Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

There's an article in The Hill today that you should read. It's about a talk Bob Rubin, Clinton's Treasury Secretary, gave to the House Democratic caucus yesterday. The headline topic was Social Security. And his message was unequivocal: Democrats would be fools to fall into the trap of putting forward their own concrete plan on Social Security under current circumstances.

In discussing this question, one must always come back to the simple fact that the Democrats especially shouldn't come up with a concrete plan when the president himself still hasn't put one forward.

But setting that significant matter aside, Rubin is unquestionably right. And it's important for Democrats to hear this from someone like Rubin whose stature within Democratic ranks is unique.

I must admit that I've had moments of wavering on this basic issue. But Rubin strikes on exactly the point that has always brought me back to the same conclusion that Dems shouldn't get sucked in on this one.

Of course, there's a narrowly political argument. And that's important. But it's not the most important reason. The real key is that the playing field in Washington today is terribly skewed. The Republicans have the White House and both chambers of Congress. And they've demonstrated an ability to coordinate those three institutions to what is an almost unprecedented degree (this is the issue of parliamentarization I've referred to before.) In such a setting, any process of negotiation would inevitably lead to a bad result (both politically and substantively) because Republicans exert so much control over the process of negotiation itself. And that would be so because the current Republican party is against Social Security itself. And no negotiation or process of compromise controlled by such a party could, by definition I think, yield a result which was favorable to Social Security.

That has to be the case as long as Republicans are still sticking to their principles of private accounts and sharp benefit cuts for the middle class. And those are their principles -- quite explicitly, in fact

Add to this the fact that the president is clocking in at under 30% support on Social Security and most Americans now understand that he wants to dismantle the program and the whole thing really becomes a no-brainer.

In fact, Dems should really start making the point now that they are the ones who stopped President Bush from phasing out Social Security this year.

Be loud, be proud.

Ahhh, a Fox Newscaster Freudian slip really does end the day on a good note.

MediaMatters catches Fox News David Asman in this exchange with our man Trent Lott ...

So, Senator, if we should have done it and if we had the votes to do it in the Senate -- if you guys in the Republican Party did -- then why did you need a compromise?

We, indeed ...

As you can see from the image right up there at the top right side of the site, we're about ready to go with TPMCafe. We'll be launching the site on Tuesday, May 31st. And we'll be bringing you various updates throughout the day.

But I wanted to share with you one special addition we'll have in store when we launch.

One of the occasional features of the new site will be a special one week guest blogging stint by some well-known individual who we think our readers would be interested in hearing more from. This won't be part of one of our group blogs. They'll have their own blog for that week, much like any other solo blog like TPM, or the Washington Note, or Eschaton (when Atrios doesn't have others filling in for him) operates.

In most cases, the guest will have some connection to politics or the driving political issues of the day. But not always. We'll try to include a mix of different people -- in each sense of the word.

For now, we're quite pleased to announce that joining us for our debut week will be former Senator John Edwards (D) of North Carolina who was, needless to add, John Kerry's vice-presidential running mate in last year's election.

Edwards will have the guest blogging seat from Tuesday 31st through Friday 3rd.

More news to follow.

A TPM Reader chimes in ...


Why is it Social Security that needs fixing when it is the Republicans’ runaway’ spending that is the problem?!

By their own admission, the problem will occur when the excessive SS contributions begin to slow down causing the government to look elsewhere for the money they need to cover all those tax cuts they gave their rich friends (and, I suspect, themselves).

So why is it Social Security that needs fixing?

Please explain.



That <$NoAd$> pretty much covers it. The real danger to Social Security is to be found in the president's first-term tax cuts.

Everyone's a critic.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) of Alabama says Bill Maher is a traitor because of recent statements he made on his show.

"I want him (Maher) off the air," says the congressman.

(ed.note: Thanks to TPM Reader MJ for the tip.)

Late Update: And Maher responds!

Bamboozlepalooza, the <$NoAd$> self-parody phase (from a late AP story) ...

At the same time, President Bush warned members of his own party they would join Democrats in facing voters' wrath if they don't support his proposed overhaul.

I guess in a way this is fair since, after all, don't Republicans deserve the chance to laugh at the president too sometimes?

I mean, this is really rich. Whether it's helped the Democrats or not, privatization has been pretty much a disaster for the president's party in Congress. It's certainly one of the most important reasons their public approval ratings have tanked over the last six months. Less than 30% of the public supports President Bush on this issue. But if these guys don't get on his sinking privatization ship, they'll face voters' wrath.

In Business Week, Howard Gleckman reports that behind the scenes Republicans and Democrats are moving toward a compromise on Social Security. I'd say this has a great deal to do with which Democrats and which Republicans he's talking to. But, as you'll see in the article, which I highly recommend you read, he seems to be painting a picture in which carved out private accounts are tossed, the cap is raised, though not removed, and various benefit cuts are imposed.

There's also this snippet that suggests Ed Kilgore has been on the right track is supposing that Republicans will try to find their way out of this morass by turning it into a tax windfall for upper-income earners ...

There are three possible pieces to such a package. Republicans would like to see income limits removed for IRAs, 401(k)s, and especially Roth IRAs, whose withdrawals are tax-free. Democrats want new savings incentives for low-income workers, and lawmakers of both parties see the need to fix defined-benefit pensions.

There's a lot to talk about here. But, for my part, all of the Democrats' mental energy should be going into strengthening retirement security for middle-income Americans. Period. That's really not an issue to hash out with Republicans because most of the things the president's party wants to do either damages retirement security or is irrelevant to it.

The first and most obvious thing is preserve Social Security. But that's only the start. Democrats should be thinking of other ways to make retirement more secure. Both on substance and because of what it means to be a party in opposition, that's where the Democrats should be focusing their energy, not on finding palatable ways to split some difference with the GOP.

Reading over my email this morning there is, to put it mildly, a strong range of opinions about whether the Democrats did well or not by this deal.

Like I said yesterday or the day before, I'm hoping our new set up will allow you to read what I'm reading, to have this sharing of different viewpoints in one of our new discussion areas. In any case, more about that shortly.

I don't disagree with many of the points made by people who think this was a terrible compromise. Some of the most extreme judges go through. The nuclear option is by no means put to bed. It's just put off at the discretion of the seven Republicans who were party to this deal.

We won't know who did better in this until all of this plays out over the next weeks and months. But I think this was a decent resolution, given the range of options on offer. A working majority in the senate wouldn't consent to Bill Frist's Dobsonian radicalism. This potentially introduces a third force into the operation of the senate. And this will send the Dobsonites into a feeding frenzy of intra-party cannibalism.

As for 'Viva Reid', I think his leadership has been unexpectedly able in the last six months. Understated and unaffected, he's become an able co-worker with the president in the dismantling of the White House agenda and the president's popularity. All things being equal, I've learned to trust his judgment.

Trust but verify, of course, as another pol said.

And along those lines, see this passage from the Matthews show last night sent to me by TPM Reader DL ...

MATTHEWS: Social Security, do you think the president‘s plans for some kind of personal accounts has a better shot now?

GRAHAM: It has a shot versus no shot. And watch this group of 14 to come out with some deal for Social Security.


GRAHAM: Just keep watching.

On this, redoubled effort.