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Do reporters respond when

Do reporters respond when the president tells flagrant lies?

(No, it's not a trick question.)

Today the president said: "Most younger people in America think they'll never see a dime [from Social Security]. Probably an exaggeration to a certain extent. But a lot of people who are young, who understand how Social Security works, really do wonder whether they'll see anything."

The president says it's "an exaggeration to a certain extent" to say that younger people today don't think they'll ever get any money from Social Security, despite the fact that they pay over 12% (employees' and employers' contributions combined) out of every paycheck into the program.

I'm thirty-five, though not for much longer. So I hope I don't flatter myself too greatly to include myself among the "younger people" to whom President Bush is referring. So, God willing, I will turn 67 in February 2036.

According to the Trustees, using very pessimistic estimates of future economic growth, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2042. After that, incoming revenue, they say, will be able to pay for at least 70% of my benefits. In other words, I'm good until I'm 73, after which my benefits could drop by as much as 30% if the US economy does really poorly over the next 35 years and no one does anything whatsoever with Social Security until then.

On the other hand, the Congressional Budget Office, under the leadership of former Bush White House senior economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, says I'll have no problem until 2052, when I'll be 83. After that, they say, there will be a reduction, but again not an overwhelming one.

Bear in mind of course, as we've said again and again, if the US economy just keeps growing at the rate it has for the last hundred years or more, any problems are likely a good deal further out into the future.

So, what does this tell us? According to relatively pessimistic forecasts, two government agencies -- one of which is part of a Republican administration and the other under the oversight of a Republican congress -- say I'll get my full benefits for either the first five years of my retirement or the first fifteen years. After that, if nothing changes at all, I'll probably keep drawing three-quarters of my benefits. And even if I'm only drawing that three-quarters it'll still be more than today's retirees draw even in inflation-adjusted dollars.

This disconnect suggests one of three possibilities.

One is that the president has been briefed on certain highly classified budget projections which show a far more dire situation than the government's non-classified budgeting estimates would have us believe. We'll call this the secret evidence hypothesis.

Another possibility is that President Bush believes that the US government will default on the Treasury notes held by the Social Security Administration. Let's call this the Harken Energy hypothesis.

If it's neither of these we can only conclude that as he has done repeatedly before, this president is deceiving the people he has sworn to serve and defend in order to achieve a policy goal he cannot manage by honest means.

Indeed, it is still more cynical and deliberate than that. The president knows he can't say, "No one will get any benefits after 2030, so help me replace Social Security with private accounts." So, just as he and his associates did during the build up to the Iraq war, he uses paraphrases, work-arounds and slippery repetitons to communicate the intended falsehood while still providing himself with sufficient wiggle room to evade being tagged as a liar.

So here, for instance, he states that young people think they'll never collect Social Security benefits. Then he says that's "probably an exaggeration to a certain extent." And then he goes on to say that it's precisely the young people who are knowledgable about Social Security who think this. The clear implication, the meaning he intends to convey, is that this dire prediction is at least more true than not, when in fact, as we've noted, to the extent we can know anything about the future, it's not even close to being true.

Like I said, do reporters call him on it? Even toss a question to McClellan?

Late Update: According to the LAT, the president told one 27 year old at his Social Security event, "At your age [Social Security] will be bust by the time it comes for you to retire." And then later, "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."

It's certainly what he wants them to think. Chief Executive as confidence man.

If you have a

If you have a blog and can't think of a topic to dig into today, try reading through this online Q&A the White House just held with Chuck Blahous, President Bush's Social Security phase-out <$NoAd$>maven.

Listen to this exchange with "Stuart" from New Jersey (italics added) ...

Stuart, from New Jersey writes: How can we make the transition to invester owned social security without incurring 2 trillion in dept to fund current citizans recieving assistance?

