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This is no reason to let our guard down, but it should allow for some cautious optimism:
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.

Thomas, one of Capitol Hill's most powerful figures on tax policy, is the highest-ranking House Republican official to cast doubt on the president's plan for creating individual investment accounts. He said that as an alternative, he will consider changes such as replacing the payroll tax as Social Security's financing mechanism and adding a savings plan for long-term or chronic care as "an augmentation to Social Security payments."

Reid responds immediately (that war room thing again):
The President's plan is a `dead horse' not because of partisan politics but because it is a privatization plan based on massive benefit cuts, risky Wall Street accounts and $2 trillion in new debt. It will undermine Social Security at a time when we should be looking to strengthen the program and help Americans save.

And if a 50 percent benefit cut is not enough, now we learn Republicans are aiming to push even deeper cuts for America's women. Any suggestion that women do not deserve the same benefits as men is just plain wrong.

Wait, what's that about women? Back to the WaPo piece:
Perhaps most provocatively, Thomas said lawmakers should debate whether Social Security benefits should differ for men and women, because women live longer. "We never have debated gender-adjusting Social Security," he said. A House leadership official said that not even Republicans on Thomas's committee would vote for that idea. Thomas also said the system might take into account the need of blue-collar workers to retire younger than office workers.
Woah! Where did this come from? Obviously Thomas knows something about Bush's plan that we don't.

Thomas may have saved his party some major heartache in 2006. Because if Bush's plan had included different benefits calculations for men and women...

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:26 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Gender adjustment? (none)
    Sounds like a wedge issue being floated. Don't take the bait.  We need to get more men voting for us without losing the women.

    I've never received money from the governement to spout an opinion. How 'bout you?

    by nightsweat on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:13:03 AM PST

  •  "dead horse" (4.00)
    Say it again and again.:

    The President's plan is a dead horse.
    The President's plan is DOA.

    Self-fulfilling prophesy. Or fulfilled by common sense and logic, whichever you prefer. It can't hurt.

    The CW is clearly that the plan is dead before it is even proposed.

    •  It is VERY IMPORTANT (none)
      that we ignore these comments.

      When preparing for a battle, it is good strategy to ensure that the other side is asleep.

      That is what the Repukes are doing here.  They are trying to put the Dems to sleep.  

      We must redouble our efforts.  If we do not put the JUICE INTO THE THIRD RAIL, it's just a long skinny piece of metal, rather than death to those who would destroy it.

      PUT THE JUICE INTO THE THIRD RAIL

      •  Oh, that doesn't mean stop. (none)
        By all means keep on talking loudly about how Bush wants to steal from SS.

        But creating a public aura that this proposal is already a massive failure, is excellent psychology. For once, the psych-out can work the other way. Let the GOP feel demoralized for a change!

        Massacre is not a family value.

        by Canadian Reader on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:13:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Dead Horse? (none)
      Better break its leg then.

      dink

    •  Pay Attention to Thomas (4.00)
      Read what Thomas says carefully.  He says PRESIDENT BUSH'S PLAN is DOA.  He didn't say Social Security revamping is DOA; in fact he sees it as a major problem.  He is looking at a wider canvas, and sees that serious policy makers can't separate out strengthening Social Security, revising tax policy and reducing the deficit, as Bush would have it.  

      Thomas is a smart guy, and he is obviously getting some ideas of his own on how to make changes.  He isn't exactly a team player, but he is influential.  He understands very clearly that private savings accounts do nothing for SS's long-term funding and exacerbate the deficit.  What he is really looking at is tax policy.  

      This makes it all the more important for Dems to FIRST unequivocally oppose Bush's privatization scheme and shoot down his lies, and THEN put some serious energy into coming up with alternatives, the most important of which is deficit reduction, which can be accomplished with refusing unequivocally to make the Bush tax cuts, especially the elimination of the inheritance tax, permanent.

      Remember Josh Marshall's words:  the most important source of the Dems' power at this moment is their ability to undermine Bush's legitimacy by refusing to give his lousy programs the cover of bipartisanship.  The crux of the ownership society is that Bush (and the GOP) must own his own programs and problems.

      If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

      by Mimikatz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:13:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Where are our ideas? (none)
        I've seen some suggestions,  let's here more.
        •  Let's HEAR more.... (none)
          can't type
        •  WHEN WE ARE IN THE MAJORITY (none)
          We can have ideas.  Unil then - or the next election cycle-loud objections are good enough.

          When all else fails...panic

          by David in Burbank on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:40:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Some ideas (none)
          1.  Fund SS with dedicated tax revenues from a modest inheritance tax, say a tax only on estates of $5 million or more.  A steep tax (it currently is 45%-48%) would bring in enough money.  Such a tax would apply only to something like 3000 estates a year, maybe even less, but generate a great deal of money.

          2.  Increase the ability of younger people to save outside of SS with a universal, expanded 401(k) type account that is independent of employment and fully portable, with a small choice of stock, bond and money market funds.  this is a much better deal than private accounts because it is funded with pre-tax dollars and the limit would be much higher, say $7,500 or up to 15% of income.  There has even been a planb to provide a federal match for low-income folks.

          3.  Raise the age at which one MUST take SS benefits (now 70 1/2), or raise the maximum benefit age to 68 (one more year) by one month a year over 10 years.

          If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

          by Mimikatz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:56:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Speaking of 401(k)s.. (none)
            Why not increase the limit on IRAs while we're at it? I know the limit is $4000, but why can't it be higher?

