Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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If you have a blog and can't think of a topic to dig into today, try reading through this online Q&A the White House just held with Chuck Blahous, President Bush's Social Security phase-out <$NoAd$>maven.

Listen to this exchange with "Stuart" from New Jersey (italics added) ...

Stuart, from New Jersey writes: How can we make the transition to invester owned social security without incurring 2 trillion in dept to fund current citizans recieving assistance?

Chuck Blahous As long as we have a Social Security system, there will be costs no matter what we do. The Social Security Trustees have told us the cost of maintaining the current system without change. It is approximately $10.4 trillion, in present value. That is the extra revenue that the system would need to have on hand today, above and beyond all payroll taxes, to meet the gap between taxes and promised benefits.

A number of comprehensive proposals have been put forward, some by Members of Congress, others by the President’s bipartisan Commission to Strengthen Social Security. President Bush has not selected a specific reform proposal. Several of these proposals would fix the system permanently while considerably reducing the cost of sustaining the system under current law.

The current system would begin its “transition” from the black to the red in 2018. From that date onward, under current law, the current system would face a deficit that is growing worse with each following year. The President has proposed that we head off this event by beginning to invest now in the future of Social Security. We can do this for far less than the $10 trillion cost of sustaining the current system.

Wow, Social Security Administration needs ten trillion dollars on hand today and it's got nuthin'. That really is a crisis!

Infinity? Today? But, hey, who's counting?

Does Blahous not think anybody's going to read this stuff?

Okay, a walk down TPM's memory lane. <$NoAd$>Back in 2002 we brought you the NRCC (the GOP's House campaign committee) internal memo instructing candidates how to bully reporters out of using the term 'privatization' to describe their Social Security proposal --- this notwithstanding the fact that this was the word they themselves chose to describe their plan and never had a problem with until their pollsters told them to drop it.

The memo also gave general guidelines on how to run away from their support for President Bush's phase-out plan.

Some highlights ...

Democrat attempt to label GOP position on Social Security as favoring "privatization" presents serious threat. GOP, Members, and candidates must fight back against this label.


AARP is a dangerous adversary in this debate. They have greater credibility than any entity on this issue and are not viewed as partisan.


Candidate must focus on messages that reassure voters/seniors that they will not cut benefits and that nothing will change with their Social Security.

With the debate heating up, we thought it was time to revisit these old favorites. Here's the full memo (27 pages) and the highlights (4 pages) from the TPM Document Collection.

As you've likely heard the president's rich friends are giving tons of cash for a big inaugural shindig, notwithstanding the fact that we're supposed to be at war. But look at this lede on the front page of today's Post ...

D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.

Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.

It is supremely fitting that the celebration of a victory won by politicizing and hyping homeland security and terrorism ends up with this sort of <$NoAd$>funding problem.

It's still going to take us a bit longer to get our Social Security database up and running. So for now we've added this little box you see there on the right with links to the most up-to-date lists of the Fainthearted Faction as well as the Republicans' rapidly growing Conscience Caucus.

Look at this piece in tomorrow's Post on Republican resistance to the president's Social Security phase-out bill. The spark to the piece is Rep. Rob Simmons, a Republican from a pretty competitive district in eastern Connecticut, who says flat out that he's not going to vote for the president's bill.

More revealing is the fact that Republicans themselves, according to the Post, estimate that between 15 and 40 members of their House caucus agree with Simmons. And note Bill Kristol's also sounding a note of opposition, both on the politics and even the substance of the president's plan.

As several other blogs have already done, I really recommend reading this piece in the New Republic about how the laws that are meant to protect the right to organize in this country are increasingly going unenforced or feebly enforced and how that is having ill effects throughout our society and economy.

From the Post: "Rep. [Rob]Simmons [of Connecticut] said there is no way he will support Bush's idea of allowing younger Americans to divert some of their payroll taxes into private accounts, especially when there are more pressing needs, such as shoring up Medicare and providing armor to U.S. troops in Iraq."

It sounds like President Bush doesn't have Rep. Simmons' vote. Add him to the list.

Just a quick update on our Social Security 'where do they stand' database. We had an unforeseen delay on the tech end of the operation. But now we're back underway and we should have the database up and online in the not-too-distant future. For those of you who've written in and offered to volunteer your time, we'll be in touch with you shortly.

As you can imagine, nothing <$Ad$>brings tears of joy to the TPM family more than striking a representative or senator from the rolls of the Fainthearted Faction. In fact, I'm tempted to say talk amongst yourselves, while I take a moment. But I'll press on.

As we said earlier, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia is out of the Fainthearted Faction. And out with a bang, it turns out.

You can read the constituent letter he's now sending out here (the key passage is on page two).

But the key passage is this one (emphasis in the original) ...

Information to date suggests that the reform proposal supported by the President would finace ISA's [i.e., private accounts] by diverting a portion of the payroll taxes now paid into Social Security. I will oppose any such plan and encourage my colleagues to do the same.

If you have a moment, read the letter itself. It provides a detailed discussion of the policy issues involved, and in one passage even a rather stirring description of what Social Security is and why it's so important.

And if you're one of Rep. Moran's constituents and you think the battle to defend Social Security from the president's phase-out plan is an important one, maybe drop him a line and tell him you appreciate his stand.