Chuck Blahous As long as we have a Social Security system, there will be costs no matter what we do. The Social Security Trustees have told us the cost of maintaining the current system without change. It is approximately $10.4 trillion, in present value. That is the extra revenue that the system would need to have on hand today, above and beyond all payroll taxes, to meet the gap between taxes and promised benefits.

A number of comprehensive proposals have been put forward, some by Members of Congress, others by the President’s bipartisan Commission to Strengthen Social Security. President Bush has not selected a specific reform proposal. Several of these proposals would fix the system permanently while considerably reducing the cost of sustaining the system under current law.

The current system would begin its “transition” from the black to the red in 2018. From that date onward, under current law, the current system would face a deficit that is growing worse with each following year. The President has proposed that we head off this event by beginning to invest now in the future of Social Security. We can do this for far less than the $10 trillion cost of sustaining the current system.

Wow, Social Security Administration needs ten trillion dollars on hand today and it's got nuthin'. That really is a crisis!

Infinity? Today? But, hey, who's counting?

Does Blahous not think anybody's going to read this stuff?

Okay a walk down

Okay, a walk down TPM's memory lane. <$NoAd$>Back in 2002 we brought you the NRCC (the GOP's House campaign committee) internal memo instructing candidates how to bully reporters out of using the term 'privatization' to describe their Social Security proposal --- this notwithstanding the fact that this was the word they themselves chose to describe their plan and never had a problem with until their pollsters told them to drop it.

The memo also gave general guidelines on how to run away from their support for President Bush's phase-out plan.

Some highlights ...

Democrat attempt to label GOP position on Social Security as favoring "privatization" presents serious threat. GOP, Members, and candidates must fight back against this label.


AARP is a dangerous adversary in this debate. They have greater credibility than any entity on this issue and are not viewed as partisan.


Candidate must focus on messages that reassure voters/seniors that they will not cut benefits and that nothing will change with their Social Security.

With the debate heating up, we thought it was time to revisit these old favorites. Here's the full memo (27 pages) and the highlights (4 pages) from the TPM Document Collection.

As youve likely heard

As you've likely heard the president's rich friends are giving tons of cash for a big inaugural shindig, notwithstanding the fact that we're supposed to be at war. But look at this lede on the front page of today's Post ...

D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.

Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.

It is supremely fitting that the celebration of a victory won by politicizing and hyping homeland security and terrorism ends up with this sort of <$NoAd$>funding problem.

Its still going to

It's still going to take us a bit longer to get our Social Security database up and running. So for now we've added this little box you see there on the right with links to the most up-to-date lists of the Fainthearted Faction as well as the Republicans' rapidly growing Conscience Caucus.

Look at this piece in tomorrow's Post on Republican resistance to the president's Social Security phase-out bill. The spark to the piece is Rep. Rob Simmons, a Republican from a pretty competitive district in eastern Connecticut, who says flat out that he's not going to vote for the president's bill.

More revealing is the fact that Republicans themselves, according to the Post, estimate that between 15 and 40 members of their House caucus agree with Simmons. And note Bill Kristol's also sounding a note of opposition, both on the politics and even the substance of the president's plan.

As several other blogs

As several other blogs have already done, I really recommend reading this piece in the New Republic about how the laws that are meant to protect the right to organize in this country are increasingly going unenforced or feebly enforced and how that is having ill effects throughout our society and economy.

From the Post Rep.

From the Post: "Rep. [Rob]Simmons [of Connecticut] said there is no way he will support Bush's idea of allowing younger Americans to divert some of their payroll taxes into private accounts, especially when there are more pressing needs, such as shoring up Medicare and providing armor to U.S. troops in Iraq."

It sounds like President Bush doesn't have Rep. Simmons' vote. Add him to the list.

Just a quick update

Just a quick update on our Social Security 'where do they stand' database. We had an unforeseen delay on the tech end of the operation. But now we're back underway and we should have the database up and online in the not-too-distant future. For those of you who've written in and offered to volunteer your time, we'll be in touch with you shortly.