Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 7, 2006

BRING ON PRIVATIZATION....Remember last year, when the president's pseudo-plan to privatize Social Security became a debacle for the ages? Apparently, at least one key House Republican wants a rematch.

It's not available online for non-subscribers, but Congress Daily reported yesterday:

Congress should make Social Security overhaul its top priority next year, while a rewrite of the tax code and revamping the nation's healthcare system probably will wait until at least 2009, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Jim McCrery, R-La., said today. [...]

"Looking at the lay of the land politically and substantively, it seems to me the more logical order would be Social Security, then tax reform, then healthcare reform," he told reporters after addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. McCrery said Congress should take up Social Security first because doing nothing would have "tremendous negative fiscal consequences," and it is easier to solve from a policy standpoint than fixing Medicare and Medicaid. "If we can get [Social Security] done, I think that buys us the political capital to move on to the bigger issues of health care," he said.

I think it's only fair that Democrats help Rep. McCrery and House Republicans by letting as many Americans as possible know about exactly what they'd like to do next year, if they keep their majorities in Congress. It's getting some press, but gifts like these don't come along very often and Democrats would be foolish not to take advantage.

Keep in mind, the DCCC is already anxious to remind voters about the privatization scheme. Indeed, just last month, House Democrats started reaching out to Christian conservatives with radio ads on the issue, because polls showed that Bush's approach was particularly unpopular with the evangelical community.

The main problem with the ads was that they lacked a news peg. Voters haven't heard about Social Security for months, so the Republicans' fiasco on the issue isn't fresh in their minds.

House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Jim McCrery seems willing to give Democrats a hand in reminding the electorate. The party can, in turn, give McCrery a hand in disseminating his message.

Steve Benen 12:16 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Comments

As we go into election season, I think it is fruitful to remind the American people that Democrats don't trust workers to manage their own retirement, or save money from their ownp aycheck, instead forcing them to contribute to a nanny state.

At a minimum, the American people should be given the option to opt-out of social security, and consequently forefit their rights to a benefit. In a perfect world, the entire system would be scrapped, and be replaced with private disability insurance and annuity plans for THOSE WHO WANT THEM.

I think getting private insurance and annuities like social security is a good idea. However, I don't want to force my value judgement on to others. Why do the Democrats want to take away everybody else's choices?

Posted by: American Hawk on June 7, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Do you even read the comments? If so, maybe you will respond more than 3 times total in over 30 threads you've started so far. Is that what you mean by "I've responded to quite a few comments over the last couple of days"?

Posted by: Don P. on June 7, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, American Hawk, my post was to Steve Benen. When does Kevin come back from vacation?

Posted by: Don P. on June 7, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman thinks Social Security should be a top issue! Film at 11:00!

Posted by: dcs on June 7, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Do you even read the comments? If so, maybe you will respond more than 3 times total in over 30 threads you've started so far. Is that what you mean by "I've responded to quite a few comments over the last couple of days"?

Jesus, Charlie, you're pathetic. Can they even treat what's wrong with you?

Posted by: shortstop on June 7, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

If Social Security is so important to these yahoos, why not put something on the table now, before the elections? Let the public weigh in on the issue with their votes!

Posted by: Bigcat on June 7, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

AH:
"At a minimum, the American people should be given the option to opt-out of social security, and consequently forefit their rights to a benefit."

I agree. But that's not what Republicans are proposing is it? No, instead the payroll tax money would be piped into IRA-like investments managed by private sector companies who will make a bundle off the fees. And the Feds will choose which companies are allowed to manage the accounts and reap the windfall.

A true conservative approach would be the complete opt-out that AH proposes, and I'm all for that. Let the people decide how to invest their money, with all options on the table (including traditional SS if possible).

Simply adding an an option to allow certain types of investments through certain financial companies is an invitation to corruption and corporate cronyism.

Posted by: Tom on June 7, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Tom-- At least, though, the money is then out in the market, where it can grow, rather than sitting in a vault somewhere or-- worse-- being raided to make the general fund books balance. Regardless of who is in power, the federal government should have access to as little money as possible. Trusting the government to keep your retirement money safe for you is like tossing your car keys to a kleptomaniac and asking him to watch it while you run into the store.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 7, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

"At least, though, the money is then out in the market, where it can grow..."

Depending on the fee schedule, the return on investment may be worse than than traditional SS. In situation where competition is very limited (which it would be here), the fee schedule is likely to be quite high.

