Friday, April 29, 2005

The New Social Security Gambit

Hey Mr. President, I have an idea. Since privatization flopped, how about you propose massive benefit cuts. That should be really popular! The Washington Post, sounding snarky, but probably not intentionally...

With virtually every Democrat, as well as many Republicans, opposed to his plan for private investment accounts, Bush sought to shift the focus of the Social Security debate to a new proposal that would reduce benefits more as workers' incomes rise.
Why is Bush pushing a proposal to make Social Security more progressive, whereas his previous economic ideas have leaned toward a more regressive, supply-side ideology? The not-so-secret goal of Social Security privateers has always been the dismantling of the most popular, most important segment of FDR's New Deal. Team W really thought they were going to land the final blow with privatization. Turns out they were completely wrong.

Since Bush can't dismantle Social Security through privatization, he's now attempting something a bit more cunning. He's going to make it unpopular by drastically cutting benefits for the rich and the middle class, while maintaining the benefits for the extremely poor. I have a feeling that Rove & Co. think that the 'soak the rich' Democrats will jump at the chance to turn Social Security into a pure welfare program. In reality, while some Democrats might consider this kind of program, I think most, if not all, will rightly conclude that this just goes too far and is unfair to middle class workers who are already paying into the system. In other words, they're misunderestimating us, big time.

Honestly, this is just a hunch and I don't have much solid evidence to back me up. I would point, however, to GOP economic quack Grover Norquist. Norquist has argued that America is made up of 'takers' who vote Democratic and 'givers' who vote Republican. By this logic, people only vote for Democrats when they receive more goods and services from the government than they pay for. Once they are paying for more goods and services than they're receiving, they start voting Republican.

Social Security, as it is currently run, is an incredibly popular program. By Norquist's logic, the way to kill it would be to shuffle the benefits so more Americans are paying for more than they're receiving. And that's exactly what Bush is proposing to do.

PS - For anyone who wants to yelp about Democrats not offering any alternatives, how about keeping the system as it is, but eliminating the $90,000 income cap and imposing a benefits cap? Alternately, you could drastically raise the income cap. Or even eliminate the cap, but withhold at a higher rate -- say, 16% for income over $1,000,000, indexed to inflation.

PPS - It was nice of President Bush to reject the looney claim that the Democrats are filibustering a few of his Christian judicial nominees because of their faith. No, really. Credit where credit's due and all that...

posted by Scott | 4/29/2005 | |

Thursday, April 28, 2005


As noted by Hunter at dKos, the 'compromise' House/Senate budget plan has been passed by the House tonight. All in, there are $35 billion in cuts to federal benefits programs, with the largest share of the burden on Medicaid, whose budget is being cut by $10 billion.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg of New Hampshire explains that this is because Medicaid is "growing far too fast for us to be able to afford it." Meanwhile, the very same budget allows for between $70 and $106 billion in tax cuts. The deficit will be at $282 billion.

Just so I'm clear, that's a $2.6 trillion budget that 'tightens the belt' by cutting $35 billion in services to the American people while reducing revenue by more than double that. So much needed programs like Medicaid could be maintained at current funding levels and we'd still cut $35 to $71 billion from the budget if revenues were maintained at present levels by scrapping the tax cuts.

What kind of assholes are these people?

posted by Scott | 4/28/2005 | |

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bush Props Up DeLay

From the Department of Damn Good Questions:

The Democratic National Committee asked why DeLay was being rewarded with a ride on the presidential jet.
In light of this, the next time President Bush goes swimming, someone might want to tell him that chaining a cinder block to his ankle is not going to improve his buoyancy. Because I'm now led to believe that he doesn't get the logic.

"I appreciate the leadership of Congressman Tom DeLay in working on important issues that matter to the country," Bush said before he began plugging for Social Security overhaul.

DeLay, an influential conservative on Capitol Hill, is facing questions about money used to pay for some of his foreign trips, about political fundraising for Texas elections and about his ties to a lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, who is under federal criminal investigation.

DeLay, who rode with the president in his limousine, on his Marine One helicopter and then on Air Force One for the return flight to Washington, has said he's willing to defend himself before the House ethics committee, but the panel is essentially shut down because of a deadlock over new rules imposed by Republicans.

Upon landing, and after a goodbye handshake at the bottom of the Air Force One steps, DeLay said the president's very public show of support for him Tuesday "felt very good."

posted by Scott | 4/26/2005 | |

Monday, April 25, 2005

Why I'm A Democrat

Periodically, it's nice to be reminded why I carry water for a party that has a tendency to be somewhat erratic, even schizophrenic, and woefully disorganized. I guess you could say that it comes down to the priorities, stupid!

Under attack from the absurdist forces of the GOP leadership, Democratic Leader Harry Reid has vowed to fight on the floor of the Senate for nine bills "that address America’s real challenges." Tack on protecting the right to organize, enacting single-payer healthcare, and protecting the environment, and you've got a perfectly solid party platform. Here's the list of bills:

1. Women's Health Care. "The Prevention First Act of 2005" will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions by increasing funding for family planning and ending health insurance discrimination against women.

2. Veterans' Benefits. "The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2005" will assist disabled veterans who, under current law, must choose to either receive their retirement pay or disability compensation.

3. Fiscal Responsibility. Democrats will move to restore fiscal discipline to government spending and extend the pay-as-you-go requirement.

4. Relief at the Pump. Democrats plan to halt the diversion of oil from the markets to the strategic petroleum reserve. By releasing oil from the reserve through a swap program, the plan will bring down prices at the pump.

5. Education. Democrats have a bill that will: strengthen head start and child care programs, improve elementary and secondary education, provide a roadmap for first generation and low-income college students, provide college tuition relief for students and their families, address the need for math, science and special education teachers, and make college affordable for all students.

6. Jobs. Democrats will work in support of legislation that guarantees overtime pay for workers and sets a fair minimum wage.

7. Energy Markets. Democrats work to prevent Enron-style market manipulation of electricity.

8. Corporate Taxation. Democrats make sure companies pay their fair share of taxes to the U.S. government instead of keeping profits overseas.

9. Standing with our troops. Democrats believe that putting America's security first means standing up for our troops and their families.
My only problem with Reid's strategy is his presentation.

"Across the country, people are worried about things that matter to their families – the health of their loved ones, their child’s performance in schools, and those sky high gas prices," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. "But what is the number one priority for Senate Republicans? Doing away with the last check on one-party rule in Washington to allow President Bush, Senator Frist and Tom Delay to stack the courts with radical judges. If Republicans proceed to pull the trigger on the nuclear option, Democrats will respond by employing existing Senate rules to push forward our agenda for America."
Why only "[i]f Republicans proceed to pull the trigger on the nuclear option" will the Senate Democrats push forward on this agenda? My opinion is that you unleash this legislative barrage of common sense progressivism no matter what. Damn the torpedoes, as it were.

When it's late in the game and your team is down by seven, you don't threaten to throw the long ball only if your field goal attempt gets blocked. You go out there playing to win, with every intention of getting into the endzone. Reid's got the right strategy in his playbook. I just hope the party has enough backbone to let him run the plays.

posted by Scott | 4/25/2005 | |
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There Is No Crisis: Protecting the Integrity of Social Security
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