Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

So let's see where we are.

The president went to Parkersburg today and said, didn't hint, but said that the Social Security Trust Fund doesn't exist. In other words, he said that the Treasury notes that make up the Trust Fund won't be paid back. And that means that he intends for the government to default on that portion of the national debt.

I know he didn't unpack it that way. But that very much is what it means

Let's break it down to essentials and explain what we're talking about.

For two decades your Social Security payroll taxes have been used to offset the cost of upper-income tax cuts. If I'm not mistaken that money has been used at the highest rate (i.e., in absolute dollars terms per year) under this President Bush. The money is supposed to be paid back, with interest.

That's the deal. That's what bonds are.

But now the president stands there holding on to one of these notes and jokes that they're not worth anything.

Foreigners hold quite a bit of US debt. What are theirs worth? Are they going to get their money paid back?

Wealthy Americans do too. In fact, most of President Bush's personal wealth is in the form of US government debt. Is he going to get his money paid back?

He wants to borrow $5 trillion more. Are those folks going to get paid back?

That's what this is all about. Defaulting on that portion of the federal debt. Those folks will all get their money back. But the president figures you can be stiffed.

If you pay most of your taxes in payroll taxes (like the overwhelming majority of Americans) he's trying to play you for a fool.

Simple as that.

Late Update: Here's a number someone should run. President Bush has been president for four years. He's run very big deficits and during that same period, if I'm not mistaken, Social Security has been running very big surpluses. So his government has been sticking the Social Security administration with Treasury notes that he says and believes are worthless. Obviously the debt obligations of the United States government don't begin and end with each new presidency. That would what, at least until recently, differentiated us from the banana republics of the world. But if he really believes these obligations will never be paid back, why did he use that money -- what must amount to hundreds of billions of dollars -- to subsidize his tax cuts?

Good stuff!

Democratic Whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer's office has an informative and fun calendar posted documenting the first half of the president's Bamboozlepalooza Tour, with a nugget of bad press for each day of the tour so far.

Definitely give it a look.

Ahhhh, March 11th, the NYT reports Bush reduced to using Bamboozlepalooza to win over Republicans. Brings back memories. Okay, okay, I'll spare you ...

TPM Reader BD sends along word that Sen. John Cornyn has posted the full text of the speech he gave on the floor yesterday on his senate website. Presumably this is in an effort to blunt the controversy over his remarks by putting them in the context of the entire speech. To me, the offending passage -- suggesting a connection between judicial activism and violence against judges -- speaks for itself, notwithstanding the fact that other passages say (what else do you expect?) that such violence cannot be justified.

But, no need to take my word for it. Read the context and decide for yourself.

(ed.note: For reference and searching sake, the passage that has caused the controversy begins 'Finally, I don't know'.)

Sen. John Cornyn's hometown is San Antonio, Texas. And San Antonio is a city with some tragic experience with violence against judges.

On May 29th, 1979, a killer-for-hire, Charles Voyde Harrelson murdered Federal District Judge John Wood Jr.

In the words of a New York Times article (11/20/1982) that appeared three years later during Harrelson's trial, he hid "in ambush outside the judge's apartment [and] used a high-powered rifle to shoot Judge Wood in return for a $250,000 payment from a drug dealer [Jamiel Chagra] who was facing trial before the judge."

(ed.note: Note of thanks to TPM Reader JW. And for those of you who are addicted to trivia, yes, Harrelson is the father of actor Woody Harrelson.)

Who was in charge of rapid-response for the president's visit this morning to the Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the physical home of the Treasury notes that make up the Social Security Trust Fund?

Half the point of President Bush's privatization jihad is to make off with all that money which is owed to future recipients. And here he goes to case the joint, but I'm not hearing a lot about it.

Here's an update from the local paper.

A TPM Reader with a question for Sen. Cornyn ...

Sen. Cornyn hypothesized that violent acts against judges are the work of people reacting against "unaccountable political decisions" by judges. Really? Perhaps the Senator could flesh that theory out a little to Judge Joan Lefkow of Chicago, who recently endured the murder of her husband and mother. Is that one of the "episodes of courthouse violence" that Cornyn refers to? Exactly what unaccountable political decisions did Judge Lefkow make that led the deranged Ross to brutally murder her family? Cornyn owes Judge Lefkow an apology for this apalling and outrageous comment.

The Lefkow case clearly was one of the instances of violence Cornyn was referring to. That, and presumably the murder of Judge Barnes in Atlanta.

In case you haven't stopped by our Special Edition Bankruptcy Bill blog recently, Professor Elizabeth Warren has posted a detailed response to Judge Richard Posner's and economist Gary Becker's blog endorsement of the Bankruptcy Bill.

One of the great weaknesses of blogs, across the political spectrum, is the repeated and convulsive expression <$Ad$> of more or less contrived outrage. Of course, some of the folks are just outrage-addicts and so it's not contrived, but more of an addiction. But same difference.

Yet at the risk of committing the sin I've just described or the malady I've just diagnosed, I invite everyone to again look at this statement today from floor of the United States senate in which Sen. Cornyn (R) Texas suggested that a slow build-up of outrage against activist judges may be the root cause of the recent rash of murders and assaults against members of the judiciary around the country.

(Bear in mind that Cornyn is a former District Court judge, a former member of the Supreme Court of Texas and a former Texas Attorney General.)

I'll print it one more time ...

I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence.
Let alone the fact that the statement is ridiculous on its face since violence against judges in this country is almost exclusively the work of disgruntled defendents or homicidal maniacs who manage to wrestle a gun away from a bailiff, what Cornyn is trying to suggest here seems genuinely outrageous.

I'm curious to know whether you agree.

Late Update: The Post has picked up the story. And if anything, the context of the statement some of which they provide, makes the statement even more of a stunner. The passage I quoted above was apparently preceded by this: "It causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions. [Sometimes] the Supreme Court has taken on this role as a policymaker rather than an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people."

Still A Later Update: Let's not forget that Sen. Cornyn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bush White House.