The distinguished gentleman from Orange County speaks for me in this matter.
Phase-out by any other name is still phase-out: President Bush says he's open to a tax hike for upper-income earners (i.e., raising the payroll wage cap) to make Social Security phase-out possible. It's just more of the same effort, which we described yesterday, to woo the Conscience Caucus and the Fainthearted Faction.
President Bush orders Rep. Bradley (R) of New Hampshire into the Conscience Caucus? More to follow ...
The Night of the Long Gavels continues!
A couple weeks back we brought you the news of the recent purge of non-DeLay-lieutenants from the House Ethics Committee and their replacement with a slate of pliant toadies.
Now, according to this story in CQ Today, new Chairman Doc Hastings' first order of business was to fire two top members of the committee's professional staff --- Staff Director and Chief Counsel John Vargo as well as spokesman and counsel Paul Lewis.
Pioneering new ground in understatement, Hastings (R) of Washington told the remaining committee staff he is âheaded in another direction.â And apparently there may be more firings to follow.
In the spirit of the moment, might we suggest that there may be some out-of-work former DeLay aides back in Texas who are available for the new jobs?
Gov. Rendell (D) of Pennsylvania leaving the Fainthearted Faction?
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland trying to move in on TPM's turf?!?!
In today's edition of The Hill, Hans Nichols reports that Hoyer says he's counted 29 House Republicans who oppose "all or major parts of President Bushâs plan."
Of course, the House Conscience Caucus currently includes only 20 members, nine shy of Hoyer's magic 29. But then we've been tightening the requirements.
So we'll be checking into this ...
President Bush is trying to sell America on a plan that will cost several trillion dollars (the lower estimates are for ten years, before the big bills come due), cut future benefits by as much as 46% for today's children and pull more money out of Social Security.
There is great public interest and notice. Many people are worried, in most cases with good reason. And yet the president says again and again that he won't say just what he wants to do to Social Security.
When a reporter asked him about this at the conversation in the White House yesterday, he said this ...
"The tendency in Washington is, âOK, Mr. President, you play your cards now and weâll decide if weâre going to play ours. Iâm not going to do that. Iâm keeping them close to the vest."
At the moment, for all to see, the president doesn't have the numbers in Congress to move any phase-out bill. He's got only one Democrat clearly on his side -- the poltroonish Allen Boyd -- and at least a couple dozen Republicans who aren't ready to phase out Social Security.
So Tuesday he tried <$Ad$> another approach: going directly to local press in critical districts and states around the country, trying to sell phase-out. The president sat down for an hour long group interview in the Oval Office with reporters from regional papers, each from areas with high concentrations of retirees. They included the Tennessean (Nashville), the Orange County Register, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), the Birmingham News (Alabama) and the New Haven Register.
(Note that the president is having real problems with Republicans in Tennessee and Alabama.
Another target was Iowa. When asked about benefit cuts, according to the Times reporter from the Quad City Times, President Bush "appeared to suggest ... that the scheduled rate of increase in Social Security benefits is not in step with reality."
This is the coming tactic, which has already been the focus of a lot of press push-back, to simply say that the current scheduled benefit rates are impossible or can't really happen. Thus reducing benefits from those which can't really happen doesn't count as 'cuts'.
Here's how the Quad City Times reporter described that exchange in his follow-up report ...
âBenefit cuts is an interesting word,â Bush said. âBenefits are scheduled to grow at a certain rate, and one of the, one of the suggestions, for example ... was they grow at a, they grow, but not at a rate as fast as projected. You can call it anything you want. I would call it an adjustment to reality,â he said.
The president stressed, though, that he was not expressing a preference for what a Social Security package might include.
âThis is one of the many suggestions that people have made,â he said. âI donât want you to walk away thinking that I am picking one part of the solution mix or not. Iâm not.â
Bush said the current system cannot be sustained, and he implied that benefits in the traditional program will have to be scaled back for those born after 1950.
"One of the suggestions, for example, is that they grow but not at a rate as fast as projected," he said. "You can call it anything you want. I would call it an adjustment to reality."
As Drudge says tonight, those three CBS execs whose resignations were requested -- they were never received. And why should they tender them? When you're hung out to dry, why go easily if the people hanging you out have dirty hangs too?
Were the highest level people at CBS really not deeply involved in the digging in of heels phase of that whole fiasco? Even after it was clear that the network's reputation was on the line? They didn't get involved? Hard to figure.