Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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.]

Hmmm. That should be fun. On Meet the Press this weekend talking about Social Security Tim Russert has on House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R) of California and ... Oh, only Bill Thomas, I guess. No one who opposes the president's Social Security phase-out bill.

Rep. Sherry Boehlert (R) of New York gettin' his card punched in the Conscience Caucus.

No article. But Boehlert was on local NPR station WAMC yesterday and he went out of his way to distance himself from the president.

Among other things, said Boehlert: "I’ve never been a gambler … I don’t want to gamble with Social Security trust fund moneys. And so I am very, very skeptical of the so-called plans to privatize. And I think a disservice is being done to a great many Americans by sort of sounding the alarm that everything’s going to hell in a hand basket and we’re going to be broke by 2018. That simply is not so."

Click here to listen to the segment -- advance to 16:30 in the interview.

Katherine Harris too?

She may have stopped a free and <$NoAd$>fair election from taking place in Florida four years ago. But that isn't stopping Rep. Katherine Harris (R) of Florida for signing up for the Conscience Caucus.

From Bloomberg News ...

Republican House members such as Katherine Harris of Florida, Candice Miller of Michigan and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have expressed reservations about Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security by establishing personal investment accounts.

"I'm not sure I've heard a solution I've agreed with,'' said Harris, who as Florida's secretary of state played a central role in the vote-counting dispute in 2000 with her interpretation of the state's election laws. Harris, who was elected to the House in 2002, said last year she opposed creating the private accounts unless future benefits are guaranteed.


Harris, who represents a district that contains one of the oldest populations in the U.S., said she was taking seniors' concerns into account. "I have a very close personal working relationship with the AARP,'' said Harris, who voted in favor of Bush proposals 94 percent of the time in 2004.

During the 2004 campaign, Harris responded to an AARP questionnaire issued to Florida candidates by saying she ``opposes creating private individual accounts out of Social Security unless she can be assured that Social Security benefits will not be compromised in the future.''

Is it a stampede?

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) of Montana in the Conscience Caucus? Who <$NoAd$>knew?

From the November 17th, 2004 Great Falls Tribune ...

From taxes to Social Security to the war in Iraq, Montana's congressional delegates are ready to scrutinize President Bush's second-term agenda - and their take is not always what you'd think.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, Montana's sole House member and a Republican, says he's a long way from feeling comfortable about "privatizing" or allowing "personal accounts" with Social Security funds, as suggested by the president.

"I haven't seen anything I can support yet," he says.

Special thanks to TPM reader CN, who brought this to our attention, and has now been awarded five (5) TPM market points at the discretion of the judges.

As we told you earlier today, even though Karl Rove has been telling Republicans for two years to stop using the word "privatization" and to try to bully reporters out of using the word, like every other Republican until about two years ago, "privatization" was always his word of choice to describe a private-accounts-based Social Security phase-out plan.

At Rove's prompting, President Bush tried to pull this trick when Washington Post reporters asked him about "privatization" during a recent sit-down interview. Unfortunately for the president, Mike Allen had found several instances where President had used the word himself as recently as last year.

Let's be frank about what this is all about. Turning Social Security into a private accounts system has always been called 'privatization'. It was the privatizers' word of choice. That is, until they did some polling in 2002 and found out that using that word made their phase-out plan very unpopular. So, not only did they decide to stop using the word themselves, which is fair enough, they decided to try to stop anyone else from using it to describe their plan.

Here's the passage from the Bush interview ...

The Post: Will you talk to Senate Democrats about your privatization plan?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean, the personal savings accounts?

The Post: Yes, exactly. Scott has been --

THE PRESIDENT: We don't want to be editorializing, at least in the questions.

The Post: You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir.


The Post: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we're in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

THE PRESIDENT: Allen did what now?

The Post: You used partial privatization.

THE PRESIDENT: I did, personally?

The Post: Right.


The Post: To describe it.

THE PRESIDENT: When, when was it?

The Post: Mike said it was right around the election.


The Post: It was right around the election. We'll send it over.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm surprised. Maybe I did. It's amazing what happens when you're tired. Anyway, your question was? I'm sorry for interrupting.

The Post: So have you talked to Senate Democrats about this?

That's really great, isn't it? The Post has to argue with the RNC about whether they're allowed to use the word "privatization" to describe privatization.

Anyway, we're going to see a lot of this funny-business over the next year. And before it's done I figure they'll try to say people can't call them "private accounts" either.

Now, on top of this, we hear a lot of baloney about how there's something hypocritical about being against phasing-out Social Security while still believing in the power of markets and the benefits of investing in the market. So for instance you've got that beau ideal of the mores of 80s Wall Street, Larry Kudlow, claiming that AARP's campaign against phasing-out Social Security is "flat-out hypocritical [because] AARP advertises no fewer than 38 different stock and bond mutual-fund investments to their members ... Yet, when steering their membership away from the Bush Social Security reforms, they never cite the long-run positive stock returns."

