Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Pomeroy is on the <$NoAd$> case ...

North Dakota's congressional delegation wants to get to the bottom of a list that barred more than 40 people from President Bush's speech last month in Fargo.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy said Wednesday his concern stems from a similar incident in Denver, where three people were removed from Bush's March 21 town hall meeting on Social Security.

Pomeroy said the Denver incident raises disturbing questions given what also happened in Fargo. He said he'll evaluate what must be done to launch an inquiry.

"We need to find out whether this was part of the official planning," he said.

See the rest here.

Since the beginning of this current round of the privatization debate -- now going back more than four months -- critics have made a simple and I think unassailable point: the privatizers' argument for the gains to be had from private accounts don't hold up because they use optimistic economic assumptions to forecast returns from private accounts but very pessimistic assumptions to predict the future of Social Security.

In other words, it's a bogus comparison. Whether our economic future is rosy or grim, we can only compare a future with private accounts to one with Social Security by using one common set of economic assumptions.

Suddenly now, this point is all the rage. A majority of economists surveyed by Bloomberg say that private accounts won't do as well as the White House says if we're really heading into a 21st century of anemic growth. And the Times devotes a whole article to the point in tomorrow's paper.

There's nothing shocking or untoward about the sudden interest in this point. And the Times piece is pegged to a paper that is set to be presented tomorrow at Brookings. But I'm always struck by the lack of rhyme or reason to why a particular point or argument suddenly gains traction after a long period of inattention, even when the facts on the ground and the governing assumptions haven't changed a bit. It's no more true today than it was four months or two months ago.

The only difference is that the market for articles predicting the demise of privatization has become more bullish.

This Post article says conservative intellectuals are jumping off the phase-out bandwagon. This one says it's losing support among the young. This one says economists and economic strategists say the numbers don't add up. This one says retirees are giving the thumbs down to privatization.

If the phase-out crew didn't still have a lock on fidgety right-wingers with poor social skills, where would they be?

TPM Reader BG makes a good point: "The president says 'If you've got an idea, I expect you to be at the table. We want to listen to good ideas.' How does this square with the forcible removal from the presidential gatherings of anyone exhibiting the merest hint of an appearance of possibly harboring independent thoughts?"

President Bush warns of political consequences for lawmakers who oppose his wildly unpopular privatization plan.

(ed.note: We ran this post in place of our update on TPM's hostile takeover of Viacom.)

A point of personal privilege ... As many of you know, my wife and I got married about a week and a half ago. And as those of you who've taken this step in life know, in addition to all the excitement and drama and feeling your life at your fingertips, there are also these mundane arrangements that have to be attended to -- a caterer, a photographer, getting everybody to the right place on time and making sure they get sent back to wherever it was they came from, and definitely in one piece and hopefully at a reasonable hour.

And then if all these people you hire or ask or beg to do this and that all come through, then you can concentrate on the joy and excitement and feeling your life at your very fingertips -- or rather sit back and let it all rush over you.

We had a small wedding - a few more than forty people in a private home. And we were lucky to have it all come off just as we'd planned, or rather, imagined it.

So I'd like to take a moment to recommend to you two people who made that possible -- our caterer and our photographer, both of whom came through for us in every way we could have hoped for. I'm not going to mention them by name - because that might be a mixed blessing. But if you or someone you know is looking for a recommendation for a wedding photographer, let me know and I'll put you in touch with someone whose work is second-to-none. And -- which is probably more likely -- if you have some event, large or small, that you need a caterer for in the greater New York region, drop me a line and I'll put you in touch with just the right person.

An excellent post by Kevin Drum on Bamboozlepalooza and the president's cowardice, which is for the ages.

At the Reichert townhall meeting in Bellevue last night, I'm told that one of the biggest laugh lines (at least in the crowd's opinion) came when Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols insisted that there would be no transition costs under President Bush's phase-out plan.

TPM Reader MN reported in that ...

While things settled down for most of the hour and half after the initial flurry, what got the crowd aroused again was Rob Nichols statement that there would be "no transition cost" to implementing the Bush "architecture" for Social Security. When Nichols said the 10-year projection of $750 billion was not new costs, but simply like prepaying a mortgage, an audience member asked loudly what about after that, but Nichols said they hadn't projected beyond that. A large segment of the audience did not seem to believe that and Nichols later backpedaled somewhat by saying that the "financing" issue was separate from the "cost" issue. Ah, semantics, the last refuge of scoundrels!

We heard pretty much the same from TPM Reader MB ...

The Treasury Department representative, Rob Nichols, claimed that there would be no transition costs involved in creating "personal accounts". When the crowd reacted loudly, he repeated the claim, saying "this is precisely factual, [no transition costs]." That just provoked laughter.

TPM Reader JM could barely believe what he was hearing ...

It was a bit shocking to hear Rob Nichols, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department, actually say out loud that U.S. government bonds in the trust fund are just worthless IOUs, causing an uproar from the audience. (This guy works for the Treasury Department!?) He also was emphatic that there would be exactly zero transition costs for establishing private accounts. "After all, it is simply like pre-paying your mortgage." He said this prepayment would require only $700 billion for the first 10 years, and to shouts of what about the second 10 years, claimed that they hadn't run the numbers. The audience wasn't buying it judging from the catcalls. Finally, Sally Canfield, assistant to Denny Hastert, tried to throw out the line about how each year we delay costs another $690 billion, until brought to a screeching halt by a cry of "Liar" from someone in the crowd.

But this isn't just the Rob Nichols' line.

According to Reuters, at the Bamboozlepalooza event today in Bozeman, Secretary Snow said the same thing ...

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Wednesday he was confused by resistance to the Bush administration's plans to overhaul the Social Security system, while protesters blasted the proposed private retirement accounts during his stop in Montana.

Snow, in remarks to the Chamber of Commerce in Bozeman, said he believed personal accounts for young workers would be cost-free for the existing Social Security system and would not affect benefits to retirees or near-retirees.

Do they have any actual journalists out there following Snow to ask him the what the hell he's talking about<$NoAd$>?

Late Update: Some more details on Snow's job here.