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A TPM Reader chimes

A TPM Reader chimes in ...


Why is it Social Security that needs fixing when it is the Republicans’ runaway’ spending that is the problem?!

By their own admission, the problem will occur when the excessive SS contributions begin to slow down causing the government to look elsewhere for the money they need to cover all those tax cuts they gave their rich friends (and, I suspect, themselves).

So why is it Social Security that needs fixing?

Please explain.



That <$NoAd$> pretty much covers it. The real danger to Social Security is to be found in the president's first-term tax cuts.

Everyones a critic. Rep.

Everyone's a critic.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) of Alabama says Bill Maher is a traitor because of recent statements he made on his show.

"I want him (Maher) off the air," says the congressman.

(ed.note: Thanks to TPM Reader MJ for the tip.)

Late Update: And Maher responds!

Bamboozlepalooza the self-parody phase

Bamboozlepalooza, the <$NoAd$> self-parody phase (from a late AP story) ...

At the same time, President Bush warned members of his own party they would join Democrats in facing voters' wrath if they don't support his proposed overhaul.

I guess in a way this is fair since, after all, don't Republicans deserve the chance to laugh at the president too sometimes?

I mean, this is really rich. Whether it's helped the Democrats or not, privatization has been pretty much a disaster for the president's party in Congress. It's certainly one of the most important reasons their public approval ratings have tanked over the last six months. Less than 30% of the public supports President Bush on this issue. But if these guys don't get on his sinking privatization ship, they'll face voters' wrath.

In Business Week Howard

In Business Week, Howard Gleckman reports that behind the scenes Republicans and Democrats are moving toward a compromise on Social Security. I'd say this has a great deal to do with which Democrats and which Republicans he's talking to. But, as you'll see in the article, which I highly recommend you read, he seems to be painting a picture in which carved out private accounts are tossed, the cap is raised, though not removed, and various benefit cuts are imposed.

There's also this snippet that suggests Ed Kilgore has been on the right track is supposing that Republicans will try to find their way out of this morass by turning it into a tax windfall for upper-income earners ...

There are three possible pieces to such a package. Republicans would like to see income limits removed for IRAs, 401(k)s, and especially Roth IRAs, whose withdrawals are tax-free. Democrats want new savings incentives for low-income workers, and lawmakers of both parties see the need to fix defined-benefit pensions.

There's a lot to talk about here. But, for my part, all of the Democrats' mental energy should be going into strengthening retirement security for middle-income Americans. Period. That's really not an issue to hash out with Republicans because most of the things the president's party wants to do either damages retirement security or is irrelevant to it.

The first and most obvious thing is preserve Social Security. But that's only the start. Democrats should be thinking of other ways to make retirement more secure. Both on substance and because of what it means to be a party in opposition, that's where the Democrats should be focusing their energy, not on finding palatable ways to split some difference with the GOP.

Reading over my email

Reading over my email this morning there is, to put it mildly, a strong range of opinions about whether the Democrats did well or not by this deal.

Like I said yesterday or the day before, I'm hoping our new set up will allow you to read what I'm reading, to have this sharing of different viewpoints in one of our new discussion areas. In any case, more about that shortly.

I don't disagree with many of the points made by people who think this was a terrible compromise. Some of the most extreme judges go through. The nuclear option is by no means put to bed. It's just put off at the discretion of the seven Republicans who were party to this deal.

We won't know who did better in this until all of this plays out over the next weeks and months. But I think this was a decent resolution, given the range of options on offer. A working majority in the senate wouldn't consent to Bill Frist's Dobsonian radicalism. This potentially introduces a third force into the operation of the senate. And this will send the Dobsonites into a feeding frenzy of intra-party cannibalism.

As for 'Viva Reid', I think his leadership has been unexpectedly able in the last six months. Understated and unaffected, he's become an able co-worker with the president in the dismantling of the White House agenda and the president's popularity. All things being equal, I've learned to trust his judgment.

Trust but verify, of course, as another pol said.

And along those lines, see this passage from the Matthews show last night sent to me by TPM Reader DL ...

MATTHEWS: Social Security, do you think the president‘s plans for some kind of personal accounts has a better shot now?

GRAHAM: It has a shot versus no shot. And watch this group of 14 to come out with some deal for Social Security.


GRAHAM: Just keep watching.

On this, redoubled effort.

A good deal A

A good deal? A bad deal? We're supposed to say we got a great deal to win clearly through spin what could not be won so clearly on the merits. It seems an awfully bitter pill to forego the filibuster on both Brown and Owen, particularly the former. And the main issue isn't resolved so much as it's delayed. The moderate Republicans agree to preserve the filibuster so long as the Democrats use it in what the moderate Republicans deem a reasonable fashion. And yet the use of the filibuster, by its very nature, almost always seems unreasonable to those whom it is used against.

And finally there's the key problem: the White House. Can this agreement really withstand the appointment of another hard right nominee? The subtext of the compromise must be that neither side will be pushed beyond its limits. But that would, I think, force the Democrats to resort to the filibuster. And then everything, presumably, would unravel from there. It's hard for me to see how this deal survives the sort of appointee President Bush seems all but certain to appoint to the Supreme Court.

Having said all that, the whole tenor of the Republican ultras on the Hill today is to demand unimpeded power, to push past conventions and limits, to go for everything. And here they got turned back. A sensible Republican party might be satisfied to have gotten three of its nominees -- numerically speaking, they did fairly well. But this whole enterprise was based on wanting it all, on not accepting limits, on rejecting government by even a modicum of consensus with a sizeable minority party. They got stopped short. And the senate Republican leadership is undermined.

So this isn't a pleasant compromise. But precisely because the Republicans -- or their leading players -- are absolutists in a way the Democrats are not, I think this compromise will batter them more than it will the minority party, which is after all a minority party which nonetheless managed to emerge from this having fought the stronger force to something like a draw.