            I'm not so sure about the matching funds thing from the Feds, but some employers will do a matching contribution as well, even to your IRAs and 401(k)s that through them.

            "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - MLK

            by amayernx on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 11:31:19 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Misses the point.... (none)
              I agree that these are good ideas.  But I think they miss the point.

              Social security really isn't designed to protect people that have money to put into an IRA or other retirement account.  

              Social Security protects those without resources.  It guarantees that no matter how poor you are (or how bad your financial choices), we as a county will not leave you on the street when you're old.  

              Those on the outside of our economy watch as the stock market booms.  They wish that they could take advantage of the market too.  They don't have 401(k) programs.  They don't have the extra money at the end of the month to place into a tax deferred retirement account.  And unless they happen to be in a strong Union, they likely have no safety net other than God and family.

              Can you imagine how great a private retirement account sounds?  It would be your money.  Your money would grow.  Your money, working for you.  Really, not that different from the current system on the surface, but it's a fundamental change in the way the program is perceived.  (And I argue has long term benefits by taking the Social Security system partially off-budget and showing the debt for the crisis it really is.  Private accounts is merely an Al Gore-style "lockbox" program that takes advantage of the fact that government bonds are rarely the best investment you can make.  But I'm not really trying to argue the merits here.)

              So while the ideas you propose are sound policy in their own right, they are not a solution.  

              Oh, other than raising the cap on taxing wages.  While it screws over the self employed, it would fix the system quite nicely.  But that is a major reform.  It's just as radical in its own way as these other ideas.  Advocating such a solution would be a great step forward for the Party to take.  

              •  Had not thought of it this way... (none)
                I've been doing a bit more reading, and you bring up important points.  To address any shortfalls that will arise in the future and to make sure that everyone (regardless of their resources) has some leg upon which to stand after retirement, it seems raising the cap may be necessary.  
    •  Don't misunderestimate Shrub (none)
      Has he ever backed off from a plan once he's formulated it? I don't think so.

      I like the idea of repeating the "dead horse" meme, but keep on putting juice into the third rail, too. Don't expect Bush(league) Co. to back down.

  •  Am I dense? (none)
    I don't get what the point would be of having different benefits for men and women.  Even if, statistically, one group lives longer... so what? Individuals live as long as they live and need the same benefits while they're alive and stop needing them when they're dead.  Right? So... what am I missing? headscratch

    How can we get over it when people died for the right to vote? -- John Lewis

    by furryjester on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:20:49 AM PST

    •  total cost of a woman (none)
      to the program would be higher because she lives longer, all other things being equal.

      Of course, other things aren't equal.  Since women's wages are still on average lower than men's, and they may have fewer years total in the workforce because of childbearing, it may well balance out.

    •  Salvation Army model of benefits (4.00)
      This is the anti-women model of benefits employed by the Salvation Army. Women are less important, so they should not be getting an equal share. I think the "live longer" concept is a false scientific-sounding point being used to justify their position. But they just don't like the idea of treating women as equals in the work place. It fits in with the Supply-side Jesus view of the world.

      GOP: Party before Country
      Puppethead

      by puppethead on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:26:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't look for policy logic (none)
      This is wingnut maneuvering.  Just as their "African-Americans get a raw deal from SocSec" lie was intended politically to try to weaken the black community's support for SocSec, so this is probably Thomas' hope to suggest to the GOP core -- white men -- that they're getting screwed by SocSec demographics.  It's just more politically-based BS.

      Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so.-- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

      by Steady Eddie on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:29:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Kill it, but bring it to a vote first (4.00)
    then every Dem running in 2006 can run the same ad: "My opponent tried to slash social security benefits."

    Take the fight to them. Don't let them bring it to you. - Harry S. Truman

    by jgoodfri on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:21:10 AM PST

    •  Not sure (none)
      If it truly is dead in its tracks, the improbable best possible result a vote will get is a resounding defeat for Dubya. Capitol Hill GOoPers do know how to count votes. They also control the agenda. The Dems do not have enough votes to force a vote on any issue if the GOP doesn't want it. If successful in shaming the Pugs into calling the vote, GOP House members and GOP Senators up for re-election in 2006 will tend to abandon the measure, rather than allow the Dems the issue in the ensuing campaign.

      Though stopping a big BushCo agenda item will be useful as PR, the threat of the angle that you've cited is enough to keep anything from happening.

      vote early - vote often

      by wystler on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:24:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  me too (none)
      I hope we can bring it to a vote because those "XYZ tried to kill Social Security" ads in 2006 would be SWEET.

      But even if we can't, Democratic leadership needs to compile public pro-privatization statements from Republicans to use against them.  Perhaps not as powerful as a vote, but using their own quotes against them might still draw blood in an election.

      •  Lets run those ads anyway (none)
        the Republicans always tell half truths about Dems so why can't we do it to them? Negative commercials work, true or not.

        And yes I'm willing to do whatever it takes to bring down the fascists.

        don't go after Bush, go after the Republicans.

        by Joe B on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:07:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Woah, indeed. (none)
    Democrats need to stress that the beauty of Social Security as it currently exists is that it is virtually universal, with equal treatment for everyone.  They should stress the divisiveness of the Republicans' plans:  how it sets up the current retiring generation against later generations (who will, once again, find themselves paying for the lack of foresight of their forerunners); how it sets up poor people against rich people (who do you think is going to get the biggest boost from a shift towards privitization?  Those who have the time and knowledge to properly manage their accounts, that's who); and now, we hear that it could potentially pit women against men.  

    If the Dems call this plan for what it is, baldly and without any nostrums of bipartisanship, this could be a slam dunk.

