Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Rep. Harold Ford (D) of Tennessee is insisting again that his position on Social Security is being misunderstood or distorted. And this time, I think he's right.

Yesterday Knight Ridder ran a story on former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's plan to create individual investment accounts for children at birth, each of which the government would endow with $2,000. O'Neill says this is a way to deal with what he calls Social Security's unfunded liabilities. And, according to Knight Ridder, he "says his approach would eliminate the need for Social Security and Medicare."

In other words, O'Neill's a phase-out man, if one with a different sort of plan than the president's.

Later on in the article, the author writes that Ford last year introduced "a bill that amounts to a scaled-down version of O'Neill's proposal." And from that many have drawn the not-unreasonable assumption that Ford is trying to hop back on the phase-out bandwagon.

But the connection which is at least implied in the article is false.

The bill being referenced is that so-called ASPIRE act, which is similar in key ways to O'Neill's idea. The difference, however, is that it is meant to be in addition to Social Security, not a substitute for it. It doesn't take any money out of Social Security and isn't intended to replace it.

This afternoon, Ford put out a statement in which he said his ASPIRE Act would create a new savings vehicle for middle class families while ...

at the same time preserving Social Security and Medicare. Any assertions to the contrary are just wrong. ASPIRE would not be subsidized by Social Security, nor would it replace Social Security, despite the rhetoric of those who say it would. Those of us who support creating savings and investment vehicles for hard working Americans should not link those efforts with President Bush's plans to privatize Social Security. Any effort to link the funding of aspire to replacing Social Security or diverting funds from Social Security or Medicare to fund ASPIRE is not true.

In recent days, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has urged the creation of private accounts that would replace Social Security. His proposal is very different than President Bush's plan, but equally wrong in that he seeks to end Social Security as we know it. In short, the ASPIRE Act is very different than what former Secretary O'Neill is proposing. In our zeal to oppose President Bush and his Social Security privatization plan, let us be careful to not oppose savings and investment vehicles that will supplement Social Security, not destroy it.

It may look like Ford's just trying to distance himself from O'Neill's phase-out scheme now that he's now taking fire. But it seems pretty clear to me that this was just a bum rap from the beginning. ASPIRE does have bipartisan support. But it's not a phase-out bill. And Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) and Sen. Jon Corzine (D) were co-sponsors too.

As you might imagine, we've got our eyes on every former member of the Faction to spy out any signs of recidivist Faintheartedness. But this isn't it.

From Craig's List .<$NoAd$>..

The Social Security Administration Communications Division is organizing a series of focus groups to solicit feedback from the public on preliminary marketing/communications materials, particularly those related to the privatization or partial privatization of Social Security.

Participants will be compensated $175 upon the completion of a 20-minute individual interview and a 45-minute group interview with other participants.

Applicants for the focus group must be U.S. citizens over the age of 18. Additionally, they must flexible with scheduling, comfortable providing honest feedback, and capable of asserting their opinions even if they contradict those of other participants.

For more information about the opportunity or to request an application, please respond to this post.


Has SSA really authorized this?

Ahhhh ... the Young Republican Phase-Out Singers, serenading that ArchDuke of phase-out Sen. Rick Santorum (R) of Pennsylvania yesterday. True, probably not the ideologically-correct castrati, but fitting the part nonetheless.

As Chris Bowers first reported yesterday, outside one of Santorum's townhalls yesterday on Social Security a gaggle of college Republicans got up a chorus of "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Social Security's got to go."

Apparently, effective deceit and concealment is a late-onset trait of homo republicanus.

Bowers said that CNN had caught it live to air. And late last night I unsuccessfully searched around their transcript page seeing if I could find it. But now a Pennsylvania political candidate has gotten hold of the footage and you can see it in all its phase-out glory right here.

Hmmm ... So is USANext, aka United Seniors Association, aka Americans Lobbying Against Rationing of Medical Care, USA, really just a Republican party front operation operating at the behest of Karl Rove?

Well, let's see.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a rating and reporting bureau for public charities and nonprofits, notes that one of United Seniors Association's (USA) "affiliates" is O'Neill Marketing Company (OMC).

Apparently, it's a very tight affiliation since both are located at 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450. (USA lists Suite 450; OMC lists 450A).

Despite my now living in New York I sometimes still feel the need to translate from Beltwayese into standard English. So in this case, in DC-speak we would say that United Seniors Association is 'colocated' with O'Neill Marketing Company whereas in standard English we would say that United Seniors Association 'is' O'Neill Marketing Company.

O'Neill's front page lists its first selling point as: "We are a 'marketing' department for our clients, as if we were right down the hall."

And I guess they're really not kidding about that one.

OMC's other clients include ...

National Republican Congressional Committee Republican National Committee Republican Governors Association Empower America/Citizens for Sound Economy

(ed.note: Special thanks to TPM Reader DMK.)

The Concord Monitor charts the flips and flops of former Conscience Caucus member Rep. Jeb Bradley (R) of New Hampshire.

Along those lines we've been wondering if there might be a need for a whole new grouping in the Social Security debate to handle those members of the House Republican caucus who are neither for the president's proposal or show clear signs of opposing it but rather have a strategy of spinning around like a whirling dervish with endless 'privatization' playbook linguistic flimflam in the hope that by the time they finally collapse into a sweaty exhaustion everyone will have gotten tired of trying to figure out what they're saying and simply have left.

It would help us find a place for the likes of Rep. Bradley and a few others we're watching.

We figure either 'switch-hitters' or 'invertebrates'. But we're still considering other options.

Business economists show liberal bias: "Fewer than one in four top U.S. economists think the Bush administration will succeed in pushing through an overhaul of the Social Security retirement system this year a survey released Tuesday showed. 'Only 24 percent expect the partial privatization of Social Security to be passed by Congress this year,' a panel of 37 forecasters, who are members of the National Association for Business Economics, concluded."

Are you a registered Democrat?

Are you currently employed as a United States Senator?

Are you thinking of cutting a deal with Sen. Lindsey Graham?

If you can answer 'yes' to these three questions, read this.

Strong in support?

North Carolina's junior senator, Richard Burr (R) at a Reagan Day dinner on Monday: "I take the president at his word, as I think the American people should. Ages 55 and over, they don't have anything to worry about. It won't change. So given that, what's wrong with a national debate about whether we change it for everybody else or at least allow them the option of choice?"

Can't we all just get along?

Rep. Kevin Brady (R) of Texas gets an earful in the district: "His two trips in Montgomery County Tuesday encountered many people who aren't in favor of significantly altering the program, especially when it comes to diverting a portion of the current payroll taxes into private accounts."

To his credit, Brady is one of the ones who's actually holding public meetings on Social Security this week. Here's where they're being held.

Says Brady, at the end of the article: "I think there will have to be some sort of compromise. That's why I'm traveling around listening to everyone's plan. Sometimes you have to do what's right even if it's not popular ... I want to hear the president's plan, I want to hear the AARP plan, I want to hear the Democrats' plan. We'll probably all have to get off the cable TV stations for five minutes and talk to each other to work it out."

Can't we all just get along?