-- BUSH PLANS POST-ELECTION PUSH ON FAILED SOCIAL SECURITY CAMPAIGN:
Reuters has reported that President Bush "plans a renewed push to rein in the costs of entitlement programs after the elections."
Specifically, Bush wants to overhaul Social Security by adding private accounts. But this effort
is nothing more than a last-minute political gambit to motivate Bush's conservative base.
Bush tried to sell his plan to Americans by saying that the Social Security program is facing a "crisis."
Even after this date, the CBO found, the program will be able to pay a higher benefit than that received
by current retirees.
SOCIAL SECURITY -- ADMINISTRATION MISSES
DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING SOCIAL SECURITY REPORT:
The Social Security Act mandates that the Social Security Trustees submit a
report to Congress "not later than the first day of April of each year."
Yet as of last wednesday, the report is nowhere in sight.
The New York Times reports that the Senate and the President "are at an impasse over the appointment of trustees for Social Security and Medicare."
President Bush has renominated the two trustees who have served since 2000,
but the Senate has refused to confirm them, saying it wants "to follow the precedent of having the public trustees serve no
more than one term."
Marilyn Moon, a health economist who served as a public trustee from 1995 to
2000, said, "The whole idea of a public trustee is to have someone who comes in with fresh eyes and can ask, 'Are there things
that could be done better?'"
Sean Kevelighan the Treasury Department's press office, said there currently
is "no timetable" for the report's release.
Matt Yglesias at TPM Cafe notes the importance of the 2006 report: "[T]he Trustees
need to somehow keep coming up with new ways to justify ignoring the past several years worth of productivity growth. ...
The other thing is that the Report's immigration projections -- always implausible
-- are now seriously at odds with the administration's immigration proposals."
SOCIAL SECURITY -- SENATE REJECTED PRIVATIZATION WITH 'LITTLE-NOTICED'
During voting on the budget resolution, the Senate "went on record, apparently for the first time, against President Bush’s proposal to set up personal investment accounts under Social Security."
The Senate defeated the proposal 53-46 in a vote that "received little press attention at the time."
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who introduced the amendment, said the vote "was about whether you believe
Social Security should be saved or allowed to wither on the vine." (The statement sounded eerily similar to Newt Gingrich's
1995 call to let Medicare "wither on the vine.")
Bush had tried to push private accounts earlier this year when he, "with no fanfare whatsoever...stuck his own privatization
proposals into his proposed budget."
"This clearly was a way to try to advance private accounts under Social Security," Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-ME) spokeswoman said. "My colleagues are not being fooled," Sen.
Max Baucus (D-MT) said on the Senate floor. "This is privatization of Social Security, pure and simple."
Don't let yesterday's surprise speech on democracy by President Bush, surprise press conference by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or surprise trip to Afghanistan by First Lady Laura Bush distract you. The Bush administration's taxpayer-funded Social
Security privatization road show (a.k.a. Bamboozlepalooza) continues. Today is day 28 of the 60-day tour and things aren't going well for the president. A poll
by Time Magazine released yesterday revealed just 31 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling the Social Security issue, while 58 percent disapprove. As a result, the administration and its allies are resorting to extreme
measures to put a positive spin on their privatization efforts.
BOUNCERS IN DENVER: Although everyone finances
the president's Social Security road show with their tax dollars, not everyone is welcome at the "town hall" events. Three
Denver residents report "they were forcibly removed from one of President Bush's town meetings on Social Security because they displayed a bumper sticker on their car condemning the administration's
Middle East policies." According to the White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, the person who removed them was a volunteer
staff member who was concerned "they might try to disrupt the event." The three individuals "said nothing and did not sport
T-shirts or signs criticizing the president or his policies." McClellan added, "There is plenty of opportunity outside of
the event to express their views."
BLACK LISTS IN FARGO: What happened in Denver
was not an isolated incident. Before a February event in Fargo, North Dakota, "more than 40 residents were placed on a "black
list" of people who were not to receive tickets because they had expressed opposition to Bush's policies." The White House also blamed this incident on "an over-eager volunteer." Since "volunteers" around the
country seem to behave similarly, a reporter asked Scott McClellan yesterday what "marching orders" are given to people at
the door by the administration. McClellan replied, "I don't know. I'll be glad to look into it and see what else I can find.
I don't know if there's formal marching orders, as you referred to them."
