Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The question is out there: which Senate Dem might be ready to cut a deal with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina on Social Security?

Pretty much all of them have issued strong statements which appear to place them in opposition.

But entertain this hypothetical.

What if current payroll tax revenues are left in place for now and private accounts are funded in whole or in part from new payroll tax revenues generated by raising or even lifting the payroll tax cap? Even in the medium-term it makes little difference which slice of the payroll tax pie phase-out begins with, for reasons we'll describe. But such a maneuver could allow some straying Dem to argue that what they were signing on to was not in fact a carve-out.

I would judge any Senate Democrats' pledge with this hypothetical -- let's call it the 'Graham hypothetical' -- in mind.

And let's also ask this question: Why the deep-seated urge to cut a deal when support for phase-out is fading, the president is stumbling and we may be on course toward a national consensus and reaffirmation in favor of preserving Social Security rather than going down the incremental phase-out road?

Once that happens, once the door is closed on phase-out, it will then be possible to make sensible changes to ensure the long-term solvency of the program. But there's really no sense in looking for points of compromise with folks whose aim is phase-out.

If the patient is on the table, do you open him up when Kevorkian is still in the room?

Colorado Springs may be home of Spongebob-bashing James Dobson's world headquarters. But they've got Democrats there too. And they've just passed this resolution against phasing out Social Security.

Oh, imagine that. USANext has pulled its AARP hates the troops and loves gay marriage ad. Well, needless to say we got plenty o' copies -- not just the ad but the ad as seen on the American Spectator website. I'll try to post in some convenient format later today.

In case you're a journo who's writing about this and can't find the goods anywhere else, drop me a line and we'll be happy to hook you up.

Leave it to a goof like Sen. Norm Coleman (R) of Minnesota not only to use the GOP 'privatization' playbook but to describe it on the record.

Explaining how he dealt with criticism that he supported privatization: "I countered it by being very clear that I supported personal accounts and opposed privatization."

Will someone ask Coleman to name any group or individual who supports 'privatization' as he defines it?


GOP front groups like USANext (the folks now working to uncover the AARP-homosexual world conspiracy) usually change their names every couple years or hive off other outfits just to keep everyone guessing. So USANext is actually part of the United Seniors Association, or as they put it: "USA United Generations and USA NEXT are grassroots projects of United Seniors Association (USA) which is celebrating its 13th anniversary as the non-partisan, 1.5 million-plus nationwide grassroots network Uniting the Generations for America’s Future."

They share the same website now. So really it's all the same outfit.

In any case, despite claiming this vast membership, this article from last year in The Washington Monthtly makes clear that United Seniors Association is basically a slush fund through which pharmaceutical companies make huge donations to the Republican party.

Says the article ...

Then there's the benignly-named United Seniors Association (USA), which serves as a soft-money slush fund for a single GOP-friendly industry: pharmaceuticals. USA claims a nationwide network of more than one million activists, but, just like Progress for America, listed zero income from membership dues in its most recent available tax return. USA does, however, have plenty of money on its hands. During the 2002 elections, with an "unrestricted educational grant" from the drug industry burning a hole in its pocket, the group spent roughly $14 million--the lion's share of its budget--on ads defending Republican members of Congress for their votes on a Medicare prescription-drug bill.

You can pick up the story on the United Seniors money mill from this July 2003 consumer bulletin from, of all places, the dreaded AARP.

One thing we learn from the AARP bulletin is that they apparently picked up USANext chief Charlie Jarvis from that notorious Spongebob-basher radical cleric James Dobson. Before he got the USANext gig, Jarvis was an executive vice president of Dobson's group Focus on the Family. And in the interests of bringing you all the information, it seems that it is not 100% accurate to say that USANext is a slush fund purely for the drug industry, seeing as how Jarvis was willing to bring the group out in favor of the rights of seniors to drill in ANWR after an Anchorage-based company called Arctic Power cut a check for $181,000. And if all that weren't enough, it seems that as of the summer of 2003 the Social Security Administration itself had secured a 'cease and desist' order against Jarvis's group for sending out mailings that "mislead the public into believing the mail is officially sent or approved by the Social Security Administration."

Charlie Jarvis, quite a piece a' work.

There's really no way to top USANext's anti-AARP ad claiming that the colossal fogey-bund we've all come to know over recent decades is really no seniors organization but a secret anti-military-pro-gay-love organization.

(If you don't know what we're talking about you'll want to see this post from yesterday to come up to speed.)

But one TPM Reader (D) noticed that the 'filename' of the ad run by USANext on the American Spectator website was '2.gif'. And he put two and two together, shall we say, and found these two other anti-AARP attack ads already on-deck at the Spectator website ready to get crackin'.

As I said, you really can't top the first attempt by Rove's front group USANext to get folks thinking that AARP either was the secret funder of Tongues Untied or part of a diabolical plot to enforce mandatory homosexuality in the armed forces.

But these two other samples are at least worth a look.

First, there's this ad putting AARP in a line-up with other liberal hobgoblins Bill Clinton, Hillary, Jesse Jackson and Ted Kennedy as one of "America's Liberal Powerbrokers" and then this one that let's you participate in a "conservative flash poll" to determine which "organization is the MOST liberal." Your choices are AARP, the ACLU, the NAACP and NARAL -- sort of a right-wing phantasmagoria with everyone from the crooks' lobby to the uppity negroes to the baby-killers, and now AARP, the notorious homo retiree outfit.

Who will take this to Rove's doorstep?

Granted, it's one of the British tabs, with all the skepticism that rightly entails. But the Sunday Mirror says that the White House has told the Brits that Camilla Parker Bowles is persona non grata at the White House. That can't be right, can it?

Lovely, just lovely.

We're already hearing that Rove has tapped Bill Bennett to take up his anti-AARP slime crusade. And another TPM Reader, JW, has just drawn our attention to a USANext ad (second down on the right hand column) currently running on the American Spectator website.

(USANext, you'll remember from this morning's Times, is the GOP seniors astroturf group now tasked with roughing up AARP for opposing Social Security phase-out.)

Over the headline: "The REAL AARP Agenda", the ad has, on the left, a picture of a soldier in desert fatigues with a big 'X' crossing him out and on the right a picture of two men (in tuxes and obviously just married) kissing each other. The gay newlyweds have a big green check mark over them.

The Rove slime, here it comes: AARP, the spit-on-the-troops/gay marriage lobby.

The prize to Marshall Wittman for the first choice prediction of what we'll likely see from Rove's SwiftBoatesque bludgeon-AARP astroturf campaign: "What's next - a Regnery book titled Unfit to Age?"