Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Rep. Mike Castle of <$NoAd$> Delaware answers some phase-out questions from Human Events Online ...

As a leader of moderate Republicans, do you agree with President Bush's assessment that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out to help pay for Social Security reform?

REP. MIKE CASTLE (R.-DEL.): First of all, I don't rule in or out anything at this point. My own judgment is that this is an extremely complex problem, and I'm not 100% sure, or I'm not sure at all, that we should have any privatization in this area.

Do you favor personal retirement accounts?

CASTLE: I do not know the answer to that either. I've never embraced them one way or another, and I want to totally understand that. I think there's some merit to it and there's some problems with it.

Do you think other moderates share your views?

CASTLE: I don't know. We haven't had a lot of extensive discussions about it. Now, I will tell you that [Arizona Rep.] Jim Kolbe (R.) is one of the advocates for it and he's a moderate. So the answer's not 100% of the moderates oppose it, so it's hard for me to judge. I think you ask the right question, though. It's more likely in the moderate camp that you'll find people may have opposition to this.

Doesn't sound like Rep. Castle is sure of much of anything when it comes to Social Security. For the moment, though, we're sure he's in the Conscience Caucus.

The Republican Jewish Coalition joins the ranks of organizations running ads in favor of the president's Social Security phase-out plan ...

The Republican Jewish Coalition announces the launch of an advertising campaign in support of President Bush’s proposal to reform Social Security. Beginning the week of January 17th, the RJC will run full-page ads in major Jewish newspapers around the country as well as in Roll Call, a Washington, DC newspaper widely read by the White House, member of Congress, their staffs, and other leading policy-makers and opinion leaders.

The ads support the President’s proposal for allowing young families to voluntarily invest part of their Social Security contribution, while maintaining the current benefits for those on Social Security or nearing retirement. Social Security is headed for bankruptcy.

Whether it fails completely in 15 years or 40 years, there will come a day when it will no longer be possible for Social Security to provide full benefits to retirees. Raising Social Security taxes or cutting benefits will delay that failure, but will not prevent it.

Fails completely in 15 years? Even the president doesn't fib that bad.

What would Bubbe <$NoAd$> say?

TPM needs your eyeballs!

No, no, no, we don't want the actual balls. Or, we need them. But we don't need you to take them out of your head or anything.

What we need is for you to put them to use for us.

Here at TPM we're trying to track more than five hundred representatives and senators to find out what they're saying about the Social Security phase-out debate. Not just what they say to the Post's editors or to Wolf Blitzer, but everywhere. What do the local papers say? What shows up on the wires? What are they telling constituents?

Even with all the staffers here in the TPM newsroom, that's an impossible task for us to do alone.

If you see Republicans who seem like they might be bailing on the president or Democrats who look like they might be bailing on Social Security, let us know. Send us the newspaper citation or the web link. Whatever you can point us to, drop us a line.

And that's not all.

Tell us about the reporters. As we're already seeing, many reporters -- either through a mistaken understanding of journalistic objectivity or simple laziness -- are taking demonstrable falsehoods coming out of the White House and either presenting them as fact or simply repeating them as one side of the argument.

We can cover a lot of ground, but obviously not all of it. But you can. If you see examples of egregriously bad reporting or just plain-old-fashioned journalistic inattention to fact, let us know. Give us the details.

The Pope supports private accounts?

VP <$NoAd$> Dick Cheney a couple of hours ago wading into the Social Security phase-out debate ...

As a nation we recognize, as Pope John Paul II has written, that a fully human civilization shows respect and love for the elderly. And a just society ensures that elderly people can grow old with dignity. For that reason our nation established the Social Security system. And that is why, after 70 years, Social Security remains a fundamental commitment of both our political parties.

We will need that bipartisan commitment in the months ahead -- and I believe we will find it. There are strong views on both sides of the aisle, and we should not expect the work to be easy. Yet if we all go forward in good faith, we will uphold a great duty -- keeping the promise of Social Security far into the future and giving millions of seniors, today and tomorrow, the dignity, security, and peace of mind they deserve.

Don't worry, we'll be going over this one with a fine tooth comb. After all, it's Cheney, right?

More industry fall-out from Ketchum's participation in the Bush administration's government-funded political campaigns (the Armstrong Williams deal, et al.).

This just out from PR Week ...

Sloane & Company CEO Elliot Sloane withdrew his agency's membership in the Council of PR Firms Wednesday following Council president Kathy Cripps' comments defending Ketchum in a New York Times story.

