Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Another red-state member of Congress <$NoAd$>signs in to the Conscience Caucus: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

From Thursday's Herald-Dispatch ...

The state’s lone Republican member of Congress said no one solution exists for reforming Social Security.

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito expressed those thoughts during a Wednesday afternoon meeting with The Herald-Dispatch editorial board. The hour-long discussion covered an array of issues including Iraq, the economy and Social Security reform.

Capito said there are no easy fixes for Social Security and that she has not committed to any one solution, including President George Bush’s privatization plan that includes personal savings accounts.

"I have said that I would look at that as possible solution for a younger worker on a voluntary basis, but I don’t know if that’s the solution," she said. "I’m not in one camp or in another, but I think if we don’t face this now, we’re going to face it down the road."

The third-term Congresswoman was unsure when or if any final Social Security reform would pass both the House and Senate.

"There are a lot of proposals out on the table, and I’ve said repeatedly I will look at fixes to the problem, but I’m not going to be looking at a fix that will raise our taxes, that will lower our benefits and that will raise our retirement age," she said.

Sounds like she's on the fence, Karl.

Is Grassley iffy?

Here's a report by Matt Kelley from the RadioIowa website ...

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is negotiating with members of both parties to find a way to keep Social Security afloat without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age. After a one-on-one meeting last week with President Bush on the subject, Grassley says he's working with the administration and other members of Congress to find a solution that'll succeed. Grassley, a republican, says he can't yet reveal details of his proposal. Grassley says "If I do, it's kinda' like showing your hand too early. It's a negotiating process and I think we need to just reserve judgment on almost every aspect of it. Tax increase or no tax increase. Private accounts or no private accounts." President Bush hosts a forum at the White House today on Social Security. It will include people from several generations talking about troubles in the system. Grassley says there's no easy fix. Grassley says "There's just dozens of moving parts and it's not so much what you're for or against but how does doing something over here effect something someplace else in the equation." Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says he's treading carefully in the Social Security reform negotiations. Grassley calls it the "most politically-sensitive issue we can deal with ever" and he's trying to remain flexible. President Bush says Social Security will go broke by the time Baby Boomers retire, but critics says it should stay afloat well into the middle of this century and they accuse Bush of exaggerating the problems.

And here's a report from the field <$NoAd$> from TPM reader Susan N. ...

In a meeting yesterday in Charles City, many of the questions were about Social Security. Senator Grassley did not take a position, citing a need to remain open-minded because of his position on the Finance Committee. He did recite the demographics in support of the argument that Something Must Be Done, but declined to say what he thought the Something should be. I heard: keeping the powder dry until the constituents weigh in. He's doing a bunch of meetings this week in Iowa, he says. This guy is as conservative as they come, but a very savvy politician. Lots of his constituents are older, and he has been strong on cleaning up nursing homes and other issues that affect them. In response to questions about immigration and something Vicente Fox supposedly said, Grassley said that the good news is that Vicente Fox doesn't have a vote in Congress. The questioner pointed out Bush's support of amnesty for certain illegal immigrants, and Grassley muttered that Bush doesn't have a vote in Congress either, to much laughter. It's not just Democrats we need to work on. Lots of us blue people live in red states with conservative representatives who have doubts about the wisdom of private accounts.


Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota: "The scheme adjusts benefit levels based on consumer price indexing rather than wage indexing. This would leave beneficiaries with a smaller annual cost of living adjustment, or COLA, at a time when Medicare premiums are skyrocketing at nearly 17 percent per year. These changes and the resulting benefit cuts would apply to everyone, even people who chose not to set up a private account. Such a plan essentially results in a steep 'retirement tax' on all seniors. Such a plan is not 'reform' and it will not 'strengthen' Social Security."

Harold Meyerson: "The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency."

As Hillel might have said, all the rest is commentary. But good commentary.

Doris Matsui (D-CA) announces decision to seek election to her late husband's House seat in California's 5th congressional district.

"I am asking those who supported him to now support me."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set March 8th as election day. If no candidate garners more than 50% of the vote a second round will be held on May 3rd.

We're all hip to push-polls and other strategies for below-the-radar advocacy. But perhaps the Social Security phase-out agenda provides a new and ready-made technique.

Many companies have benefits providers who have regular contact with quite a few individual employees. Today, for instance, I received a copy of a flyer posted around one firm letting everyone know about an upcoming special presentation on the Social Security 'crisis' for the benefit of the company's employees.

The presentation is being put on by a representative from a certain financial services company.

The flyer reads "Social Security ... Find out: How it works, Why it is in crisis What to expect."

Of course, there's also details with date and time and even the munchies that they'll serve. You can even get an individual consultation if you want, it says -- no doubt to tell you that the Social Security Administration is set to auto-destruct and that anyone who thinks they'll ever collect a Social Security benefit is certifiably insane.

Have you seen flyers like this showing up at your work place?