Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Here is a graceful and concise summary from Paul Starr of The American Prospect of what Social Security provides for American society and what the president's phase-out option never can.

From The Hill ("Centrists steer clear of Social Security plans") ...

“Republicans need moderate Democrats to be a part of this process to get cover,” the Senate GOP aide said. “If there are no Democrats who are going to come across here, you may have some revolt within the Republicans.”


Any Rhode Islanders out there?

As I've mentioned once or twice in the past I lived in Providence, Rhode Island from 1992 to 1997, loved it, and still have a special fondness for the place. (Strange, but true TPM trivia: When I was a graduate student at Brown in the mid-1990s I did web design to supplement my essentially non-existent income. In 1996, when Sen. Jack Reed (D) first ran for Senate I got his campaign to let me design his campaign website -- for free, of course.)

In any case, this isn't a walk down memory lane. I ask because of that other Rhode Island senator, Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee. Chafee is in our Conscience Caucus because of a statement he made last month about the president's Social Security phase-out bill, and even more because of his demonstrated record of bucking the president on major policy initiatives like the 2001 tax cut bill, which twelve senate Dems voted for. If there was one Senate Republican I'd figure was most likely to go against the president on phasing-out Social Security, it's Lincoln Chafee.

But as near as I can tell he hasn't told his constituents any more about his views on the phase-out bill for the last month or more. Even back then all he said about the it was that "it's the wrong time and I regret that we're looking at this in the context of huge deficits."

I would imagine that either the Projo (aka, the Providence Journal-Bulletin, the major paper in the state) or a few of his million or sp constituents could prevail upon him to provide a little more detail about where he stands on phasing out Social Security and replacing with private investment accounts.

Republicans from the Chafee family have a charmed life in Rhode Island, notwithstanding the state's ocean blue politics. But that's largely because even as the state's politics have diverged so sharply from the national Republican party, Chafee and his late father let Rhode Islanders have it both ways. They have a Republican in Washington; but one that seldom gets much out of step with the state on key issues.

Social Security, though, is a pretty defining issue, and one that I'd expect many of the senator's constituents care a lot about. As I say, I suspect, in the end, Sen. Chafee won't support the president's phase-out plan. But here's the thing: by keeping mum and cagey about his position now, especially during this early, crucial phase of the debate, he may actually doing a lot to make a Social Security phase-out a reality. On the other hand, stating his position early and clearly might go almost as far toward saving Social Security as eventual vote against the president's bill. It could even be more important.

The New York Sun, December 2nd, 2004: "Yet another [senator] with perceived presidential ambitions, Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania, is viewed as potentially the most effective White House point man on the [Social Security] issue, in part because he has been a staunch supporter of accounts but does not have his own bill or a personal stake in a particular proposal. 'He has spoken out since his days in the House and has run two senatorial campaigns that talked about reform in a swing state - and lived to tell about it,' Mr. John said."

Does he still want to be point-man?

We've been trying to find public statements from the senator on the president's Social Security phase-out plan. And they're really hard to find over the last six or seven weeks. There's no question he still supports it: here's the statement of support on his website. We just can't find many recent statements.

Statement of Michael K. Powell, FCC Chairman: "In response to recent reports regarding potential violations of the "payola" and sponsorship identification provisions of the Communications Act, I have instructed the Enforcement Bureau to open two investigations: One into issues regarding commentator Armstrong Williams; and the other into issues regarding station WKSE (FM), Niagara Falls, New York, licensed a subsidiary of Entercom Communications Corporation. These provisions govern disclosure and sponsorship identification regarding payments or other consideration in connection with broadcast programs."

The Sibel Edmonds story has rattled through the alternative press for quite a long time now, only occasionally bubbling up into the mainstream media. But today she enlisted a new supporter, one which carries a good bit of weight -- the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General.

In a just-released unclassified summary of their report into her allegations, the IG concluded that while not all of her allegations could be substantiated, "we believe that many of her allegations were supported, that the FBI did not take them seriously enough, and that her allegations were, in fact, the most significant factor in the FBI's decision to terminate her services."

Rep. Aderholt (R) of Alabama <$NoAd$> says president is "sort of" lying?

Aderholt agrees with reform critics who say Social Security is not in crisis. Aderholt said he believes reform is needed, but there is no reason to rush the reform effort.

"It's sort of deceiving when we talk about the situation being that we are on the brink of disaster. We're not. It will be several decades before the system goes bankrupt," Aderholt said.

Aderholt worries that political rhetoric designed to push legislation through Congress will scare his retired constituents.

See the rest from the Decatur Daily.

We're hearing from many readers across the country who are calling or writing to their representatives and senators only to hear that they can't make any public comment because the president hasn't released his plan yet.

"The staffer I talked to this afternoon in Senator [blank]'s office," says one reader, "told me that they had been waiting to go public because they didn't have a concrete proposal to respond to."


This sort of mumbojumbo might have some logic from a Republican up for reelection next year who's trying to be as cautious as possible. But why would any Democrat -- like the recently-reelected senator from the Northwest whose office the reader contacted -- be saying something so foolish? The White House has its own reasons for pretending they haven't decided on a specific plan yet. But why do the president's opponents have to pretend that that's really true?

Everybody in the country who's paying any attention to this debate knows the essence of the president's plan -- he wants to replace a portion of Social Security with private investment accounts. How he fudges the numbers on the cost side or deals with benefit cuts remains a bit muddled. But the fundamental point is as clear as day.

So why should any senator or representative be waiting one minute to make their position clear, unless he or she is seriously entertaining the idea of voting for the president's plan?

How many details of an upper-income-earner tax hike do most Republicans need to see before they're willing to say they oppose it?

Yeah, that's my sense too.

To be cagey like this is not only a disservice, even a dishonesty, to constituents, it's also the height of foolishness for any lawmaker who really cares about preserving Social Security and not letting the president end the program.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, from this morning's Press Herald: "I don't think there's any consensus on what the problem [with Social Security] is or the extent of the problem. I have serious concerns about undermining the fundamental principles of the Social Security Trust Fund."

It looks like Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi really is on the way out of the Faction.

In this morning's Sun Herald, Taylor's policy director Brian Martin is quoted as saying, "Congressman Taylor doesn't support forming private accounts. Social Security is in a better financial position than anything else in the government. It actually collects more money than it spends."

We assume Rep. Taylor is still overseas (see last night's post). And we'd like to see a statement from the man himself before striking his name from the Faction roll. But it seems now like it's just a matter of time.