Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Two perspectives <$NoAd$> ...

"Young workers who elect personal accounts can expect to receive a far higher rate of return on their money than the current system could ever afford to pay them."

Vice President Dick Cheney
Catholic University of America
January 13th, 2005

"Calculations of the median voter’s return from “investing” in Social Security suggest that for a majority of voters the U.S. Social Security system provides higher ex-post, or actual, returns than alternative assets."

Vincenzo Galasso
Social Security Bulletin
(The quarterly research journal
of the Social Security Administration)
Vol. 64 • No. 2 • 2001/2002

[A note of thanks to TPM reader BK.]

Is it troubling at all that this paragraph, the third in a piece tomorrow's Post, appears to be the White House's own description of how they'll sell their Social Security <$NoAd$> phase-out plan?

The campaign will use Bush's campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support -- contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away.


Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado has an interesting approach to the Social Security and the Trust Fund.

He says that the US government will simply go into default and never <$NoAd$> pay the money back.

You'd think that would make some news.

From today's Greeley Tribune ...

"I believe we have a problem with Social Security that will emerge in 2018," he said. "At that point in time, Social Security pay out will be more than what is in the fund put in by working people or employers."

Allard said there are no reserves in Social Security because what is there is automatically transferred into the general fund, leaving a debt of $28 trillion. But he doesn't believe the money will ever be repaid to the fund.

"The money is spent," he said. "I don't believe in my own opinion we'll be able to raise the funds to pay it back."

Do other Republicans think default is the solution? Does the president?

And since the portion of our national debt owed to the Social Security Trust Fund makes up (I believe) less than a third of our total debt, are we going to default on the rest of those bonds too?

From a press release just out from Sen. Harry Reid's leadership office: "Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) today joined James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in calling on the group Progress for America Inc. to cease running its latest television ad, which misleadingly features photos of President Roosevelt in its pitch for Social Security privatization. As James Roosevelt Jr. writes in his letter to Progress for America, 'to compare the courage it took to provide a guaranteed insurance program for our seniors and the disabled to the courage it will take to dismantle the most successful social program in history is simply unconscionable.'”

Before the Storm: "There is a lot of misinformation and misstatements out there. There is not one single plan that cuts benefits for today's seniors ... In my plan I don't cut benefits and I don't raise taxes. There is no way the Congress or the president is going to approve a plan that cuts benefits."

Rep. Clay Shaw of Florida, last night back home in the 22nd District.

Later Shaw made clear he wouldn't support any bill that cut future benefits for "our children and grandchildren."

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?