As for the government stealing people's payroll taxes, I agree completely raiding those to balance the general fund books is problem. However, I think the Feds are actually less likely to default on their obligation than a private pension, or even privately managed investments. Voters have much more power over the government than workers and consumers do over those managing their retirement instruments. Witness the airlines pension reductions.

SS is a "safe" investment. The problem with it is that it has a low rate of return and there is no choice.

The simplest thing would be to let people really control their own money by allwoing complete opt-out. Republicans say they trust people to do that, and I want them to live up to their words.

Posted by: Tom on June 7, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Do you even read the comments? If so, maybe you will respond more than 3 times total in over 30 threads you've started so far.

Don, I appreciate your interest and the fact that you searched for my comments in over 30 posts, but I'm afraid I don't have enough to time to read and respond to every question raised in the comments section. It's not personal.

Posted by: Steve Benen on June 7, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

At least, though, the money is then out in the market, where it can grow, rather than sitting in a vault somewhere or-- worse-- being raided to make the general fund books balance.

The SS money is "out there", either in payments to current SS beneficiaries, or to partially pay for crap like the Iraq war that you seem to support.

Posted by: Qwerty on June 7, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Jim McCrery, R-La.

A pox on him, too. And Charles Boustany, Bobby Jindal...the whole damned reactionary bunch of 'em.

Posted by: CFShep on June 7, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

McCrery said Congress should take up Social Security first because doing nothing would have "tremendous negative fiscal consequences," and it is easier to solve from a policy standpoint than fixing Medicare and Medicaid.

That doesn't sound to me like a commitment to any particular privatization plan. They will probably come up with some combination of means-testing and tax increases, along with elements of "privatization" by another name. Add to that, he has proposed the work in the correct order: smaller problem first, then larger problem.

Posted by: republicrat on June 7, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: Don, I appreciate your interest and the fact that you searched for my comments in over 30 posts, but I'm afraid I don't have enough to time to read and respond to every question raised in the comments section. It's not personal.

Don't worry about it. It's good of you to get the discussion started.

Posted by: republicrat on June 7, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK
SS is a "safe" investment. The problem with it is that it has a low rate of return and there is no choice.

The simplest thing would be to let people really control their own money by allwoing complete opt-out.

SS is not an individual's own money any more than any other taxed money is, nor is it really a personal investment; its money taxed for a public purpose -- namely, providing a universal retirement, disability, and survivor's benefits program designed to mitigate the social costs of people with poorly planned retirement or unexpected disability ending up broke on the streets.

People are free, of course, to do whatever they want for retirement or to protect against disability or to provide with their heirs with their own money -- that is, money that is not taxed -- and, indeed, there are wide arrays of tax-favored programs for that, too.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 7, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Don P,

If so, maybe you will respond more than 3 times total in over 30 threads you've started so far. Is that what you mean by "I've responded to quite a few comments over the last couple of days"?

IIRC, that's about on par with Mr. Drum.

Posted by: Edo on June 7, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Congress should make Social Security overhaul its top priority next year, while a rewrite of the tax code and revamping the nation's healthcare system probably will wait until at least 2009, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Jim McCrery, R-La., said today. [...]

All I can say is, bring 'em on....

Posted by: Stefan on June 7, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Trusting the government to keep your retirement money safe for you is like tossing your car keys to a kleptomaniac and asking him to watch it while you run into the store.

what a scary story! luckily, SS isn't a personal retirement account. the money you're paying now isn't going into a piggy bank with your name on it, it's going to current SS beneficiaries. the govt isn't keeping your money anywhere - it's only keeping a running total of what you've paid in.

Posted by: cleek on June 7, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Cleek-- Fine, use that metaphor. Then it's like lending your money to a bad gambling addict, with the promise that you'll get it back in forty years. Either way, it's a horrible, horrible idea.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 7, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

What troubles me is planning the agenda for a Congress two elections in advance. It's sick that members of the House can presume to serve as long as a Senator, knowing that standing for election every two years is no obstacle.

To say nothing of, we don't know which party will be setting the agenda by '09.

Posted by: Grumpy on June 7, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Fine, use that metaphor

it's not a "metaphor"; it's how SS works.

Either way, it's a horrible, horrible idea.

actually, it's not. it's a really good idea and it has benefitted millions of non-ideologues over the past 70 years.

Posted by: cleek on June 7, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Either way, it's a horrible, horrible idea.