    Nothing requires a greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of nonthought. -- Milan Kundera

    by Dale on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:22:39 AM PST

  •  dead horse or Trojan Horse? (none)
    It's too early to be optimistic, but I wonder if part of the plan to gut Social Security will make into the tax "reform" proposal.
  •  Silver lining (none)
    While Thomas's statements are cause for concern, he is clearly at least drinking a different flavor of Kool-Aid than the White House, and may be opening a wedge to the Democrats' advantage.

    Most importantly, he is rejecting the Sky is falling! message from Bush:

    In the 1983 restructuring, Thomas recalled, Congress had to act quickly because the retirement trust fund was running out of money. Now Congress has time to contemplate a wide range of ideas, he said, because Social Security is expected to run an annual surplus through 2018 and to exhaust its accumulated surplus in 2042.

    "I want as many ideas as possible on the table," Thomas said. "We have the time. We have to be more creative."

    (source: LA Times)

    If Congress takes an unhurried, clean and sober look at retirement security overall, it can only help the Democrats kill Bush's plan.

    BTW, great minds think alike: I had posted a diary on this same topic almost simulataneously to Kos; but deleted it.

    •  The unhurried approach.. (none)
      Is a slight adjustment to the current SS tax, which some estimate would only need a slight increase to improve the financial model for SS. Of course, you could also tax the wealthy or the obscenely stupid.

      "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - MLK

      by amayernx on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 11:34:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  how do you get that *special* text box? (none)
      I like the nifty 3D effect! I only know how to do the cool gray boxes (which now seem so yesterday!) and want to do those fancy ones.

      "There are no shortcuts to accomplishing constructive social change ... struggle is called 'struggle' for a reason." Ward Churchill

      by CAuniongirl on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:42:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We should ACT like they all wanted it, though... (4.00)
    That's the difference between the Dems and the GOP. One lunatic fringe Dem makes an offhand comment in some random meeting, and suddenly Drudge has got the flashing siren and it's on Fox 24/7 for the next three weeks. It doesn't matter that most of the Republicans on the committee think it's a lame idea--we've got to make the GOP take ownership for this idea.

    That needs to be the meme--"the Republican Social Security plan that would cut benefits by 50%, add $2 trillion to the debt, and unfairly penalize women for living longer."

    Screw this "it was only one guy's idea" crap. Democrats have spent the last ten years running in fear from having one comment blown out of proportion. As far as I'm concerned, if one of these wingers says it, they all own it.

    Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it.

    by David J on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:23:41 AM PST

    •  Not just women (none)
      Thomas also said the system might take into account the need of blue-collar workers to retire younger than office workers.

      Translation=workers who retire younger take more out of the system than those who retire later.  So blue collar workers cost the system more and Thomas is suggesting that their benefits be decreased since they draw them longer.

      Blue Collar workers include:
      *police
      *firefighters
      *construction trades
      *factory workers

      This is a veiled assault on these folks.  We need to hammer on it in addition to the attacks on benefits paid to women.

    •  reframe (none)
      unfairly penalize women for living longer

      How about "starve your elderly mother and take away her home" instead. Don't point out that we live longer...make it about Mom and Apple Pie (and the fact that Mom can't afford the Apple Pie because she'll have to subsist on cat food if women's benefits are cut).

      They should all be judged soaking wet.

      by Kitsap River on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 05:02:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I hope this isn't dead... (none)
    because gaming this out leads me to see some major gains from this issue in 2006.  

    Honestly?  Just because its dead, doesn't mean Bush will give up.  Since when does the facts stop him from doing what he wants?

    "Not all readers become leaders. But all leaders must be readers." President Harry S. Truman

    by zubalove on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:23:48 AM PST

    •  the undead (4.00)
      Ah, you've just identified for me the most apt analogy for Bush: Dracula. Buffy fans may recall the ep where the real Dracula just wouldn't go away no matter how many times she staked him. These guys are like that. When they bring up something only for show or distraction, like going to Mars, they'll drop it easily when it goes nowhere. But when they're really after blood, well, we'd better stay alert and have a big supply of wooden stakes on hand.

      There's nothing the matter with Kansas

      by Kansas on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:37:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Take a 4 for the Buffy reference! (none)
        ::mist appearing::
        "I'm standing right here!"
        ::mist disappearing::

        Everytime the GoOPers show up, we'll keep stakin' 'em!

        "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." - H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama

        by Mariposa on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:10:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Bush not giving up (none)
      Honestly?  Just because its dead, doesn't mean Bush will give up.  Since when does the facts stop him from doing what he wants?

      Yes, witness attempts to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling...

  •  Knowing Thomas... (none)
    he probably pulled that one out of his butt, or his staff's.  I doubt it has much to do with Bush's proposal -- it's more likely to be related to wingnut conversations on the Hill based on the lies BushCo has been pushing about African-Americans supposedly getting a bad deal from SocSec because of life expectancy (which are in fact substantially outweighed by the mildly redistributional effects of SocSec at the lower income levels).  This gender thing is probably his or his staff's deluded and misinformed spinoff from the BushCo racial garbage.

    I wouldn't be so quick to declare victory, though -- it would be wise to take Duncan Black's caution about not letting them use some pretense to get us into a "constructive" discussion about how to "fix" (or even augment) SocSec which would then be subject to DeLay manipulation in a high-stakes, closed conference committee.

    Given how corrupt and lying the House leadership in particular is, Democrats should still Just Say No to legislative action on this whole issue.

    Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so.-- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

    by Steady Eddie on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:23:58 AM PST

  •  I don't trust these bast@$ds even when (none)
    I can see them, and both their hands are in sight.

    What are they up to? What are they working on while we're distracted by the whole SS threat?

    Fixing what isn't broke is dumb, dividing the benefits into blue collar/ white collar or male/female is insulting.  They don't EVEN want to go down that road.  

    Most Americans are a lot dumber than we give them credit for- George Carlin 2004

    by maggiemae on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:28:22 AM PST

    •  Sure they do (none)
      They want to destroy the program, but they know it's too popular.  First they have to make it unpopular.  What better way can you see of creating resentment against what is probably the most popular government program in history than creating obvious inequalities?  
      •  I understand the "divide & conquer" (none)
        strategy. I certainly don't want to engage in a circular firing squad excerise where we are basically on the same side of the issue, but end up distracted in discussing semantics.  

        On this man/woman issue- we have individual payroll taxes and other valid points described up thread on why this is a non-viable (stupid) idea.

        We have the facts, and the success of the current program working on our side. I want to stay focused on the goal.  

        Most Americans are a lot dumber than we give them credit for- George Carlin 2004

        by maggiemae on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:59:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Saved his party heartache? (4.00)
    I think fucking not!  

    The Democrats should hold Republicans accountable for this privatization salvo - all Republicans, whether they supported or opposed the plan.  They should let the voters know that unless the Republicans are punished for their actions, they will try them again, and again, until finally, they win.  Republicans simply can't be trusted with a majority, and Democrats must persuade the voters of that fact.

  •  Future Headline (none)
    "Soccer Moms Revolt"

    Bush, so incompetent, he can't even do the wrong things right.

    by JAPA21 on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:37:10 AM PST

  •  Emphasis on "Cautious" in that optimism (none)
    I wouldn't put it past the gop to first float a plan that has no chance of passing, then suggest a seemingly more modest plan as an alternative.  People would be more accepting of the alternative, since they would be so relieved that the president wasn't going to try to push throught the extreme plan.  Remember, the goal here is to undermine social security, and the gop is nothing if not patient.  They know they have to bait the hook with something tempting to get people to bite.  Look for the hook.  
  •  Do not drop the energy (4.00)
    Now is the time when we need to ramp up the pressure on EVERY member of Congress.

    They want this thing to go away for a while... let the heat subside. Don't let it.

    Either they are clearly for the social security of every American or they are not. Take the pledge or prepare to be hammered.

    Democratic Congressmen need to stop being Kerryesque pragmatists and play this up. Stand on the stairs outside Congress and firmly pronounce their resolve to fight to the last man to protect the social security of Americans.

    Bush throws this crap out there and everytime it doesn't stick onto the wall we just let it quietly die away. Why? Just once why not go in for the kill? If you strike down an opponent and then assume that they are dead, you deserve it when they hit you in the back of the head.

    Greetings from Ohio. Land of Jim Crow.

    by ignatz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:39:30 AM PST

    •  You are so right (none)
      They will make everyone go through the sturm und drang, and then just do what they want in committee. Presto -- they have their cover for the next election and their privatization. We have to be extra-vigilant up until the very last second on this.
  •  Why We Are Wrong and Bush is Right (sorta) on SSI (none)
    This is important stuff and we are giving up.  A couple weeks ago, Kos featured a quote by Congressman Paul Ryan that this issue a "slam dunk" with many younger voters.  He's right.  And currently, the Democratic Party isn't even showing up to play.  

    Social security is broken.  As a 20-something, what are the chances that I will ever collect from the system?  Saying that the system will still be able to pay 70 cents-on-the-dollar certainly isn't the answer -- try that one on your credit card company next month!  It doesn't pass the laugh test.  So we are stuck with the fact that over the next 40 years, I and the other young citizens of America will pay an ever-increasing share of our income to fund the retirement of the Greatest Spendthrift Generation.  

    *    The number of workers paying for each retiree is shrinking.  
    *    The costs of medical care are increasing.  
    *    The debt is already at unsustainable levels.      

    The logic is simple.  Fewer workers paying more money equals increased taxes.  Or more debt.  Higher taxes or more debt equals a lower quality of life.  

    Currently we have a social security system that "insures" those nearing retirement will have a comfortable life.  But at some point, doesn't the cost of insurance rise so much that you decide to do without?  Isn't there some price at which you decide to self-insure?  Social security is founded on this principle:  pay today, receive an I.O.U. for tomorrow.  Which is great if you have faith in that I.O.U.!  

    Given the bleak picture I see -- ever increasing costs in exchange for a worthless future promise -- we have reached the point where the need to change and adapt is at a critical point.  And I know many of my professional 20-something friends agree.  

    Currently, the only party addressing my concerns is the Republican Party.  Democrats are not even taking part in the debate.  

    "Reforming" social security is not a dirty word!  Just as we did on "partial birth" or "gay marriage" or "moral values" or "death tax" we are giving away an issue to the Republican Party and allowing them to define us as dithering and unable to take a stand.  Bill Clinton's finest hour (at least in political terms) was welfare reform where he co-opted a "Republican" issue and made it a center piece of his administration.  We must do the same with social security reform.

    Watching John Kerry get up there during the debates and savage George Bush as trying to "destroy" and "gut" social security -- while having no proposal of his own to fix it -- was disillusioning in the extreme.  Kerry made the intellectually dishonest argument that Social Security is just fine and came across as, at best a grasping politico trotting out hackneyed one liners, and at worst as a liar.    