SUPPRESSING TRANSCRIPTS OF CHENEY EVENTS: Vice
President Cheney participated in two "townhall" events last Thursday – one in Battle Creek, Michigan, and one in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. Contrary to its standard practice, the White House has not released the transcripts. Press coverage of the event
suggests the reason. In Battle Creek, Cheney was joined on the stage by Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-MI) who said before the event
that "he was not convinced that allowing personal retirement accounts will help solve the problem." At the Pittsburgh event, "Cheney pointed to the experience of federal workers who have the option of
placing part of their retirement savings in somewhat similar accounts." But Kim Miller, a resident of Mt. Lebanon, PA, "said
that she had been a federal employee and invested in the Thrift Savings Plan, 'and I didn't do well at all.'" Cheney's Social Security events from last Monday and Tuesday, which apparently were more under control, are available on the White House website.
FLUSHING YOUR MONEY DOWN THE INTERNET: In case
you have the feeling that you're not getting your money's worth from the administration's Social Security road show, you can
take solace in this elaborate website. The administration recently released a report reviewing the first 20 days of the tour. The report provides a unique look at the press coverage of the tour. For example, it includes a link
to an article from the Kalamazoo Gazette with the excerpt, "At the back of the stage where Cheney spoke, a sign read, 'Strengthening Social Security
for the 21st Century.'" Not linked: An article from the Detroit Free Press which described protesters outside the event who "held a large banner that read, 'Defend Social Security,
Privatization Is A Scam.'"
The Social Security Administration is supposed to be a neutral institution focused on serving the American public and staying
above partisan politics. Not any more. According to the New York Times, the Social Security Administration recently
developed a new "tactical plan" to help the White House market its all-out campaign to convince Americans the system is in
crisis. Internal documents show Social Security officials told employees to get the word out that "Social Security's long-term
financing problems are serious and need to be addressed soon."
- The White House is using the Social Security Administration to mislead and confuse Americans. The new crisis-marketing
plan also said Social Security managers should "discuss solvency issues at staff meetings," "insert solvency messages in all
Social Security publications" and spread the word at places like farmers' markets and "big box retail stores." Another internal
document "encourages the agency's public affairs specialists to spread the word that 'Social Security reform is a presidential
priority' and personal accounts are an essential element of his approach."
- The Social Security Administration is not another propaganda tool of the White House. In 1994, Congress passed
legislation to establish a three-person, independent oversight board for the Social Security Administration, removing it from
the supervision of the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates as part of the politically minded White House.
The bipartisan bill – which passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate – was supported across the board
by nearly every organization with an interest in Social Security, including the AARP, the National Council of Senior Citizens
and the AFL-CIO.
- Americans have seen this ploy before on Medicare and education – use scare tactics to push unsound policies and
then use taxpayer money and government employees to back up the claims. The White House pulled this same routine to force
through a prescription drug program that was a huge windfall for the drug sector. The administration also diverted money from
the critically underfunded No Child Left Behind to pay conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to shill for its education
policy. President Bush should stop using Social Security trust fund money to promote his efforts to radically undermine the
most successful social program in U.S. history. Americans shouldn't have to pay for the demise of their own retirement security
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan yesterday admitted that the president's current Social Security privatization plan
has major flaws. Although the mainstream press focused on Greenspan's theoretical support for private accounts, his
testimony revealed deep reservations about the transition costs and his belief that Bush's plan will do nothing to alleviate
long-term funding problems in the system.
- Greenspan admitted Social Security privatization will not increase overall national savings. During his testimony,
Greenspan argued that the key to fulfilling our commitments to future retirees is to increase national savings. Senator Jack
Reed (D-RI) asked Greenspan, "Would you also agree…that the private accounts will basically leave national savings unchanged
since the government is borrowing money to give to individual citizens to invest in the market?" Greenspan replied, "Yes,
- Greenspan believes private accounts will do nothing to save Social Security. Greenspan expressed concern
about Social Security's long term financial stability under privatization schemes. Sen. Chuck Shumer (D-NY) asked if "setting
up a private account under current conditions, not starting from scratch...does anything to alleviate the problem." Greenspan
replied that setting up private accounts "surely doesn't alleviate the current problem."
- Greenspan would not endorse borrowing trillions of dollars to finance Social Security privatization. Notably
absent from Greenspan's theoretical defense of private accounts was any solid defense of the president's plan to borrow trillions
to finance the phase-out of Social Security. He warned of negative consequences from borrowing huge sums of money and
stated, "We don't know how the markets respond to that…And if we were to go forward in a large way and we were wrong,
it would be creating more difficulties than I would imagine."