Yeah, that's what my grandmother thinks. Not. Do you know American History, American Hawk? I think not. Lets just say that Welfare Queens driving cadillacs during the 1980s is a myth (and is still) whereas impoverished eldery eating food unfit for human consumption when they could find anything to eat during the 1930s is not a myth.

Posted by: Edo on June 7, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

it's not a "metaphor"; it's how SS works.

Careful. It's best not to confuse ChickenHawk with facts.

Posted by: Vladi G on June 7, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

American Duck,

SS is like paying some money now to keep Granny off the streets with dignity with the hope that i the future your children will do the same for you.

Now apparently your family is full of gambling addicts and kleptomaniacs but thankfully the rest of us associate with a better class of people.

Posted by: Tripp on June 7, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Then it's like lending your money to a bad gambling addict,

Did somebody call me?

Posted by: Bill Bennett on June 7, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand it. Sure global warming may be taking place but it won't affect us untill way out into the future. So why start fixing it now?????????????????????

Posted by: TruthPolitik on June 7, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand it. Sure global warming may be taking place but it won't affect us untill way out into the future. So why start fixing it now?????????????????????

This ridiculous analogy would make more sense if taken to it's logical end, which is that the Republican solution to "fixing" social security is akin to blowing up the earth as a solution to global warming. Then again, they keep wanting to nuke Iran, so maybe that truly is their plan.

Posted by: Vladi G on June 7, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, can I opt out of paying for roads I just know I'll never use?

Posted by: raisin on June 7, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen:

I appreciate your interest and the fact that you searched for my comments in over 30 posts, but I'm afraid I don't have enough to time to read and respond to every question raised in the comments section. It's not personal.

Thanks for the deigning response - I understand you are a busy person.

Posted by: Don P. on June 7, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Raisin,

There is a difference since you can pretty well can determine if a person receives SS and Medicare benefits for which they didn't pay.

Posted by: Scientific Realist on June 7, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The reason they want to revisit Social Security reform (even though it was such a dud last session) has nothing to do with reform, and everything to do with finding a way to NOT pay back monies they've borrowed from the fund to pay for tax cuts.

Posted by: km on June 7, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

KM,

Or borrowed from the fund to pay for anything the federal government spends money on, like Raisin's roads, NIH, or the War in Iraq.

Posted by: Scientific Realist on June 7, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

As I remember the conservatives plan for social security involved greater costs for the plan (negating any decrease in spending for the system) with a reduced benefit (payout). Typical republican government venture: greater expenses or cost with reduced action or benefit. So then the republican desire isn't to save money in the budget but to actually increase costs and meanwhile decrease benefits to recipients. In other words: less efficiency.

Posted by: Where's osama on June 7, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Jim McCrery ought to be the focus of the gay marriage thread above, rather than this one. At least that's what common knowledge on the Hill says.

Posted by: Pat on June 7, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Social Security System is designed to socialize (or in other words pool) the risks that each of us faces with respect to retirement and disability. Privatization of those risks means that each of us is on his or her own. The beneficiaries of this privatized system would the those who would otherwise pay more into the current system, over the course of their pre-retirement lives, than what they would receive in benefits. The losers would be most of us not who would not be as lucky. Supporters of Social Security privatization should be careful of what they wish for.

Posted by: Commodify Your Dissent on June 7, 2006 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

If social means socialism then does "ice cream social" mean the state owns all the ice cream? I mean do conservatives ever think? What socialistic country ever had nation-wide health care? Nazi Germany? Fascist Italy?

Posted by: Where's osama on June 7, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

It's about time. Letting this issue slide was the biggest mistake of the past two years. Congress has been negligent as well as corrupt. Time to make some changes.

Posted by: aaron on June 7, 2006 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, can I opt out of paying for roads I just know I'll never use?
Posted by: raisin

And I for schools since I'm childless?

No doubt about the 'Social Contract' is dead as a doornail in GlobalAmerica Inc.

"A government's proper role is to mediate between conflicting interests, not to represent one particular interest against all others." Andrew Leonard

Posted by: CFShep on June 8, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Aw, Don P. got his widdle feelings huwt. Mommy should change his diaper.

Posted by: brewmn on June 8, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Jim McCrery ought to be the focus of the gay marriage thread above, rather than this one. At least that's what common knowledge on the Hill says.
Posted by: Pat

Ugh.

I could not care less about his sexual preferences - it's not germane. I object to him on the grounds that I believe that he's an amoral opportunist and hypocrite who has never nourished any principle beyond whatever he thinks will advance his own ambition.

Posted by: CFShep on June 8, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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