    Don't get me wrong.  We cannot abandon our seniors.  Any student of history only has to look at the despicable treatment of the elderly in past generations to know that returning to those dark days is not an option.  And as a yellow dog Democrat, I'm not about to abandon our Party or our core values.  

    But when did protecting a broken system become a core value?  

    Young voters are presented with two teams:  one team advocates a (perhaps) flawed solution to fix a broken system.  The other team advocates keeping the broken system as it is.  Which would you pick?

    The system advocated by Bush and his cronies isn't as bad as many make it out to be.  Why shouldn't we, as Democrats, seize this idea, make it better, and solve the social security problem while scoring political points?    

    For instance, the Thrift Savings Plan federal employees get is a great model.  The fees are extremely low.  The return (over time) is generally good.  Everyone is allowed to select between 5 funds (a government securities fund, a fixed income index fund, a common stock index fund, a small cap fund, and an international index fund).  By default, the money is put into the most conservative funds.  All funds are (at least somewhat) diversified and professionally run.  There are no "shady" brokers.  There are no out-right fraudulent investments.  While the idea of putting government tax dollars into private brokerage accounts might make for nice commercials, it's not what most reasonable thinkers (and I suggest, the Democratic Party should join in) are proposing.  

    Take a stand and require that any reform legislation guarantee a "floor" monthly retirement benefit.  Should Grandma Jo somehow manage to lose her savings, she won't be left to the tender mercies of the street.  Phase the program in gradually over 10 - 15 years so the stock market isn't destroyed by the influx of new money.  

    Ignoring a problem is not public policy.  More importantly, it isn't good politics.  Young people need to know that we are serious about not leaving them to clean up our mess.  Otherwise, they will vote for the other guy and that would be a truly horrible outcome.  Right now Democrats are stuck defending a system that is going to begin eating up discretionary government spending in about 20 years.  This means less money for the programs that we as Democrats should be championing.  We need to take a stand.  We need make sound fiscal management a hallmark of the Democratic platform.  We can do this.  And without leaving anyone behind.  But we need to act now.  

    •  Fiscal responsibility (none)
      In the current context, we must resist completely any attempts to "fix" Social Security, a system that is not broken.

      Oh, you're taking the long-term view?  That's what our government will not do, ever.  Never has, never will.  Their horizon barely extends to the next election cycle.  Hence, while your words have some truth, they do not translate into political reality.  Why do you think the entire framing of this "reform" push rests completely on the manufacturing of urgency, that there is a "crisis" now?

      Seriously, we cannot hope to propose an alternate plan to "fix" social security at this time.  We are not in power, and allowing the debate to go there--and I acknowledge many of our dimmer Democrats have already done so--merely reinforces the Republicans' manufactured crisis.

      Let's become the majority again.  Then we can fix SS properly.  An alternate plan that worries about 70 years from now, even 20 years from now, is simply going to end up a brick on the road to privatization, in my opinion.

    •  Fix healthcare costs greater threat (none)
      Healthcare costs are the greatest threat the younger generation faces. They are eating up your raises and your ability to change jobs. Plus you will wind up picking up the costs your parents can't. There will be a time period where we run a deficit picking up social security costs. But we a running a deficit now paying for taxcuts and wars that is greater than the social security problem will be on an annual basis, and we are making it just fine. Just ask George.
    •  Hmmm... (none)
      Maybe greenie2090 is right and Paul Krugman was wrong. I mean after all, Krugman is just a world respected author and economics professor and greenie2090 is an unidentified poster on a bulletin board.

      I love this logic. You must be broke having to buy new cars every time the gas mileage goes down.

      Your language hands the Cons and huge victory for nothing. Social Security is one of America's most popular and successful programs. Fuck with it at your peril.

      Greetings from Ohio. Land of Jim Crow.

      by ignatz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 08:49:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not. (none)
      The logic (or lack thereof) that dictates a politician should not criticize someone else's plan without offering an alternative is pure malarky.

      This is the same line they used against Kerry (and Dean et al) whenever they dared to criticize the misAdministration's Iraq policy.

      "Oh, the Democrats can complain, but do they offer any solutions?!?"

      For one, the party in power won't allow any of the Democrats' solutions to even get to the floor for a vote. When you are a minority party, it is in your best interest to first and foremost point out the major flaws of the ruling party's proposed policies. It's simply the only way to draw attention to the matter.

      For two, the solution to the SS non-crisis is common sense. It doesn't take a world class economist like Krugman to figure out the obvious (but it does lend credibility to the opposition's argument).

      A minimal tax increase (or even better, a return to Clinton-era tax rates) would cover the cost of making the program fully soluble for another 50 years, if not more.

      •  Sorta Right, Sorta Wrong... A few more thoughts... (none)
        First of all -- a disclaimer.  Please don't misunderstand where I'm coming from.  I worked the polls for Kerry and spent most of October in the field.  I am a die hard, union-card wielding, granola crunching, Dean-Loving, Liberal.  And I see a lot in these responses that I agree with.  

        Among members of the public, there is the perception that Social Security is in trouble.  

        Stop.  Re-read that last sentence.    

        Ultimately, which set of numbers is "true" doesn't really matter.  Is the system going belly-up in 2042?  Does paying benefits begin eating into discretionary spending in 2024?  Does our uber-economist disagree with theirs?  Perception is political reality.    

        Don't play this game.  We lose.  

        Listening to the Sunday talk show circuit, the only conclusion you can come to is that we don't know.  We know that we don't know.  Faced with economic uncertainty a prudent person would takes steps to avert any future problems.  This just makes sense.  And because of miracle of compound interest, small changes now make a huge difference later.  

