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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Bush broke?

One thing we tend to take for granted, if nothing else, is that the 43rd president is a wealthy man. After all, that's the reward of a lifetime's work running companies into the ground and then handing them off to your dad's cronies. But if you look at his most recent federal financial disclosure form from May 2004, you'll see that a good percentage of President Bush's personal wealth is tied up in (horribile dictu!) US Treasury notes, i.e., a worthless stack of paper/IOUs.

How ole' 43 let himself get into such a financial crisis it's hard to say. But perhaps it explains some of the belligerence?

[Special Thanks to TPM reader AP for the tip.]

[ed.note: Unfortunately, federal financial disclosure forms only includes ranges of value for a given asset, not the exact dollar amount. But perhaps some enterprising blogger -- or even, reporter -- should print out the form, get out the calculator and come up with a rough figure for how much of Mr. Bush's wealth is tied up in this funny money.]

Let's not miss the big news in today's article in the Times about Dick Cheney. The vice president supports putting over 95% of the employee-side contribution to Social Security into private accounts.

Unfortunately, the authors construct the sentence in a somewhat murky fashion. But the key passage is this one: "Mr. Cheney is said by associates to favor creating investment accounts into which workers could deposit 4 percent to 6 percent of their earnings that are subject to the Social Security payroll tax."

In orther words, Cheney supports putting 4 to 6 percentage points of each individual's 6.2% contribution into a private investment account and taking it out of the Social Security system.

(Just for maximum clarity, that means about 97% of the employee's payroll tax contribution, which is 6.2% of their salary up to $90,000. And it's about 48% of the total Social Security money going into the program for the given individual since the employer also kicks in another 6.2%.)

So, in other words, the initial 'partial' phase of the Social Security phase-out, turns about to be 50% phase-out. And the only money going into Social Security comes from the employer. How long do you figure that lasts?

Disability benefits likely to be cut under the Bush plan. But if they didn't save enough before getting disabled, who are they to complain?

Good news on the "Byrd Rule". It looks like there's no way Frist and Co. can get around the need for 60 votes in the Senate. Mark Schmitt has the details. Seemingly arcane; but if you're interested in how all this is going to turn out, a really big deal.

Interesting Data:

Top ten highest concentrations of Social Security beneficiaries as a percentage of a state's population ...

West Virginia 22.4% Maine 20.1% Arkansas 19.9% Florida 19.6% Pennsylvania 19.3% Alabama 19.3% Kentucky 18.7% Iowa 18.5% Mississippi 18.5% Missouri 18.1%

Worst demographic for President Bush on Social Security, by age ...

In the new Washington Post/ABC poll, President Bush has a 38% approval rating on Social Security and a 55% disapproval. 7% have no opinion.

Which is his worst age bracket? 18-30 year olds. They give him 33% approval/60% disapproval.

WLBZ Channel 2 out of Bangor, Maine notes "sixteen percent of Maine's population is elderly, one of the highest percentages in the nation," and that people in the state are watching the Social Security debate closely.

There's a bit more than one and a quarter million Mainers. And just over 20% of them are current Social Security beneficiaries. That's the second highest number in the nation.

Says, the report on the WLBZ website: "Senator Olympia Snowe, who sits on the Finance Committee, is worried about the risks of stock market investment. Snowe says other options are avilable, including tax incentives to encourage retirement savings."

Sen. Snowe, who's up for reelection next year, has been generally mum on the subject. And has made only vague comments about her position.

I've been working away at a post on Rep. Rahm Emanuel's (D) appearance yesterday on Meet the Press, which I promised yesterday. But the recent flurry of activity on Social Security has left me seriously far behind on a book proposal I'm trying to write. And in any case, I think most folks are away from their computers today. So I'll try to bring you that tomorrow.

A Death Observed: Marjorie Williams, reporter, essayist and Washington Post columnist died at her home yesterday in Washington. She was 47 and had been diagnosed with liver cancer in 2001. She is survived by her husband, Slate columnist Tim Noah, and two children, Will and Alice.

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