Things heat up in


Things heat up in Florida 5.

As noted previously, Florida’s 5th Congressional District, represented by second-term Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite,has more Social Security recipients than any other in the country. In fact, it’s not even close. Her district has 250,771, while the next runner-up, Florida 19, has 184,624.

Given those numbers and the fact that she won with only 48% of the vote in 2002, places her high on the target list for both Democrats and groups supporting Social Security.

Yesterday people started getting calls in her district, which according to the St. Petersburg Times, said: “I am calling to alert you that your congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Waite, supports privatizing Social Security. This plan would cost taxpayers $2-trillion dollars. It would also decrease future benefits to retirees by 47 percent. The Social Security trust fund should be in a lock box, not a Wall Street slot machine. Tell Congresswoman Waite that we want real Social Security reform, not a risky Wall Street gamble …”

Brown-Waite says this is a “lie”.

“I’m against privatization. I’m against cutting benefits to retirees,” she told the Times. Then, she added, “We do have to look at the long term fiscal stability of Social Security.”

In other words, Brown-Waite is relying on the misleading dodge that phasing-out a portion of Social Security and replacing it with private accounts does not equal “privatization”. So what she’s doing is far closer to ‘lying’ than anything in the recorded telephone message.

Indeed, while the language is pointed, it’s not clear to me that there’s anything even misleading about the call. Brown-Waite told the Miami Herald that the numbers were pulled “out of thin air.” But that’s hardly true. $2 trillion in transition fees is a consensus estimate which even understates the costs since it covers only the first decade after the beginning of the phase-out.

So this is a factual ad (or recorded message) and it clearly scares the hell out of Brown-Waite. And it’s got her attention. She told the Herald that now she hasn’t made up her mind yet about private accounts: “I’m damn independent, and I plan on continuing to be that way. If we do anything this year that’s not going to benefit the majority of the people in my district, I’m not going to vote for it. I want to be able to go home.”

The Times and the Herald both also report that the calls showed up in Rep. Bill Young’s 10th district. Says the Times: “Longtime U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Largo, who also does not support privatization, has been the subject of similar calls, according to his spokesman, Harry Glenn.”

Glenn says Young doesn’t support ‘privatization’. And the Times takes and repeats the claim at face-value. But, of course, Young’s guy is just scamming constituents too, since he does support private accounts. His point of high principle is just not calling it ‘privatization’.

Late Update: We’re told that this morning Brown-Waite has her own phone messages running in the district trying to push back against the initial run criticizing her support of privatization. The message, I’m told, doesn’t touch ‘privatization’ or ‘private’ accounts but only hits the ‘no cuts for current or near-retirees’ line.