"The reaction of the Council... disappointed me, because I would expect that the trade organization that represents our industry would be more forceful in talking about guidelines, roles and responsibilities, and ethics," Sloane said.

In the Times article published Wednesday, Cripps said that Ketchum's contract to promote the "No Child Left Behind" act by paying a commentator $240,000 did not violate the Council's code of ethics because the onus for full disclosure rested on Armstrong Williams, not the agency.

By contrast, PRSA president Judith Phair called Ketchum's situation "a shame, disturbing and harmful."

Even Armstrong Williams won't <$NoAd$> defend it. What's this PR Council's deal?

We told you yesterday afternoon that The New Republic's Ryan Lizza had something in the works and here it is.

In Lizza's new piece about the Dems' get-tough stance on opposing President Bush's Social Security phase-out bill, he sat down with Fainthearted Faction member Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, who told him ...

"Social Security is a safety net. That's what it's there for. It's there to be the safest portion of your portfolio. It's a guaranteed benefit for a reason, and, for that reason, I don't support private accounts ... I think there is broad consensus among New Democrats that you must not privatize the system."

Make that, ex-Fainthearted Faction member Rep. Adam Smith of Washington.

It's always such a pleasure to strike another good Democrat from the list.

See the newly-revised Faction list here.

For all the work he put into becoming the Chairman of the House Fainthearted Faction, Rep. Allen Boyd sure is pretty close-lipped about his accomplishments.

Over at his website, the pull-down menu for "AB on the Issues" has Homeland Security, Iraq, Budget, Medicare/Prescription Drugs, Prescription Drug Discount Card, Education, Farm Policy, Armed Forces, Veterans, Election Reform, and Economy. But no Social Security. Nothing. Actually, I can't find anything on the subject on his site at all. You'd barely know he was in the Faction, let alone the chairman.

If you can find anything on Social Security on Boyd's website, please let me know.

He's not out of the Faction yet. But he's awfully close.

From what we'd gleaned in news reports and from his communications with constituents, Alabama's Bud Cramer looked like he might be the president's best bet after Rep. Allen Boyd to go along with a Social Security phase-out bill.

But an article by Shelby G. Spires in this morning's Huntsville Times sure paints a different picture.

"I do not support (Bush's Social Security plan) in its current form at all, and I would have to see a lot of details to convince me ... There's not enough substance to the White House's proposal that would show how this will work."

Cramer, says the Times, "won't rule out working with the Bush administration on the issue, but cautioned that it would have to be a different plan."

Further down into the piece Cramer expresses concerns about current retirees, tax and spending issues, and what the administration would do if the stock market went south. He never expresses clear opposition to a private-accounts-based phase-out plan, as such, and he's left the door open for the president.

But he seems a lot less likely to side with the president today than he did yesterday.

It took us a while. And we had to work through the by-laws of the Fainthearted Faction as well as the methodological guidelines our jury has developed. But after careful consideration and some argument we've decided that Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California should be removed from the Fainthearted Faction.

As you probably recall, on January 7th, Sen. Feinstein issued a statement to the press in which she said: "I strongly oppose private accounts, which could cost $1 trillion or more and still fail to improve the financial condition of Social Security. Unless I see a proposal that protects the fiscal health of Social Security and does not dramatically increase the national debt, I will continue my opposition."

Now, there was some question and controversy over whether the second clause of the first sentence qualified or merely elaborated on the first. And there were some related questions raised about the precise meaning of the second sentence.

In the end, though, we decided not to be overly talmudic about the matter. So while a very lawyerly interpretation of Feinstein's statement might still reveal some latent Faintheartedness, we've decided that the general thrust of her statement, along with this reference to her opposition in the San Francisco Chronicle, warrants her removal.

You can see the newly updated Fainthearted Faction roll here, as well as the updated roll of the Conscience Caucus, which has a new addition.

Two sets of information that will be worth connecting.

Last week Ruy Teixeira posted a list of twenty-five "high-risk Republican districts" --- "Colorado 7; Connecticut 2, 4, and 5; Delaware AL; Florida 10 and 22; Illinois 10; Iowa 1 and 2; Kentucky 3; Nevada 3; New Hampshire 2; New Jersey 2, 3, and 4; New Mexico 1; New York 3, 13, and 25; Pennsylvania 6, 7, 8, and 15; and Washington 8."

Then there's this page at the Social Security Administration website we brought to your attention yesterday which provides extremely detailed information on the size and demographic profile of Social Security recipients by congressional district.

Late Update: I spoke too soon. Or, rather, I guess, too late. Steve Soto's already put together the whole thing.