It's almost like the end of an era: Rep. Harold Ford (D) of Tennessee, former Dean of the Fainthearted Faction, now out of the Fainthearted Faction.
Yes, I'm still trying to get my head around it too ...
On Saturday I discussed the Stolberg piece in the Sunday Times and particularly the passage in which she wrote that Ford is only in favor of add-on accounts, not private accounts carved out of Social Security.
That is a significantly broader statement than the one he released a month ago.
In that statement, he was quite clear that he opposed the Bush plan and that proposed by the Cato Institute. But the wording suggested his opposition was based largely on the price tag (i.e., transition costs) rather than concept of privatization itself. "If she's got the nuance of what he told her right," I wrote, "that's a lot more than he's been willing to say to date."
But it turns out that the normally all-knowing TPM research department let me down on this one, Ford has already said this -- and in an article in which TPM is quoted extensively.
The article comes in a recent edition of The Memphis Flyer.
We've edited the passage down with ellipses to focus in on the key points ...
And Ford in his telephone interview was explicit on the point, denying that he does now, or ever did, advocate tapping payroll taxes to create the accounts ... He maintains that he has been misunderstood. "The only kind of Social Security accounts I've ever advocated was the same thing that Bill Clinton and Al Gore talked about. It's what Gore called 'Social Security Plus' in 2000 and what Clinton called 'universal savings accounts.'" ... And the congressman was quite explicit this week about disavowing not only President Bush's Social Security reform proposals but the concept underlying it. "I have not signed on to any legislation, since I have been in Congress to take money from Social Security to create private accounts. I do not favor privatizing Social Security. I am opposed to President Bush's attempt to do so. Categorically," he said. "The president's plan to privatize Social Security will not accomplish what he says he wants to accomplish. It will add too much debt and it will offset any gains that people would make from their accounts because interest rates would skyrocket and benefits would be reduced and the program would run out of money." ... Ford insists that his own proposals for investment accounts would involve general revenues, not those of the Social Security fund, and could be achieved through progressive tax legislation, overturning the effects of the Bush tax cuts of the last several years.
So there you have it. Rep. Harold Ford (D) of Tennessee, fainthearted no more.
See the newly-updated Faction list here.