Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I don't want to upset anyone or cause any unnecessary emotional duress. But I think some of our Republican friends on Capitol Hill are trying to trick their constituents about their position on Social Security.

Yes, I know it's something none of us wants to think could happen. But bear with me.

Long-time readers of the site will remember that Republicans long called their plan to replace part of Social Security with private investment accounts 'privatization'. It was their word. They came up with it, embraced it, etc. That was until the 2002 election cycle came around and word went out from the NRCC to stop using the word 'privatization' and try as much as possible to get reporters to stop using it too.

Suddenly, 'privatization' was a slur, even though it was the Republicans' own word until word came down from party central to start zigging and by no means zag.

Orwellian word redefinition notwithstanding, however, for most folks the word 'privatization' still means 'private accounts'.

So here we have Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) of New Jersey. And his website says "Congressman Ferguson's principles on Social Security are clear: he opposes privatizing Social Security ..."

Nowhere does he even mention private accounts. And why should he? That's the same as privatization.

That seems pretty straightforward.

And, based on that, a TPM Reader wrote in thinking he'd found another member of our Conscience Caucus. I barely had the heart to tell him that Rep. Ferguson was trying to bamboozle him.

Republicans that are that down-the-line against privatization are pretty hard to come by. And a few lines down from that which I just quoted, we see that Rep. Ferguson notes the awards he won from the 60 Plus Assocation, to demonstrate his Social Security bona-fides.

Only problem is that 60 Plus is a pro-privatization astroturf group. Says who? Says they. On this February 15th, 2002 the group proudly noted that in 1995 they "became the first national senior citizens group to endorse publicly the privatization of Social Security ..."

There really seems to have been some terrible miscommunication here between Rep. Ferguson's office and 60 Plus, doesn't there? Sort of like the NRA awarding Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) their Gun Rights Man of the Year award.

Call me cynical. But I think Rep. Ferguson's trying to trick his constituents on Social Security, don't you?

Or how about Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) of Minnesota. He turns out to be a down-the-line anti-privatization man too. But the letter he's sending out to constituents contains some information that just may turn Washington on its ear.

"I applaud President Bush's courage in addressing the long-term status of Social Security," Kennedy writes in a constituent letter sent out yesterday. "Don't be misled: neither President Bush nor any Republican in Congress has a plan to privatize Social Security. I will oppose any plan that privatizes Social Security, cuts benefits, cuts survivors or disability benefits, or raises payroll taxes."

I sure am glad that Rep, Kennedy is taking such a strong line against misleading people. But who knew that President Bush has come out against privatization? And every Republican in Congress? Was this all just a big misunderstanding?

We're seeing example after example of this.

If this plan's so popular. Why do so many members of Congress want to trick their constituents into thinking they don't support it?

Late Update: Alas, more bad news for Rep. Ferguson. Here's his declaration of support for privatization on the Cato website from the year 2000. Here's an archived version in case the Cato gizmocrats rush to pull that one down.

Late Update: Say it ain't so! Here's Rep. Kennedy under the same 'privatization' banner from 2000.

Later than Late Update: My God, it gets worse. Sen. Dole says "no way am I for privatizing Social Security. I support the concept of allowing workers to contribute small portions of their own Social Security in the market because it would negate the need to nearly double payroll taxes on future workers to fund benefits ... This is not privatization – the government would always administer the program."

I was just reading over the LA Times run-down of Chairman Bill Thomas's free-form policy aria over at the National Journal pow-wow yesterday afternoon. And they give more attention than the other dailies to the Chairman's more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger warning that the Democrats "risked eliminating themselves from a role in the forthcoming [Social Security] debate if they played the issue strictly for short-term political gain," in the words of the Times.

"If you start with the statement that your goal is to sabotage whatever we try to do, to try to put you in the majority [in control of Congress] in the next election," warned Thomas, "then I am forced to try to solve the problem on a partisanship basis."

When I read that my throat suddenly tightened. And with that familiar, panicked mix of fear and regret curling into dread, I thought, could we have squandered our chance at more of that first term lovin' from the Republican majority and the White House?

Could this all have been a terrible mistake? The words 'a partisanship basis' just keep echoing through my mind.

Can Allen Boyd still put in a word for us?

Kerry to vote no on Rice nomination.

"Dr. Rice is a principal architect, implementer, and defender of a series of Administration policies that have not made our country as secure as we should be and have alienated much-needed allies in our common cause of winning the war against terrorism. Regrettably, I did not see in Dr. Rice's testimony any acknowledgment of the need to change course or of a new vision for America's role in the world."

Tuesday afternoon I wrote a post asking some pointed questions about Marty Frost's candidacy for DNC Chair. A number of readers wrote in assuming, not unreasonably perhaps, that those questions were really implied statements. They weren't. They were meant as questions, the ones I think are most important for evaluating Frost's candidacy. I won't rehash the specifics; but if you're interested you can read the first post here.

There's a good bit of talk now that Frost was too friendly at this point or that to President Bush or that his track record is no good since he just lost his seat in Congress. But I don't agree in either case.

The reason -- the first, second, third and only reason -- Frost got run out of Congress was because of Tom DeLay's corrupt redistricting scheme from 2003. So that makes him less a loser than a martyr of a sort, though politics is a rough sport and that's too grandiloquent and overwrought a phrase for what happened to him. Enough to say, that I don't think it's a black mark on him politically.

I would be less than candid if I didn't say that Frost isn't the candidate I'd most like to see win this, though I'm trying to keep an open mind. But he's by no means the least either.

And as long as we're on the subject, for all the supercilious nattering, this seems like a great list of candidates to run the DNC. Usually the whole choice isn't even seriously canvassed among more than a few insiders. And the big contenders tend to be lobbyists and moneymen.

Not that I'm necessarily against either, in their place, mind you. But here, as near as I can see, are a group of candidates, most of whom have a clear argument and set of ideas about rebuilding, reshaping and generally toughening up the Democratic party. And most of them at least don't seem to be in it -- at least in any immediate sense -- for the purposes of future rainmaking.

We could do far worse.

Also noted in several articles out this evening, House Ways and Means chairman Bill Thomas suggests he supports "gender-adjusting Social Security," i.e., raising the retirement age for women since they live longer.

That should go over well.

Wednesday WaPo: "House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) predicted yesterday that partisan warfare over Social Security will quickly render President Bush's plan 'a dead horse' and called on Congress to undertake a broader review of the problems of an aging nation."

Fun with numbers.

We were curious to find out which congressional districts had the largest number of Social Security beneficiaries.

Here's what we came up with ...

FL 5 (250,771) Brown-Waite, Ginny (R) FL 19 (184,624) Wexler, Robert (D) FL 13 (182,035) Harris, Katherine (R) FL 14 (181,094) Mack, Connie (R) FL 16 (178,715) Foley, Mark (R) AZ 2 (167,294) Franks, Trent (R) MT (163,655) Rehberg, Dennis (R) MI 1 (163,632) Stupak, Bart (D) VA 9 (162,005) Boucher, Rick (D) FL 15 (160,986) Weldon, Dave (R)

Just food for thought.

We're putting together some more tables with other variables mixed in. More soon.