Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

CJR Daily chats up reporters from the Post, the Times and AP about personal and private accounts.

And if you're curious, I say Tomato.

I keep hearing from constituents of Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite from Florida's 5th district who've gotten her phone call today. But no matter how many times she calls, Ginny keeps forgetting to answer the question on the table. She tells voters she won't cut benefits for current or near-retirees. But she never remembers to answer the question on the table: Does she support carving private accounts out of Social Security?

I'm not even going to be a stickler about the White House's latest rhetorical flim-flam. Does she support personal accounts carved out of Social Security? Gently inserted into Social Security? Making personal accounts part of the Social Security family.


In any case, Ginny is clearly sitting in her office working the phone all day today, placing countless calls. But she never departs from the script. So if anybody runs into her, please remind her to answer the question. Ginny, where do you stand on private accounts?

If you're FIW, fine. At least that's an answer.

Following up on the earlier post about Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R) of Florida's 5th district, we hear that this morning she has her own phone messages running in the district trying to push back against the initial run criticizing her support of privatization. The message, I'm told, doesn't touch 'privatization' or 'private accounts' at all but only hits the 'no cuts for current or near-retirees' line.

We've also gotten reports from readers in three other districts around the country who say they received the same phone call which the Miami Herald reports ran in Florida CD 5 and CD 10.

President Bush is always asking <$NoAd$> for credit because he allegedly ran last year on his Social Security phase-out plan. But doesn't it matter that he called them private accounts over and over again?

From a rally on September 14th of last year ...

But we've got to worry about the youngsters, our kids and our grandchildren, when it comes to the solvency of the Social Security system. That's why I believe younger workers ought to be able to take some of their own money, set aside a personal savings account that will help Social Security fulfill its promise, a private account that they can call their own, a private account they can pass on to the next generation and a private account that Government can't take away.

Private accounts today, private accounts tomorra, private accounts foreva ...

[ed.note: thanks to this site for the citation.]

Things heat up in Florida 5.

As noted previously, Florida's 5th Congressional District, represented by second-term Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite,has more Social Security recipients than any other in the country. In fact, it's not even close. Her district has 250,771, while the next runner-up, Florida 19, has 184,624.

Given those numbers and the fact that she won with only 48% of the vote in 2002, places her high on the target list for both Democrats and groups supporting Social Security.

Yesterday people started getting calls in her district, which according to the St. Petersburg Times, said: "I am calling to alert you that your congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Waite, supports privatizing Social Security. This plan would cost taxpayers $2-trillion dollars. It would also decrease future benefits to retirees by 47 percent. The Social Security trust fund should be in a lock box, not a Wall Street slot machine. Tell Congresswoman Waite that we want real Social Security reform, not a risky Wall Street gamble ..."

Brown-Waite says this is a "lie".

"I'm against privatization. I'm against cutting benefits to retirees," she told the Times. Then, she added, "We do have to look at the long term fiscal stability of Social Security."

In other words, Brown-Waite is relying on the misleading dodge that phasing-out a portion of Social Security and replacing it with private accounts does not equal "privatization". So what she's doing is far closer to 'lying' than anything in the recorded telephone message.

Indeed, while the language is pointed, it's not clear to me that there's anything even misleading about the call. Brown-Waite told the Miami Herald that the numbers were pulled "out of thin air." But that's hardly true. $2 trillion in transition fees is a consensus estimate which even understates the costs since it covers only the first decade after the beginning of the phase-out.

So this is a factual ad (or recorded message) and it clearly scares the hell out of Brown-Waite. And it's got her attention. She told the Herald that now she hasn't made up her mind yet about private accounts: "I'm damn independent, and I plan on continuing to be that way. If we do anything this year that's not going to benefit the majority of the people in my district, I'm not going to vote for it. I want to be able to go home."

The Times and the Herald both also report that the calls showed up in Rep. Bill Young's 10th district. Says the Times: "Longtime U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Largo, who also does not support privatization, has been the subject of similar calls, according to his spokesman, Harry Glenn."

Glenn says Young doesn't support 'privatization'. And the Times takes and repeats the claim at face-value. But, of course, Young's guy is just scamming constituents too, since he does support private accounts. His point of high principle is just not calling it 'privatization'.

Late Update: We're told that this morning Brown-Waite has her own phone messages running in the district trying to push back against the initial run criticizing her support of privatization. The message, I'm told, doesn't touch 'privatization' or 'private' accounts but only hits the 'no cuts for current or near-retirees' line.

President Bush feeling his own power: "I fully understand the power of those who want to derail a Social Security agenda by, you know, scaring people."

Whatever you do today do not miss the front page piece in the Times on Chile's disastrous experience with privatization. The case for the program is so strong it seems that José Piñera, the labor and social security minister under Pinochet, who ushered in the program, refused to even discuss it with the Times.

That despite the fact that he's had a sinecure at Cato for years as their big phase-out macher. He's the Co-Chair of their Project on Social Security Privatization Choice.

Perhaps the most telling line in the whole piece: "Among other achievements emphasized here by advocates of the privatized funds are the creation of a modern capital market, cheaper credit for companies that formerly could turn only to banks when they wanted to expand, and a brake on deficit spending by the government."

And which of those things has anything to do with retirement security exactly?

An excellent piece of reporting from CJR Daily: Thomas Lang looked at AP reporter David Espo's use of the phrases "private accounts" and "personal accounts" and shows clearly that Espo has shifted from the former to the latter, with the pivot coming early last month, just as the White House was ramping up their phase-out campaign.

When asked, "Espo told CJR Daily he was unaware of the adjustment in his own choice of terminology, and said that 'on balance' he identifies the savings accounts as 'personal accounts.'"

In other words, the White House and its allies have been able to change the language Espo uses to describe privatization without his even being aware of it.

The Boston Globe profiles and reports on the couple featured in the now banned episode of 'Postcards from Buster'. "It makes me sick," Karen Pike, a 42-year-old photographer from Vermont tells the Globe, "I'm actually aghast at the hatred stemming from such an important person in our government. . . . Her first official act was to denounce my family, and to denounce PBS for putting on a program that shows my family as loving, moral, and committed."