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It really is amazing

It really is amazing that anyone takes Alan Greenspan seriously anymore. Sen. Reid was right when he called him one of Washington's biggest political hacks. Here's an article about a speech Chairman Greenspan just gave in which he said that our structural budget deficits are a far greater threat to the nation's economy than either the trade deficit or our low savings rate.

That's almost certainly so.

But without putting too fine a point on it, the deficits are his fault!

Not exclusively his fault, certainly. But by placing his seal of approval on the president's 2001 tax cut package (the primary cause of our rapidly escalating indebtedness) he probably played as a big a role as any single individual after the president himself in ensuring that those tax cuts (and those that followed them) became law. Anyone can be wrong. But the rationale he gave at that time was clearly disingenuous.

It's an elementary point. The man simply has no credibility on this issue. And even though criticism of Greenspan along these lines has become more vocal of late, he still remains close to sacrosanct in polite political debate.

Some day it will be an amazing history to tell, how this acolyte of a half-baked Russian emigre eccentric became the economic avatar of America's turn-of-the-century political class.

What the hell is

What the hell is Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) thinking? She's holding a townhall meeting on Social Security tomorrow in Baton Rouge, the same day President Bush is holding his Bamboozlepalooza event in Shreveport.

But Landrieu's event is open to the public, no tickets required. I'll bet her staff hasn't even put together a Landrieu-loyalty oath yet or done background checks on people who want to ask questions. Talk about wet behind the ears. They clearly don't know how these things are done.

President Bush takes his

President Bush takes his phase-out follies to Alabama today. And we're filing this nugget under Heading: Bamboozlepalooza, Subsection: Ouch!

Republicans hold seven of Alabama's nine congressional seats, but most won't be there when Bush speaks today. Rep. Mike Rogers of Anniston is the only congressman who has announced he will attend, and he has publicly expressed doubts about Bush's plan. Other congressmen cited committee meetings and congressional votes as reasons for their absence.

So the only guy who'll show up is the one who's got the guts to tell him 'no' to his face?

An interesting set of

An interesting set of choices.

In USA Today, Susan Page has a list of "Six men who'll shape the future." These are "lesser-known figures [who] also have a lot to say about what will happen [in the Social Security debate]."

She has John Cogan, a pro-privatization Stanford Professor close to the president, who served on his Social Security Commission in 2001; Bill Novelli of AARP; Rep. Bill Thomas, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee; Sen. Lindsey Graham; Rep. Harold Ford; and Derrick Max, head of the pro-phase-out group Alliance for Worker Retirement Security and Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security (COMPASS).

Now, Bill Novelli is a key player in the pro-Social Security constellation today. No question.

After that you've got the head of two of the key pro-privatization pressure groups allied with the White House, one of the president's privatization advisors from academia, two Republican members of Congress who support private accounts, and a Democrat who Page identifies as perhaps the one most likely to cut a deal with the White House to support privatization.

As it happens, I think Page's information is out of date on Ford. Despite being a former Dean of the Faction, I think Ford has set out a clear and what we might term enforceable position opposing privatization.

Still, all told, Page has one clear opponent of privatization, four clear proponents of privatization and the Democrat she thinks may be the member of his party closest to supporting privatization.

Articles like this shouldn't be forced into a narrow 3-for, 3-against mold. But I think there's a bit of imbalance here, no? That's especially so when you consider that by any reasonable measure, to date, the pro-Social Security forces have been winning this debate, not withstanding a near total exclusion from power in Washington. They're not doing it with committee chairmen or presidential advisors, certainly.

You really have to wonder if Page is following the folks on that side. With the debate moving in the direction it is, there must be someone pushing beside Bill Novelli, right? How about Roger Hickey, for example, the co-director of the Campaign for America's Future and one of the founders of Americans United to Protect Social Security, the organizational nexus of the pro-Social Security groups? Or Hans Riemer of Rock the Vote? Another obvious pick would be Tom Matzzie, the new Washington director for Moveon, the group that's played a big role in coordinating on-the-ground push-back against the various Republican townhalls and presidential visits.

Obviously, you could pick a bunch of other people. But reading Page's article makes me wonder and worry how much the city's most prominent reporters are in touch with who it is precisely who's heading up this fight on the pro-Social Security side.

The In This Together

The 'In This Together Campaign' (ITT) is the group heading the anti-phase-out forces in New York state. And at the moment that largely means trying to get Republican members of Congress to come out of their hardened bunkers and answer constituents questions about President Bush's privatization plan.

To date, from what we understand, not one Republican member of the New York congressional delegation has held a townhall meeting about Social Security. ITT has been trying to muscle some of these folks into showing their faces in their districts. And one of them, Rep. John Sweeney has agreed to hold a meeting to answer constituent questions. So far, according to ITT press releases from March 9th, Reps. Boehlert, Reynolds, Kelly and King are all refusing to hold public meetings.

I can certainly understand where these folks might not want to attend meetings put together by ITT. But their unwillingness to hold any public forums on the issue is pretty telling. I mean, you'd think they could at least hold one of those Bush-style meetings with the animatronic citizens, right?

Then there's Rep. Vito Fossella (R) from Staten Island. A few weeks ago he told a local TV interviewer that Democrats were "irresponsible" for not going along with President Bush's phase-out plan and that failing to act now would lead to either tax hikes or benefit cuts for younger Americans.

That prompted Democratic state party chair Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr. to send off a letter to Fossella. After pointing out that the Bush plan itself calls for steep benefit cuts, he wrote: "I am writing today to ask that you pledge to rule out cutting benefits for future retirees, as President Bush's plan would do. I am sure New Yorkers in your district are eager to hear you make such a pledge."

To date, apparently there's been no reply from Fossella. So presumably Fossella is a phase-out man but for the moment he's laying low hoping he won't have to tell constituents to their faces.