So here's what we're going to do. Not only have we come up with a way to finally put to rest the privatizers' orwellian word games, we've come up with a market-based way to do it, just to make clear we like invisible hands just as much as the next guy. No cumbersome command and control system operating out of TPM headquarters -- we'll create the system of incentives and then let individual private enterprise and ingenuity do the rest.

So here goes.

We are creating a bounty for TPM readers who come up with instances where supporters of President Bush's Social Security phase-out plan used the term "privatization" (or other forms of the word -- "privatize", etc.) to describe their policy. In most cases, those examples will be prior to the time when Karl Rove and the RNC decreed the word to be outlawed. But some will be cases like the president's above where folks had a momentary lapse and forgot the new party directive.

To create the proper incentives we'll be assigning point values for different kinds of quotes. TPM readers who amass ten points will win one of our Special Edition Privatize This! TPM T-Shirts.

Now, the first step is our capital formation phase. And that means we need to raise some funds to defray the costs of the shirts and a few other miscellaneous expenses tied to the project. So as of now we're opening a special Market-Based Anti-Privatization Research Fund. Want to do your small part in preventing Karl Rove and his pro-private-accounts minions from pulling the wool over the eyes of the American public? Well click here and toss in a few bucks which will be earmarked for our fund.

Now that we've got our incentives in place. A few notes about the rules.

1. Each quote can only be counted once. The first person who sends it in gets the credit. Each evening we'll be posting a list of the quotes we've already assembled. So that should prevent most cases of people tracking down and taking the time to send in quotes that someone else has already gotten credit for.

2. Each quote has to come with a citation from a bona-fide publication or news source (i.e., not just bogus fly-by-night or blog or something) or some other way to prove its authenticity.

3. Any form or inflection of the word "privatize" is acceptable (except "private accounts"). But the speaker has to be using it in the way we've described above. In other words, finding a quote where Karl Rove says "privatization is a slur against the beauty that is private accounts" ... well that doesn't count, unless specifically noted in the bounty section below.

4. Multiple uses of the "privatization" or any inflections or forms of the word in a single setting, interview or speech only counts as one use.

5. All entries will be judged by TPM Editorial Assistant Avi Zenilman, though in cases of extreme complexity or ambiguity said Zenilman will be allowed to ask for a second opinion from any executive within the TPM organization.

6. Ten points earns one Special Edition Privatize This! TPM T-Shirts. Special Edition Privatize This! TPM Mugs and Sweatshirts may also become available, as circumstances dictate. Point totals will be posted for them too.

7. All entries must be sent to lyingprivatizers@talkingpointsmemo.com. Emails to any other address -- including the regular TPM comments address -- won't be considered.

8. Prior to converting their points into TPM merchandise, contestants will not be deemed to have a property interest in their amassed points.

So those are the rules. Now to the bounties.

1. Wanted: Ten (10) Karl Rove "privatization" quotes. Incentive Structure: Two (2) points each. Three (3) points a piece for quotes after June 2002.

2. Wanted: Ten (10) Rick Santorum "privatization" quotes. Incentive Structure: Two (2) points each. Three (3) points a piece for quotes after August 2002.

3. Wanted: Ten (10) Bill Frist "privatization" quotes. Incentive Structure: Two (2) point each. Three (3) points a piece for quotes after August 2002.

4. Wanted: Ten (10) Jim McCrery "privatization" quotes. Incentive Structure: One (1) point each. Two (2) points a piece for quotes after August 2002.

5. Wanted: Ten (10) John Sununu "privatization" quotes. Incentive Structure: One (1) point each. Two (2) points a piece for quotes after August 2002.

6. Wanted: From any member of the 109th Congress or Senate-confirmed Bush administration appointee, one quote using "privatization" as a word to describe private accounts and a second quote in which the member of Congress or appointee claims that the word "privatization" should not be used to describe private accounts. Incentive Structure: Ten (10) Points. Fifteen (15) points if the member of the Congress holds a leadership position in either the House or the Senate or the appointee is a cabinet secretary.

7. Wanted: From any spokesperson for the Bush White House, any member of the 109th Congress, the RNC, NRCC or NRSC, one quote using "privatization" as a word to describe private accounts and a second quote in which the same spokesperson claims that the word "privatization" should not be used to describe private accounts. Incentive Structure: Seven (7) Points. If the spokesperson is Scott McClellan fifteen (15) points.

8. Wanted: Any case of a talking head, pundit or other public weasel caught in "privatization" double-talk as described in bounties 6 and 7. Incentive Structure: Five (5) points. Extra credit points added based on prominence of double-talker, at the judge's discretion.

Final Rule: Point allocations may be revised upward, but will not be revised downward, as market conditions warrant.

[ed.note: Stay-tuned tomorrow for our new 'Help Rep. Allen Boyd Out of the Jam He's Gotten Himself Into Contest'.]