will “go broke” in 2041.
Social Security, Medicare report gives Bush new
USA Today - Mar 23 4:28 PM
The Social Security and Medicare Trustees' report was the most eagerly awaited event of the season, but the report gave the president some new fodder.
The New York Times
About That Number
Published: March 24, 2005
The Social Security trustees issued their annual report yesterday and said that by one measure, the shortfall in Social Security's finances jumped from $10.4 trillion last year to about $11 trillion this year. Eleven trillion dollars! The trustees, in service to President Bush's alarmist warnings about the need to do something drastic about Social Security, are dishing up…
Some people who interpret the numbers as a deterioration appear to be confused. But others, like President Bush, are being deliberately alarmist. Mr. Bush's persistent misstatements on Social Security leave little doubt that he wants Americans to believe that the system is irretrievably broken so that they will buy into his unnecessary privatization plan.
Fortunately, the unpoliticized numbers in yesterday's report are not overly dire. Using a 75-year time horizon, the trustees project that the system will be able to pay full benefits until 2041, at which time it will be able to pay 74 percent of the promised benefits, falling to 68 percent by 2079. That works out to a gap of $4 trillion, which could be bridged with modest tax increases and benefit cuts, phased in over the next few decades. If people try to tell you different, they need to be set straight.
The Black Commentator
The U.S. is Becoming a ‘Failed State’
“Privatization of social security is a road to government abdication, the cause of failed statehood.” – Henry C.K. Liu, “The Business of Private Security,” AsiaTimes.
Too often lately in Black America, political discourse has become so parochial – so steeped in petty assessments of marginal advantages that might accrue to some portion of “The Race” through tactical slickness or posturing – that it sounds like a discussion of what to wear to the beach when the tsunami hits. The very fact that the question of Black alignment with Republicans is entertained under any circumstances at this historical juncture, is proof that much of the Black leadership class has lost its moorings. While African Americans are diverted by actuarial tables (falsely) purporting to show the merits of privatized Social Security, the Pirates at the helm of the GOP relentlessly pursue their larger agenda: to destroy every structure of government that has usefulness to the public – especially, Black people – in order to clear the way for corporate governance.
If this process is allowed to advance much further, the sea will have truly changed, smashing every mechanism for Black progress and redress of historical grievance, swamping every ancestor-cleared pathway to effective exercise of our collective political will, and rendering our vaunted solidarity a disconnected impulse with no means of expression.
Of what use is a congressional or state Black political caucus, or Black mayors and city councils, if the state is so enfeebled that it cannot deliver the goods? That’s precisely the strategic objective of those who would “Starve the Beast” – poison the fiscal well with deficits and tax cuts until the federal government cannot deliver popularly desired political goods such as health care, much less help the states and cities provide basic services. Corporations then step into the void – or as much of the needs-market as is profitable – to sell vital services. Elected officials are made superfluous. Black power – or the dream of it – becomes a dead letter…
We are witnessing the domestic version of a phenomenon well known in the Third World: the deliberate creation of “failed states,” national governments that have been maneuvered or coerced into impotence by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, trade agreements with the United States – any combination of capital and military coercion. These states have become irrelevant to the needs of their own people and, therefore, in a very real sense, illegitimate. As Henry C..K. Liu explains, such states cannot deliver the goods:
“Failed states provide only substandard political goods, if any at all. Weak failed states involuntarily forfeit, and strong failed states do so voluntarily, the responsibility for delivering political goods, and leave it to non-state actors, i.e. the private sector through the market mechanism. Privatization of the public sector is more than the outsourcing of state functions. It is the selling off of state prerogatives.”
The Bush regime has summoned the failed state chicken home to roost, with a vengeance, as it attempts to strip away every social obligation of the state to the people. However, the legitimacy of American governments at all levels has long been eroding, as defined by their capacity to provide political goods to the citizenry. For decades, heavily Black cities have busily sold off their “prerogatives” – their assets, tax bases and sovereign powers – to corporations or regional authorities…
Even the coercive organs of the state – prisons, policing, the military – pass rapidly into private hands, evidence of advanced state failure. And no one should doubt that the American Gulag, comprising one quarter of the world’s prison inmates, half of them Black, is prima facie proof of massive state failure – a government that delivers incarceration, rather than liberty, to a huge portion of its citizens.
“Another political good,” writes Liu, “is the provision of universal health care and education, the maintenance of a vibrant economy of full employment at living wages that will allow workers to afford decent housing and secure retirement, and a clean environment, without which all rhetoric about liberty becomes irrelevant.” These are, in fact, fundamental attributes and aspirations of civilization as it has evolved in modern times. Add a heavy emphasis on justice and the right to self-determination, and one arrives at a general description of the historical Black Political Agenda, now under massive assault by the Bush regime…
[One might say it’s the political agenda of 99% of Americans that’s under massive assault.—Caro]
Privatizing Survivors, Abandoning Children
Nancy K. Cauthen
March 25, 2005
You wouldn’t know it from President Bush’s 60-city tour, but the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program—commonly referred to as Social Security—was designed to insure “the security of men, women, and children of the nation against certain hazards and vicissitudes of life.” The 5 million children who benefit from Social Security every month are as yet invisible in the discussions about restructuring the program. While the debate over Social Security has focused almost exclusively on the potential impact of privatization on retirees, Social Security is actually the nation’s de facto family insurance program for workers, their spouses and their children.
As a family insurance program to protect against life’s hazards and vicissitudes, it’s working pretty well. One in three Social Security beneficiaries is either a disabled worker or the family member of a worker who has become disabled or died. These survivor and disability protections make Social Security the single largest program providing support to American children, paying out roughly $16 billion annually to child beneficiaries. Far more children benefit from Social Security than from the nation’s primary cash welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Despite Social Security’s undeniable success at providing income protection for families, we now face national proposals that would dramatically alter the program. Creating private accounts to replace part of the current system represents a radical departure from the program’s original design. Proponents argue that such accounts would ultimately provide greater security.
But security for whom? What about child beneficiaries—how would they be affected? What about surviving spouses of workers who die, and disabled workers and their families? What about Social Security’s original promise that hard-working people and their families would not be consigned to destitution simply because of early death or disability? These questions have barely been acknowledged, let alone addressed…
Posted 3/24/2005 11:05 PM Updated 3/25/2005 9:07 AM
Bush approval slips to 45%, lowest of his presidency
By Bill Nichols, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — President Bush's approval rating has fallen to 45%, the lowest point of his presidency, according to a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll.
The finding, in a poll of 1,001 adults Monday through Wednesday, is a dip from 52% in a poll taken last week. Bush's previous lowest rating, 46%, was recorded last May.
The White House declined to comment…
The new poll found the largest drop for Bush came among men, self-described conservatives and churchgoers…