        Even smart, educated, and fair people disagree about the numbers.  And that's fine.  But what do you do when your Party's response to a potentially serious problem is to do nothing?      

        George Bush and the Republican Party tend to do nothing when confronted with evidence that their policies are a disaster waiting to happen.  Iraq.  Global warming.  The pathetic initial response to the tsunami.  Do I even need to say "Bring It On"?  

        We roundly condemn them for this head-in-the-sand stuff on a regular basis.  As well we should.  So why make the same mistake?  We give away political points every time we say "everything is fine.  You're just overreacting.  Go home and we'll take care of you."  

        The American people know it just ain't so.  

        Whether a given voter reads the NY Times article someone thoughtfully linked to, or just listens to the talk at the local barber shop, voters know the system is broken.  Or they know that the system might be broken.  Either way, by abandoning the Reform mantle, we are letting the Republicans win.  We need to be out there aggressively fighting for something.  Fighting for nothing never works.  

        If there truly was no validity to the Administration's arguments then taking the case to the American people that the Republicans are needlessly monkeying with Social Security would be a powerful argument.  But, like it or not, there is at least some validity to their arguments and the voters sense that.  Disagree about the magnitude of the crisis all you want, but it's very tough to make the case that everything is peachy.  Seriously, are any of you willing to stand up and truthfully argue that the system is fine as it is?  

        Make the argument that it'd be better to fix the system in 20 years if you want, but personally, I find the put off till tomorrow what you should be doing today argument more than a little hollow.  And more importantly, it puts the enemy in a heroic position.  "Look at those brave politicians -- they could have put off dealing with the tough issues until their children were running things -- but instead they stood up and did what needed to be done."  That's not the impression I want Joe & Jane voter to have of our opposition.    

        A couple further thoughts -- to the person who wrote:

        "The logic (or lack thereof) that dictates a politician should not criticize someone else's plan without offering an alternative is pure malarkey."

        I agree.  Pointing out the rapidly approaching Iceberg, even if I don't necessarily know how to steer the ship, should be rewarded, not punished.    

        So think of it this way instead:  crying wolf is far more effective if you point out both why their idea is leading us down a dangerous road and how our idea will not only avoid the disaster, but actually lead us to a better place.  That's what we as a Party need to do.  Just criticizing is valid; but criticizing while leading is election day gold.  

        To the person who wrote:

        "Seriously, we cannot hope to propose an alternate plan to "fix" social security at this time.  We are not in power...."

        I respectfully disagree.  We need a revolution.  We need to cleanse Congress of the dangerous and ideologically hidebound folks in there now.  The waiting game always works in the end -- but we need to act faster.  The Republicans were in the minority in the House for 40 years before Newt Gingrich came along.  Love him or hate him, he galvanized his party and took them to the Promised Land.  He was helped by Democratic infighting -- in that sense, the waiting game worked -- but they'd still be waiting if not for Gingrich's injection of new ideas into the political discourse.  (Bad ideas, perhaps, but new and exciting nonetheless.)  

        We need the power that new ideas unconventional approaches to political issues can bring.  Clinton had it in 2000.  And again with Welfare Reform.  Dean had it this year.  Radical thinking and new ideas and attitudes are heady stuff.  It also wins elections.  

        I also have a great deal of sympathy for those of you who point out the rank hypocrisy of crying "crisis" within months of finalizing a ridiculous tax cut that would have averted that same crisis.  Bush is inept and his poor fiscal management skills are bankrupting our country.  And I thrust this fact back in the face of every Bush-crony I see.  But ultimately, other than make us feel better, this solves nothing.  We are where we are.  And lamenting the poor choices of the past does not absolve us of taking action now.  

        To post pointing out that I'm not Paul Krugman and that I'm "handing the Cons a huge victory for nothing...."  Wow.  

        What do I say to that?

        Republicans, and this administration in particular, are ruthless about stifling dissent.  Those who disagree are branded as "traitors."  Is this the model we want to emulate?  

        To the post who wrote that our heath care truly deserves the "crisis" label and is far more of a danger to our way of life.  Amen.  I plan on solving healthcare in the next episode.*  

        I'm glad I joined Kos.  I was an avid reader during the election, but never actually posted.  Thanks for all the thoughtful responses so far, and I look forward to reading more.

        *For those of you not familiar, with the debacle that West Wing has become.... In a particularly poor episode (I'm assuming after Sorken left), Toby and Josh fix Social Security.  Takes them all of an episode.  ;)

        •  So change the perception. (none)
          The trouble with most of the truths Democrats try to get across is that they are too complicated, and have no emotional content.

          "Hands off our Social Security!" And in certain contexts, you can add, "Thief!"

          Does that sound complicated? Does that sound hard to understand? It will be a very easy sell. Why? Because people want to believe that Social Security is OK after all -- that everything will be all right if the government just leaves it the hell alone. They don't have to understand charts and graphs. For once, the Dems' message is way easier than the Republicans. The GOP wants to renege on the US Treasury Bonds that will fund SS. And they want younger workers' contributions, that are supposed to be paying Grandma so she doesn't have to move in with them, to be handed over to the uncertainties of the stock market. That's embezzlement. That's theft.

          And it has major emotional resonance. I mean: seniors, widows, children, the disabled... even a lot of Republicans wouldn't be too comfortable robbing them in broad daylight.

