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Were hearing from many

We're hearing from many readers across the country who are calling or writing to their representatives and senators only to hear that they can't make any public comment because the president hasn't released his plan yet.

"The staffer I talked to this afternoon in Senator [blank]'s office," says one reader, "told me that they had been waiting to go public because they didn't have a concrete proposal to respond to."


This sort of mumbojumbo might have some logic from a Republican up for reelection next year who's trying to be as cautious as possible. But why would any Democrat -- like the recently-reelected senator from the Northwest whose office the reader contacted -- be saying something so foolish? The White House has its own reasons for pretending they haven't decided on a specific plan yet. But why do the president's opponents have to pretend that that's really true?

Everybody in the country who's paying any attention to this debate knows the essence of the president's plan -- he wants to replace a portion of Social Security with private investment accounts. How he fudges the numbers on the cost side or deals with benefit cuts remains a bit muddled. But the fundamental point is as clear as day.

So why should any senator or representative be waiting one minute to make their position clear, unless he or she is seriously entertaining the idea of voting for the president's plan?

How many details of an upper-income-earner tax hike do most Republicans need to see before they're willing to say they oppose it?

Yeah, that's my sense too.

To be cagey like this is not only a disservice, even a dishonesty, to constituents, it's also the height of foolishness for any lawmaker who really cares about preserving Social Security and not letting the president end the program.

Senator Olympia Snowe R

Senator Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, from this morning's Press Herald: "I don't think there's any consensus on what the problem [with Social Security] is or the extent of the problem. I have serious concerns about undermining the fundamental principles of the Social Security Trust Fund."

It looks like Rep.

It looks like Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi really is on the way out of the Faction.

In this morning's Sun Herald, Taylor's policy director Brian Martin is quoted as saying, "Congressman Taylor doesn't support forming private accounts. Social Security is in a better financial position than anything else in the government. It actually collects more money than it spends."

We assume Rep. Taylor is still overseas (see last night's post). And we'd like to see a statement from the man himself before striking his name from the Faction roll. But it seems now like it's just a matter of time.

Two perspectives ...Social Security

Two perspectives <$NoAd$> ...

"[Social Security] has fulfilled the promise announced by President Franklin Roosevelt -– providing vital income to millions of seniors, and assuring generations of working people that their retirement years would have some decent measure of security ... a just society ensures that elderly people can grow old with dignity. For that reason our nation established the Social Security system. And that is why, after 70 years, Social Security remains a fundamental commitment of both our political parties."

Vice President Dick Cheney
Catholic University of America
January 13th, 2005

"For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country."

Peter H. Wehner
Deputy Assistant to the President
Office of Strategic Initiatives
"Some Thoughts on Social Security"
January 3rd, 2005

Two perspectives.

Why hasnt more attention

Why hasn't more attention been given to this passage from Paul Krugman's column from earlier this week ...

Even with the most favorable assumptions, the benefits of privatization wouldn't kick in until most of the baby boomers were long gone. For the next 45 years, privatization would cost much more money than it saved.

Advocates of privatization almost always pretend that all we have to do is borrow a bit of money up front, and then the system will become self-sustaining. The Wehner memo talks of borrowing $1 trillion to $2 trillion "to cover transition costs." Similar numbers have been widely reported in the news media.

But that's just the borrowing over the next decade. Privatization would cost an additional $3 trillion in its second decade, $5 trillion in the decade after that and another $5 trillion in the decade after that. By the time privatization started to save money, if it ever did, the federal government would have run up around $15 trillion in extra debt.

These numbers are based on a Congressional Budget Office analysis of Plan 2, which was devised by a special presidential commission in 2001 and is widely expected to be the basis for President Bush's plan.

No doubt, the work of the <$NoAd$> Bush-bashers at CBO ...

Late Update: Reps. Spratt and Hoyer are now on the case.

Is Fainthearted Faction member

Is Fainthearted Faction member Rep. Gene Taylor going to follow Rep. Adam Smith out of the Faction?

I exchanged emails today with a staffer in Rep. Taylor's office. And that's the impression I got.

First, the staffer told me that for Taylor, a vote against the Filner Amendment was not a vote for privatization.

"Mr. Taylor does believe that the annual Social Security surpluses should be invested in real assets rather than Treasury IOUs that enable more deficit spending," the staffer told me, "but he does not support investment in the stock market. In fact, he was one of only two Democrats who voted against the Railroad Retirement reform bill that passed on July 31, 2001, because he did not buy the argument that the system could reduce the amounts paid in by the railroads and increase the fund assets by investing in the stock market."

(I have to confess that I was immediately out of my league when we got to talking about the Railroad Retirement reform bill. But let's just keep that between you and me.)

Apparently Rep. Taylor is overseas this week on Armed Service Committee business. But the staffer told me that Taylor's office would likely be posting a statement on their website about the president's Social Security phase-out plan in the near future.

From the San Mateo

From the San Mateo County Times: "University of California, Berkeley, law student Chris Busselle, his wife and his longtime friend didn't realize they were catching a tiger by the tail when they brainstormed ways to keep Democratic morale and activism high after President Bush was re-elected and Republican Congressional majorities widened. They decided to start a Web site, www.thinkblue2008.com, on which they would sell blue rubber bracelets — like the popular yellow "Livestrong" bands hawked by cycling champion Lance Armstrong's foundation for cancer patients — bearing the next presidential election's date and an admonition to 'Think Blue.'"

Two perspectives ...Young workers

Two perspectives <$NoAd$> ...

"Young workers who elect personal accounts can expect to receive a far higher rate of return on their money than the current system could ever afford to pay them."

Vice President Dick Cheney
Catholic University of America
January 13th, 2005

"Calculations of the median voter’s return from “investing” in Social Security suggest that for a majority of voters the U.S. Social Security system provides higher ex-post, or actual, returns than alternative assets."

Vincenzo Galasso
Social Security Bulletin
(The quarterly research journal
of the Social Security Administration)
Vol. 64 • No. 2 • 2001/2002

[A note of thanks to TPM reader BK.]