Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

President Bush feeling his

President Bush feeling his own power: "I fully understand the power of those who want to derail a Social Security agenda by, you know, scaring people."

Whatever you do today

Whatever you do today do not miss the front page piece in the Times on Chile's disastrous experience with privatization. The case for the program is so strong it seems that José Piñera, the labor and social security minister under Pinochet, who ushered in the program, refused to even discuss it with the Times.

That despite the fact that he's had a sinecure at Cato for years as their big phase-out macher. He's the Co-Chair of their Project on Social Security Privatization Choice.

Perhaps the most telling line in the whole piece: "Among other achievements emphasized here by advocates of the privatized funds are the creation of a modern capital market, cheaper credit for companies that formerly could turn only to banks when they wanted to expand, and a brake on deficit spending by the government."

And which of those things has anything to do with retirement security exactly?

An excellent piece of

An excellent piece of reporting from CJR Daily: Thomas Lang looked at AP reporter David Espo's use of the phrases "private accounts" and "personal accounts" and shows clearly that Espo has shifted from the former to the latter, with the pivot coming early last month, just as the White House was ramping up their phase-out campaign.

When asked, "Espo told CJR Daily he was unaware of the adjustment in his own choice of terminology, and said that 'on balance' he identifies the savings accounts as 'personal accounts.'"

In other words, the White House and its allies have been able to change the language Espo uses to describe privatization without his even being aware of it.

The Boston Globe profiles

The Boston Globe profiles and reports on the couple featured in the now banned episode of 'Postcards from Buster'. "It makes me sick," Karen Pike, a 42-year-old photographer from Vermont tells the Globe, "I'm actually aghast at the hatred stemming from such an important person in our government. . . . Her first official act was to denounce my family, and to denounce PBS for putting on a program that shows my family as loving, moral, and committed."

The bamboozlepalooza beginsFrom the

The bamboozlepalooza begins!

From the Boston Globe: "President Bush, facing a chilly reception on Capitol Hill on his plan to overhaul Social Security, said yesterday he would take his case directly to the American people, crisscrossing the nation to galvanize support for partially privatizing the 70-year-old federal retirement system."

BamSen. Kent Conrad D

Bam!

Sen. Kent Conrad (D) of North Dakota a stealth member of the <$NoAd$>Fainthearted Faction?

'Fraid so. Or at least he's signed up on a stand-by basis.

Just off the Bloomberg wire ...

Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said he told Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolton that the Social Security discussion needed to be expanded to include Medicare funding problems and a tax-code overhaul.

Conrad, who said he didn't listen to Bush's comments, praised Thomas for suggesting alternatives to using the payroll tax to fund Social Security. ``There's been an over-reliance on payroll taxes,'' he said.

Conrad is part of a bipartisan group led by Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, that is trying to develop fixes to the Social Security system.


And the Associated Press picks up from there ...

Conrad said Wednesday that he has already being heavily lobbied: Treasury Secretary John Snow phoned to talk Social Security; the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Josh Bolten, came to visit; and breakfast is scheduled next week with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

"If this is just one of those things where the president says, It's my way or the highway ... I can't be for that," Conrad said. But he added: "I think there is a kernel of a good idea in creating accounts that individuals can control."

He said he wants Social Security addressed along with tax reform, long-term care and the solvency of Medicare -- big issues in their own right -- and he said he opposes borrowing large sums to pay for the private accounts, which many think will be necessary.


The backstory here, of course, is the four-state campaign swing President Bush is planning right after the State of the Union, to two states represented by senators from the Fainthearted Faction (Arkansas and North Dakota) and two (Florida and Montana) with senators who have been holding firm.

More soon ...

NYT down for the

NYT, down for the count.

First line of David Rosenbaum's piece on the Bush phase-out plan from Thursday's paper: "If individual investment accounts become an integral part of Social Security, as President Bush is proposing, what will happen to workers who become disabled before they retire?"

At this point I guess you can't blame the individual reporters, some of whose reporting is superb. It's just that the editors seem to have given the stylebook to Rove and Luntz for a scrub, or done it themselves on R&L's behalf.

The episode page has

The episode page has already been pulled from the PBS website, but with the help of TPM reader LC and Google we've located the now lost episode of Postcards from Buster in which Buster the Rabbit visited Vermont and met "Emma, David, and James, who live with their two moms."

Another strike against Buster may have been that, as he admits in the segment promo, "Karen [one of the two moms] and my mom [who is presumably also a cartoon rabit] used to work at the same newspaper together."

Anyway, see it while you can. It's sure to become an underground classic like those bootlegs of SpongeBob's 'lost appearances' in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City that 'the suits' pulled before the final cut.

LiveWire