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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I guess it was only a matter of time.

We've been watching the ranks of the Fainthearted Faction thinning week by week. Heck, it seems like Sen. Lieberman may even have left now (our Faction parliamentarian is still analyzing the Daily Show transcript).

So with the decreasing chances that they'll get any congressional Democrats beside the perfidious Rep. Allen Boyd it was probably inevitably that they'd start courting congressional Democrats who've already died.

The Post has the story.

P.S. As long as we're on the subject of Allen Boyd, we might speculate that there's some chance ole' Allen is looking for a way to climb back in from his solitary Democratic Social Security phase-out branch. Do you have the chops to write the strategy memo that'll help Boyd turn tail while still holding on to some shred of dignity? Stay tuned.

As we've discussed several times now, <$NoAd$> Tim Russert's key role in shaping Washington conventional wisdom from his privileged perch on Meet the Press makes his views on and understanding of Social Security an important factor in how the Social Security phase-out debate will unfold.

On Sunday we flagged this question that Russert asked Bill Thomas, but now we have the official transcript ...

Many specific questions about Social Security. Right now we have a cost-of-living increase, a COLA increase, that is tied more to wages than actual inflation. It is inaccurate by everyone's estimation. Should that be adjusted in order to be accurate and specifically related to inflation?


Which two very different issues does Russert appear to be confusing here?

Late Update: Drats, Atrios has already let the cat outta the bag. But, still, if Russert's such an entitlements policy maven and doing all the crucial interviews, shouldn't he have a better handle on what's being discussed?

There was a lot to pick through in Chairman Bill Thomas's appearance yesterday on Meet the Press. But let's not let one thing get lost in the mix. Thomas restated his suggestion that we consider instituting a system of racial classification into the Social Security benefit structure.

You can't say this is anti-racial minority exactly since Thomas's logic -- if you can call it that -- seems to suggest that at least blacks would get to retire earlier than whites and possibly hispanics too. It's just moronic -- and that still must count for at least somewhat of a bad thing.

Thomas's idea of penalizing female recipients for their longer lifespans, which certainly caught on like wildfire, would at least be pretty easy to administer since -- setting aside the standards applied in some graduate English and critical studies programs -- the number of Americans whose gender is truly ambiguous is rather small.

But what about race? Does Thomas want the SSA actuaries to dust off the old racial classification systems from the Old South or limpieza de sangre codes from colonial Latin America with their comic and hideous lists of "mulattoes" (one-half) and "quadroons" (one fourth) and even "octoroons" (one-eighth) depending on one's precise mixture of white and black 'blood'?

What about Hispanics and Asians? And will those clean-living Mormons be adequately penalized for living so damn long? Perhaps some folks could lock in early retirement in advance if they signed binding SSA contracts agreeing to smoke and booze it up through their middle-years.

Yes, sure, this is a reductio ad absurdum. But really, it's pretty absurd. And these are the folks who can't brook the concept of affirmative action?

Okay, our privatization <$NoAd$>flimflam project is off to a good start. We've already got four entrants who've earned enough points for their own Special Edition Privatize This! TPM T-Shirt. And a half-dozen or more others have gotten at least a few points toward the magic T-Shirt number of ten.

(The shirt winners got their merchandise for bagging Sean Hannity, Bob Novak, Rep. Chris Chocola (R) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R).)

If you have no idea what we're talking about, click here for the announcement from last week. Or if you don't have the time or energy for that, which we'd certainly understand, just take our word for it that we're giving away cool anti-privatization T-Shirts for readers who find examples of Social Security phase-out supporters claiming that the word 'privatization' is some sort of Democrat-inspired slur against the beauty that is private accounts even though that was the term they themselves used until the RNC found out it made the policy unpopular with voters.

The RNC et al. have already been successful at bullying a slew of reporters out of even using the word by claiming that doing so represents some sort of liberal bias.

Inside baseball? Yeah, you could say that. But we think it's one piece of pro-Social Security phase-out monkey-business worth blowing out of the water right now. And, in any case, we think the T-shirts are cool.

Since Friday we've also had a bunch of queries from readers about whether the T-Shirts will also be on sale for those who can't make the time to sit in front of their computers for hours buzzing through google and nexis. And, yes, for those of you who would like acquire your Special Edition Privatize This! TPM T-Shirt strictly through the cash-nexus, we'll be selling them too.

The image there on the right, in case you were wondering, is the graphic that appears on the back of the shirts. If you click on the picture you can see a somewhat larger version of it.

Discuss and be fruitful, saith the Chairman ... On Meet the Press this morning Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R) of California was so incoherent and off-message that it was hard for me to believe he wasn't a Democrat.

As for Russert, I noticed his grudging coming-around on a few points of not prejudicing the argument with pro-phase-out vocabulary.

But how about Russert's statement on the wage-indexing of Social Security benefits as opposed inflation-indexing? Russert said this method is “inaccurate by everyone’s estimation. Should that be adjusted in order to be accurate and specifically related to inflation?”

Somehow I thought that was up for debate?

Most telling quote of the day from Chairman Thomas: “To immediately say that [changing from wage-indexing to inflation-indexing of benefits] is a cut in benefits is a label that could be placed on anything that we did … The terms that we use need to be watched because if you want to create a black and white disruption of the ability to try to solve the problem then you use certain words. If you want to be part of the solution you have to be careful of the words that you choose.”

[ed.note: Transcription courtesy of TPM-DVR-Enabled Impromptu Transcription Service (TM).]

A very handy resource giving a rundown of each congressional district by numbers of Social Security recipients, percentages of the voting age population, etc.

Just a few nuggets we've awarded points for so far.

Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana before word came down from party <$NoAd$>headquarters (Nov. 1, 2000) ...

Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire system privatized. It's not a 'risky scheme.'


Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana after word came down from party headquarters (Sept. 3rd, 2002) ...

I do not support the privatization of Social Security.


Bob Novak before the word came down from party headquarters (Capitol Gang, Sept. 14th, 2002 where we find Mark Shields at mid-Outrage of the Week) ...

Mark Shields: In an Orwellian abuse of the language, conservatives, including even the respected Cato Institute, insist that they're now for Social Security choice, not for dreaded 'privatization'. Yes, and war is peace.

Robert D. Novak.

NOVAK: I'm still for privatization.


Bob Novak after the word came down from party headquarters (Crossfire, Oct. 28th, 2002) ...

[Democratic consultant] Steve McMahon: I thought they were accusing the Republicans of wanting to privatize Social Security which, after all, is what Republicans wanted.

NOVAK: That's a Democratic term.


Coming soon, Sean Hannity's unfortunate "privatization" problem.

[ed.note: Both Chocola quotations come from the South Bend Tribune in articles on the dates noted. TPM reader AG gets 10 points for bagging Rep. Chocola; JM gets 8 for Novak.]

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