Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Marshall Wittman (aka 'Da Moose): "The Moose observes that the eloquence of the President's address was only matched by its disconnectedness to reality ... If he were in touch with the reality of America, he would discover that the country has deep doubts about the wisdom of the war in Iraq ... He is oblivious to the notion that he speaks ever so eloquently about advancing freedom abroad while he imposes economic policies that promote plutocracy at home."

Uh-oh ... Karl Rove says private accounts are "privatization."

What will we tell the children?

[ed.note: Good catch by TPM reader SW.]

The message being sent out from SSA Commissioner Jo Ann Barnhart in response to emails questioning SSA's possible involvement in a pro-phase-out media campaign ...

"Thank you for your inquiry. There has been a lot of misinformation in the media lately and I am glad to have this opportunity to set the record straight. I have never, nor will I ever, ask or direct Social Security employees to promote or advance any specific proposal for Social Security reform. Our job at Social Security is to provide services and benefits and to educate the American public about the programs and finances of Social Security. Again, thank you for your inquiry. We look forward to continuing to serve you."

Meanwhile, in comments to PRWeek, SSA press officer Mark Lassiter says the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding. PRWeek says Lassiter told them that "the plan that's been circulated was never reviewed or approved by the agency. Rather it was posted on the website of one regional office."

Lassiter further says the that the SSA PR plan "hasn't changed in several years."

Finally, the Post's Al Kamen reports on the SSA's 'crisis, crisis, crisis!' phone messages.

Hey, didn't we report that last month?

Sen. Grassley (R) agrees with Chairman Thomas that the president's Social Security phase-out plan may be in trouble.

From the Des Moines Register ...

Grassley, in a conference call with Iowa reporters, did not criticize Thomas' comments, and said that the "difficult political issue" likely will have to be handled by the Senate first rather than the House, and then in a bipartisan fashion.

That's in contrast to other controversial ideas that the Republican-controlled Congress has been able to approve in recent years, largely along party lines, such as Medicare prescription drug legislation and tax-cut packages.

"I told the president the other day he has been successful with his agenda because he had a Republican House to push it through," Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said, referring to a recent White House meeting.

In addition, budget rules assisted lawmakers, as well as help from some Senate Democrats, Grassley said.

With Social Security, that is not possible and 60 votes - which would mean some Democratic support - will be needed for any plan to be approved in the Senate, he said.

"Understand it's got to be bipartisan and the president has got to encourage that bipartisanship," Grassley said.

Surely, Stephen Moore's going to have <$NoAd$>something to say about this, right?

I noted this earlier. But I just want to again direct everyone's attention to this website: www.thereisnocrisis.com

Whenever I scan that URL quickly I keep thinking it says something like therhinoceros.com. But, hey, that's just me.

As you can see, it's 'There Is No Crisis' spelled all as one word. And they're doing a great job collecting together all sorts of information -- the best reportage, the worst reportage and plenty of facts about Social Security and the effort to phase it out, all in one place.

George Will says, today, that there is no Social Security crisis, but proffers a new rationale: competition among fund managers.

"Voluntary personal accounts will allow competing fund managers, rather than a government monopoly on income transfers from workers to retirees, to allocate a large pool of money. This will enhance the economic dynamism conducive to an open society."

Even private-accounts-meister Newt Gingrich bagging on the crisis claim? "The combination of higher birth rates and more immigration makes the United States the healthiest of developed nations. This is not a crisis," says the former Speaker, according to Bloomberg.

Rep. Phil English (R) of Pennsylvania says Chairman Thomas "played a very important role in reminding those involved in the debate that there are number of things we can do that will improve the solvency from Social Security, quite apart from the creation of individual accounts. And he also correctly and directly made it clear that individual accounts by themselves will only marginally improve the performance of the system overall."

Private accounts will only "marginally improve" Social Security. Can we bank that quote?

As we noted a bit earlier this evening (or, I guess, this morning -- whatever), we very much doubt Reps. Thomas and McCrery are really as open as they seem to want Democrats to believe to leaving Social Security and its funding base intact and finding their money for private accounts from some other source.

But I was just chatting with TPM reader JK. And as he notes, if you take what the Ways and Means Republicans are saying at face value, it's really something to behold.

Under the new Ownership Society, apparently, Republicans are so dead-set on letting people control their own money that they're going to go out on to the international capital markets and borrow a few trillion dollars so they can give it out to people so they can put it into the stock market. Of course, if individuals are more inclined toward conservative investment strategies they can purchase bonds and thus lend back to the Treasury the money the Treasury just borrowed so they could put it in stocks.

Of course, perhaps we're assuming too much. Perhaps they aren't planning to borrow the money but rather come up with some big new tax that will generate funds that they can then give back to people to invest in the stock market.

We were about to start a Bob Rubin Watch, <$NoAd$>wondering when the Dems chief macro-economic policy mandarin would step up and give us his take on the president's phase-out bill. But our friend Sid Blumenthal gets him on the record to good effect ...

"It's a badly, badly flawed plan," Robert Rubin, the former secretary of the treasury and current Citigroup director, told me. "From a fiscal point of view it's horrendous. It adds to deficits and federal debt in very large numbers until 2060." He calculates that the transition costs of Bush's plan for the first 10 years will be at least $2 trillion, and $4.5 trillion for the second 10 years. The exploding deficit would have an "adverse effect on interest rates, an adverse effect on consumption and housing prices, reduce productivity and growth, and crowd out debt capital to the private sector. Markets could begin to lose confidence in fiscal policy. The soundness of social security will be worse".

Rubin adds that the stock market is hardly a sure bet. "You are not making social security more secure by subjecting people's retirement to equity risk. If you look at the Nikkei in Japan you get a sense of what can happen."

No member of the Faction he.

I guess Rubin's just too anti-market.

And remember, you don't need to be in Congress to be in the Fainthearted Faction. Associate memberships are available for other high-profile pols. Just ask Ed Rendell.