          Massacre is not a family value.

          by Canadian Reader on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:31:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Okay- but a lot is not being addressed here (none)
      Private accounts-start one, no one is stopping you from opening an account, I have one, but I also have to keep an eye on it -daily because my principle is always at risk.  Four years ago we lost a ton of money in our IRA when the tech bubble burst.  If we were retired, we could have lost our ability to withdraw without taking heavy losses.

      Myth-Loss of workers paying in.  I am not sure this is totally true, and even deceptive.  There are plenty of people who are immigrants, ready to become citizens, illegal aliens working under the books, and contractors under the table that are not paying in. Immigrants are being held up because of a misguided principle that immigrants are bad for the economy.  We need to expand our immigration policy, not restrict it.  More producers means more consumers, and we need the growth.  

      Disability insurance-loss of disability coverage will devastate families with a disabled member.  This will force many families to seek out institutionalization, or more nursing home situations for their loved ones.

      Social Security gives every American the ability to create capital (credit) based upon their participation in the formal economy. Anyone with a SS # can apply for a credit card, without carrying around letters of credit, or notes from the bank.  We use our membership in this plan to create capital-it pretty much shows our intention to continue working, and a personal stake in our countries continued prosperity.  Take a look at those outside of this system-some sub-contractors, informal merchants, illegal immigrants.  They don't get a break in generating capital or getting loans. They lose by not paying in, because they generally have no cash or savings either because they do not pay in. It is difficult to get contract obligation for debts or pay under these conditions.  

      Pension safety-bankrupting companies often sell out their pensions, leaving employees unable to retire.  (Enron ring a bell?)

      Private accounts must be spent down in cases of personal disaster.  If you have a family and you lose your job, any benefit that requires you to spend down assets before qualifying, such as medicaid or food stamps, would help disolve your private account before becoming eligible.  For those with families, unemployment often results in a trip to the food stamp or medicaid worker, so this will cut those people who would otherwise be eligible.  

      No record, no loan.  You need money you pawn something-physical capital is required-a title, or an item of value.

      Credit cards, provisional credit (checking accounts) or small personal loans do not require all that because banks have been able to tap into the SS system.  

      We could establishba new system for that purpose, but would it work the same?  Would it carry the same economic significance?

      While current payors provide their aging parents with this security, (thank god my parents do NOT have to live with me)this means that you get a double benefit.  The burden of caring for aging family members is lessened, and your own personal safety is insured, so each person benefits twice in his or her lifetime.

      (I am having problems with my computer so cut me some slack in typing, I cannot preview, and am getting shut off soon, but I feel that this is important-AND that there is a solution we should be working on.)

    •  Some misconceptions here (4.00)
      The actuaries who developed SS weren't stupid.  In the beginning it took 33 workers for every retiree because people were just beginning to draw benefits and because THEY HAD TO BUILD UP THE FUND.  People started drawing in 1942 if they were 65 or over. Obviously there was a sudden, huge group of beneficiaries then who needed to be provided with benefits.  The actuaries did foresee lengthening lifespans, within a hundredth of a percent, and provided for that, but not the Baby Boom and not immigration, both of which have added to SS's coffers. When the "baby echo" generation reaches its prime earning years, there is no longer a problem, according to the SS Trustees.

      Because they did not foresee the Boomers, adjustments were made in 1983 to increase payroll taxes to build up another surplus for the Boomers' retirement.  Remember the famous surplus?  But the money went to pay for Bush's tax cuts and his war in Iraq. That is the crux of the problem:  Will the gov't honor the bonds SS has been accumulating?  It certainly should, and can.  It is a matter of honesty and political will.

      The Dems aren't overlooking younger voters.  They support helping younger workers save by expanding private retirement savings outside of Social Security with a universal, expanded 401(k) plan that is funded with pre-tax dollars, not post-tax, like SS, and that is fully portable and independent of whether your employer has a 401(k) or not.  But this has nothing to do with Bush's SS plan.

      Finally, think about the debts that Bush's plans are piling up.  This is what is really going to screw your future, and privatization only adds to the problem.

      And have some hope and patience.  I was born in the year that SS began to pay benefits, and at the end of last year I began drawing SS myself.  My parents' generation paid a great deal of attention to the future and provided very well for us in most respects.  We can continue that legacy if we can overcome the tendency to just think of ourselves and what we can get out of the system.  Social Security is an intergenerational compact, and it can be there for you too.

      If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

      by Mimikatz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:34:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No, you are wrong. (none)
      You've bought the lie. It's not your fault, since it has been repeated loudly over and over since before you were born. But it's still a lie. Social Security is not broken. It will be there for you with full benefits when you retire -- if, and this is a big if -- greedy politicians are not permitted to steal the money it depends on.

      The "number of workers" argument tries to pretend that the people who adjusted it in the 80s (when it did need a minor fix) didn't even know the baby boomers existed -- or that they were going to retire. When you look at it that way, it's such an obvious absurdity, it's amazing anyone ever falls for it.

      When you are about 45, the system may, I say, may, need another minor tweaking so that it will be able to pay you fully when you retire. Or, depending on how the economy goes, it may be just fine. The time to do it is clearly then, not now -- and the way to do it is already obvious: raise the cap on contributions a bit, so that better-off people pay a little more. It won't need to be a big change.

      Don't fall for Bush's fake "crisis". There is no crisis, that's only flim-flam talk designed to distract everyone so they can plunder the fund.

