I don't want to upset anyone or cause any unnecessary emotional duress. But I think some of our Republican friends on Capitol Hill are trying to trick their constituents about their position on Social Security.
Yes, I know it's something none of us wants to think could happen. But bear with me.
Long-time readers of the site will remember that Republicans long called their plan to replace part of Social Security with private investment accounts 'privatization'. It was their word. They came up with it, embraced it, etc. That was until the 2002 election cycle came around and word went out from the NRCC to stop using the word 'privatization' and try as much as possible to get reporters to stop using it too.
Suddenly, 'privatization' was a slur, even though it was the Republicans' own word until word came down from party central to start zigging and by no means zag.
Orwellian word redefinition notwithstanding, however, for most folks the word 'privatization' still means 'private accounts'.
So here we have Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) of New Jersey. And his website says "Congressman Ferguson's principles on Social Security are clear: he opposes privatizing Social Security ..."
Nowhere does he even mention private accounts. And why should he? That's the same as privatization.
That seems pretty straightforward.
And, based on that, a TPM Reader wrote in thinking he'd found another member of our Conscience Caucus. I barely had the heart to tell him that Rep. Ferguson was trying to bamboozle him.
Republicans that are that down-the-line against privatization are pretty hard to come by. And a few lines down from that which I just quoted, we see that Rep. Ferguson notes the awards he won from the 60 Plus Assocation, to demonstrate his Social Security bona-fides.
Only problem is that 60 Plus is a pro-privatization astroturf group. Says who? Says they. On this February 15th, 2002 the group proudly noted that in 1995 they "became the first national senior citizens group to endorse publicly the privatization of Social Security ..."
There really seems to have been some terrible miscommunication here between Rep. Ferguson's office and 60 Plus, doesn't there? Sort of like the NRA awarding Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) their Gun Rights Man of the Year award.
Call me cynical. But I think Rep. Ferguson's trying to trick his constituents on Social Security, don't you?
Or how about Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) of Minnesota. He turns out to be a down-the-line anti-privatization man too. But the letter he's sending out to constituents contains some information that just may turn Washington on its ear.
"I applaud President Bush's courage in addressing the long-term status of Social Security," Kennedy writes in a constituent letter sent out yesterday. "Don't be misled: neither President Bush nor any Republican in Congress has a plan to privatize Social Security. I will oppose any plan that privatizes Social Security, cuts benefits, cuts survivors or disability benefits, or raises payroll taxes."
I sure am glad that Rep, Kennedy is taking such a strong line against misleading people. But who knew that President Bush has come out against privatization? And every Republican in Congress? Was this all just a big misunderstanding?
We're seeing example after example of this.
If this plan's so popular. Why do so many members of Congress want to trick their constituents into thinking they don't support it?
Late Update: Alas, more bad news for Rep. Ferguson. Here's his declaration of support for privatization on the Cato website from the year 2000. Here's an archived version in case the Cato gizmocrats rush to pull that one down.
Late Update: Say it ain't so! Here's Rep. Kennedy under the same 'privatization' banner from 2000.
Later than Late Update: My God, it gets worse. Sen. Dole says "no way am I for privatizing Social Security. I support the concept of allowing workers to contribute small portions of their own Social Security in the market because it would negate the need to nearly double payroll taxes on future workers to fund benefits ... This is not privatization â the government would always administer the program."