Has Stephen Hess, government affairs mandarin and resident quote-meister at Brookings, gotten out of the office recently? Read a paper? Chatted with a Democrat?
Here's what he told the Baton Rouge Advocate about the future of Social Security: "Nobody denies that it's a serious question and future train wreck. The debate itself is worthy."
Nobody denies it's a future "train wreck"? If I'm not mistaken, whether Social Security is headed for a budgetary "train wreck" is precisely what's being argued about right now.
An "accountability moment."
From the Post ...
President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent <$NoAd$>aftermath.
"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."
Downright <$NoAd$> criminal.
Just out from the Times ...
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.
Social Security officials say the agency is carrying out its mission to educate the public, including more than 47 million beneficiaries, and to support the agenda of President Bush.
But agency 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.
The latest from TPM False Equivalence Watch (TM).
Today from CBS News ...
Is there a Social Security crisis? Mr. Bush says yes, the Democrats say no. They say the system as is can deliver the promised benefits until at least 2042. And they say minor revenue increases and benefits made soon can safeguard Social Security for much longer. They say the "crisis" is made up so the administration can start experimenting with private Social Security accounts.
And THAT, the Democrats say, is a crisis. They believe the administrationâs proposal to offer optional, voluntary private accounts would start an inexorable avalanche on the slippery slope of privatizing Social Security, of taking away government guaranteed payments to old people. They think itâs an evil plot by evil-doers. A crisis. Thatâs their crisis-mongering.
On the facts, the Democrats are right to say that Social Security doesnât pose an immediate crisis. But in defining the issues supporting an aging population so narrowly, the Democrats are every bit as disingenuous as the administration. When you put Social Security on top of Medicare, on top of rising medical costs and in the context of a shrinking workforce and expanding elderly population, you have something pretty close to a crisis. But itâs not one either party is talking much about.
A pretty decent account of the dishonesty of President Bush's Social Security 'crisis' fear-mongering from MSNBC.
If you're up on the subject, the details may not surprise you. But the source may.
Here is a graceful and concise summary from Paul Starr of The American Prospect of what Social Security provides for American society and what the president's phase-out option never can.
From The Hill ("Centrists steer clear of Social Security plans") ...
âRepublicans need moderate Democrats to be a part of this process to get cover,â the Senate GOP aide said. âIf there are no Democrats who are going to come across here, you may have some revolt within the Republicans.â
Any Rhode Islanders out there?
As I've mentioned once or twice in the past I lived in Providence, Rhode Island from 1992 to 1997, loved it, and still have a special fondness for the place. (Strange, but true TPM trivia: When I was a graduate student at Brown in the mid-1990s I did web design to supplement my essentially non-existent income. In 1996, when Sen. Jack Reed (D) first ran for Senate I got his campaign to let me design his campaign website -- for free, of course.)
In any case, this isn't a walk down memory lane. I ask because of that other Rhode Island senator, Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee. Chafee is in our Conscience Caucus because of a statement he made last month about the president's Social Security phase-out bill, and even more because of his demonstrated record of bucking the president on major policy initiatives like the 2001 tax cut bill, which twelve senate Dems voted for. If there was one Senate Republican I'd figure was most likely to go against the president on phasing-out Social Security, it's Lincoln Chafee.
But as near as I can tell he hasn't told his constituents any more about his views on the phase-out bill for the last month or more. Even back then all he said about the it was that "it's the wrong time and I regret that we're looking at this in the context of huge deficits."
I would imagine that either the Projo (aka, the Providence Journal-Bulletin, the major paper in the state) or a few of his million or sp constituents could prevail upon him to provide a little more detail about where he stands on phasing out Social Security and replacing with private investment accounts.
Republicans from the Chafee family have a charmed life in Rhode Island, notwithstanding the state's ocean blue politics. But that's largely because even as the state's politics have diverged so sharply from the national Republican party, Chafee and his late father let Rhode Islanders have it both ways. They have a Republican in Washington; but one that seldom gets much out of step with the state on key issues.
Social Security, though, is a pretty defining issue, and one that I'd expect many of the senator's constituents care a lot about. As I say, I suspect, in the end, Sen. Chafee won't support the president's phase-out plan. But here's the thing: by keeping mum and cagey about his position now, especially during this early, crucial phase of the debate, he may actually doing a lot to make a Social Security phase-out a reality. On the other hand, stating his position early and clearly might go almost as far toward saving Social Security as eventual vote against the president's bill. It could even be more important.
The New York Sun, December 2nd, 2004: "Yet another [senator] with perceived presidential ambitions, Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania, is viewed as potentially the most effective White House point man on the [Social Security] issue, in part because he has been a staunch supporter of accounts but does not have his own bill or a personal stake in a particular proposal. 'He has spoken out since his days in the House and has run two senatorial campaigns that talked about reform in a swing state - and lived to tell about it,' Mr. John said."
Does he still want to be point-man?
We've been trying to find public statements from the senator on the president's Social Security phase-out plan. And they're really hard to find over the last six or seven weeks. There's no question he still supports it: here's the statement of support on his website. We just can't find many recent statements.