Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

If we're not mistaken, tonight's State of the Union address (aka, the kick-off of the Bamboozlepalooza Tour) should knock the Fainthearted Faction and the Conscience Caucus into utter turmoil. And pretty much every member of Congress is going to be asked by some reporter somewhere what they think of President Bush's Social Security phase-out plan.

And let's be clear, that's what this is. The idea of phasing out only part of Social Security is just a con. The plan here is to get rid of Social Security entirely and replace it with a government system of private investment accounts in which everyone can sink or swim as well as they can manage.

If you don't make enough during your working life to save much, you're out of luck. If your investments go bad or you die young, you and your kids are out of luck too. On the margins there may well be a new system of elder welfare for those who can prove they would die or be without any means of support absent a government hand-out. But gone entirely will be the current Social Security system in which every American who pays into the system over their lifetime has a guaranteed bedrock of retirement security which can't be taken away ever, not as a matter of a handout or disgrace or pity, but as a matter of right to a modicum of comfort and dignity in retirement after a lifetime of work.

If you doubt that the plan is to get rid of Social Security entirely you are simply naive. Look at the structure of all the phase-out proposals. They don't really envision a hybrid system for the longterm. They are all designed to siphon money out of the system, weaken it, trigger the crisis President Bush now falsely claims exists and create an accelerating pressure to complete the process of phase-out.

If you think about it, nothing else would really make sense. If partial phase-out is a good thing, why isn't total phase-out even better? This isn't about solvency; it's about the ideology of people who don't believe in or approve of the near-universal, defined-benefit program America has had for seven decades.

That's the plan and that's what's at stake.

We could have an honest debate about whether we'd be better off with Social Security or a system of government-regulated 401ks in its place. But the president knows that's a debate he can't win. So he's trying to scam the public into helping him destroy what the vast majority want to protect.

Social Security can be put on the course to complete phase-out in the 109th Congress, or the effort to phase-out Social Security can be put to rest for decades. If a newly-reelected president, with compliant majorities in both houses of congress, and all the weight of his office put behind the effort gets stopped in its tracks by a battered, but recovering party like the Democrats now are, no one will try it again for a very long time.

So, tonight ... As I said, everybody's going to get asked about phase-out tonight. And we want to hear what you hear. We can only follow so many news outlets. We have our special email address still set up (lyingprivatizers@talkingpointsmemo.com). So if you see some member of the Conscience Caucus going all wobbly and sidling up to the president's phase-out proposal, let us know. If others give it the thumbs down, let us know that too. We'd like to hear about it even if it's just existing members of the Caucus reaffirming their membership.

Same goes for the Dems. If someone starts to go wobbly, we'd really appreciate your telling us.

So we can make use of it in our efforts to cover the legislative battlein its totality, please give us as much detailed information as possible about when it was, where it appeared, and so forth. If possible, send us a link.

And watch the press. The president already got knocked on his heels for his 'crisis' malarkey. Will that affect the degree of credibility the media imputes to him now on related issues?

The White House has already signalled that a big part of the speech will be rolling out his new Social Security speech code. So if you see Tim Russert running away from the phrase 'private accounts' like it was the bubonic plague, can you let us know? Thank you. We'll be in your debt.

And if the dingbat neologism 'personalization' even crosses Andrea Mitchell's lips, can you tell us that too?

The Republicans have every right to use their own rhetoric to describe their own policies. But it's ridiculous for them to think they can force the press to adopt a new lexicon every time the pollsters come back to Karl's office with a glum face. And it is shameful when members of the press comply. So keep an eye out and let us know.

We'll be giving away 'Privatize This' TPM T-shirts for the top ten catches of the evening (ed.note: just remember that they have to go to the special email address to be considered)...

As we noted earlier, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) of Arizona and Rep. Allen Boyd, the Dean of the Fainthearted Faction, held a press conference yesterday on Capitol Hill to unveil their Social Security phase-out legislation which they call the "Bipartisan Retirement Security Act of 2005."

They handed out a detailed summary of the legislation, a document describing its purported effect on women and another describing its purported effect on people with low incomes. They also put out this 'Short Summary' of their legislation, which we've posted here in annotated form for your reading pleasure.

Her own private Fainthearted Faction?

The Times-Picayune gives the run-down on Louisiana Dems and where they come down on Social Security phase-out ...

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who represents a state Bush won by 15 percentage points and is often a swing vote in the Senate, said Tuesday she had not formulated a position on private investment accounts. A spokesman said Landrieu would oppose anything that calls for benefits cuts or that increases the deficit.

Landrieu's legislative director, Jason Matthews, said she is unlikely to support letting workers divert a portion of their payroll taxes to accounts that they could invest on their own.

Matthews also said he has seen no sign that the White House is trying to build a bipartisan consensus.

"Where is the bipartisan solution? There are only six or seven (swing) votes, and we're one of them," Matthews said. "There hasn't even been a preliminary 'Hey, how do you do?' with anyone from the White House."

By contrast, the two other Democrats in Louisiana's House delegation, Reps. William Jefferson of New Orleans and Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville, said they were firmly against the creation of private accounts. The lawmakers said that no matter how they are structured, the accounts offer too much of a risk to retirees, many of whom are dependent on Social Security for their sole means of support.

No 'how do you do'?

Mary Landrieu, looking for love in all the <$NoAd$> wrong places?

Staten Island Congressman Vito Fossella (R) tries to bamboozle constituents spinning <$NoAd$> them with the same old 'privatization' word games.

From today's Staten Island Advance ...

Rep. Vito Fossella told senior citizens at the New Dorp Beach Friendship Club yesterday that he is against privatizing Social Security.

"Let me be clear," Fossella (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) told over 130 seniors at the center. "I do not support the privatization of Social Security, I never have and I never will."

However, Fossella said he wouldn't rule out "exploring" with House lawmakers the concept of allowing young workers to set aside part of their payroll taxes into personal market accounts instead of contributing the money to the Social Security system.

Here's some more info about New Yorkers trying to get Fossella to phase out his support for phase-out.

Chris Matthews stumbles, then tries to get right with the president's Social Security Speech Code.

From last night's Hardball: "All these programs, one which will privatize this, personalize, to some extent, Social Security."

Who got to Sherry Boehlert? Did they make him an offer he couldn't refuse?

We knew the day would come, but we can see here that the days of trials have begun for the Conscience Caucus.

Just shy of two weeks ago Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R) of New York told his constituents: "I’ve never been a gambler … I don’t want to gamble with Social Security trust fund moneys. And so I am very, very skeptical of the so-called plans to privatize. And I think a disservice is being done to a great many Americans by sort of sounding the alarm that everything’s going to hell in a hand basket and we’re going to be broke by 2018. That simply is not so."

But look at today's Poughkeepsie Journal and see what a change a few days back in DC has wrought: "Boehlert said he needs to hear more details before deciding whether to support the [President's Social Security] plan. But he praised Bush for trying to tackle the politically difficult issue."

So, now, not only is Boehlert open to supporting the president's phase-out plan, he's also praising him for trying to fool the public into thinking the program is going broke.

Perhaps some of his constituents can throw Sherry a lifeline. But for the moment we're going to have to shift him to the new Conscience Caucus "CUP" ("Caving under the pressure") status.

Kudos to the Times editorial page for Tuesday's editorial poke at the president's new Social Security speech code.

President's new Social Security speech code defied at the Times!

Robin Toner goes with "private Social Security accounts" and "private accounts," but not a 'personal account' to be seen anywhere.

She even gets freaky with "privatize" ...