      Massacre is not a family value.

      by Canadian Reader on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:35:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What he said (none)
        When I was in my twenties, I, too believed that social security wouldn't be there for me when I was old enough to retire.  I considered it a tax I would never see a dime of again.  I also thought I'd never be that old.  :-)

        Well, I'm now in my forties, and retirement is not that far away.  And now I'm pretty sure social security will be there for me.  It will probably be there for you, too.  

        If that doesn't convince you...keep in mind the British experience.  Privatization was a disaster for them, and now even their conservatives are pushing for an American-style social security system.

        Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

        by randym77 on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 10:22:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You've Spent Some Time Thinking About This (none)
      ... but there are so many things that are wrong. I'm only going to address one angle.

      Young voters are presented with two teams:  one team advocates a (perhaps) flawed solution to fix a broken system.  The other team advocates keeping the broken system as it is.  Which would you pick?

      You state you're a "20-something". The polls suggest that these young voters overwhelmingly picked the latter. They went for Kerry big-time. Perhaps, in light of your argument, you should explore why ...

      vote early - vote often

      by wystler on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:40:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Too many GOP talking points to respond to. (none)
      So I'll just pick two you mention. According to converative estimates, benefits will only be payable at 80% (?) in 2042. That's the conservative estimate that has been continually wrong. The estimate that has been closer to correct actually shows Social Security solvent nearly for ever.

      Second, yes there will be more people drawing Social Security than workers paying into it. This is called the baby boom retirement, and was planned for. Hence the Social Security Trust Fund, in which people have been paying more in taxes than required for benefits for the past two decades. The idea was to create a cushion for when this tipping point happened. Bush raided the trust fund. Now he's trying to scare you and other uninformed 20-somethings into seeing this as a phoney crisis that doesn't exist so he will never have to pay back the trust fund.

      Please stop buying into the GOP talking points. Especially the ones that have been completely debunked over and over.

      Read here for more info.

    •  It's not beyond repair. (none)
      It's got problems, but it's not in crisis. Some Republicans have turned a small scrape on the knee as a gunshot wound, while we are calling it what it is, for the most part.

      "But Democrats mustn't give up the fight. What's at stake isn't just the fate of their party, but the fate of America as we know it."-Paul Krugman

      by theprogressivemiddle on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 10:06:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That old generation warfare at work (none)
      I and the other young citizens of America will pay an ever-increasing share of our income to fund the retirement of the Greatest Spendthrift Generation.

      It's nice to see you have not only bought into Repub talking points, but accepted their call to arms against your own parents. (Forgive me but as the parent of a 20 year old, being called a "spendthrift" by this generation of rampant materialists is almost as jawdropping as digesting the average arguments of a Bushie.)

      It's good to propose innovative solutions. It should be an ongoing government process. But there is time to do this with Social Security - that is the point you ignore.

      Any young person who trusts the Republicans with his financial future, who trusts the REpublicans with anything about his future - unless he's of the entitled elite or plans to become a cutthroat financial savage himself - is really too gullible to be living away from mom's spendthrifty little nest.

      •  Facts: National Debt in 1976 vs. Today (none)
        In 1976, the year I was born, the National Debt was about $650 billion.  

        Today it is $7.6 trillion.  

        I despair of ever paying this money back.  

        So yes, I do consider the current generation to have spent more money during their time in power than I can ever hope to pay back.      

        The social programs that I think are needed (free college education, real drug treatment, paying teachers good money, AIDS and cancer research, etc.) are going to have to wait because someone made a decision when I was 10 years old to borrow unsustainable amounts of money.  

        As I got older I started to understand how a massive government debt restricts the flow of investment capital.  And how public debt may even benefit markets -- in small doses, at least.  Some of it may have been spent for good causes (I know many a Regan-ite who credits the military spending buildup of the 1980's with ending the USSR, and personally, I think the billions spent on space exploration were well worth it.)  But much of it has been frittered away.  

        Does this mean that my parents should be beggared?  That their golden years should turn to leaden years?  No.  But people of good conscience -- of whatever party -- need to come together now and begin fixing this problem.  Repealing the moronic tax cuts would be a good start.  So would fixing Social Security.  Personally, I advocate both -- and lots more, besides.  

        It angers me beyond description that your generation (especially the Republicans, but Democrats too) refuse to account for their mismanagement and abuse of our public debt.

        •  Misplaced anger (none)
          Your anger is quite misplaced. The tired device of positioning one generation as morally superior to another is indefensible - whether it originates from young or old. Almost every last one of us are innocent pawns in this power game of government debt and mismanagement. To lash out and blame American citizens for their passiveness amounts to an almost universal condemnation of the human race as it exists within these borders. It is also a signature trait of arrogant youth.

          Don't worry. You'll grow out of it. In 10 or 15 short years when younger people start blaming you for things you had nothing to do with, and wanting you to pay the penalty so they can continue in their accustomed lives of ease and luxury - as so many of YOUR generation seem blissfully unaware that they are living. You seriously cannot compare the material wealth and excess of your generation's lifestyle to that of the baby boomers, which in retrospect was extremely spare and laughably unsophisticated.

          Or you can just go on comforting yourselves that youth itself is some kind of nobility. You won't be the first to fall off that perch.

        •  don't forget we had a surplus under Clinton (none)
          yes, the bad news is that having stupid-heads in charge who push tax cut after tax cut and oodles of corporate welfare loopholes (including retroactive ones) and balloon the budget on military spending quickly returned us to massive deficits, but the good news is that it can be corrected fairly quickly as well. But, to do that successfully we not only need a strong Democratic president, but allies and fighters in congress and every other level of government, and we'll need to work together. Conversely, if we lay out beautiful and wonderful and progressive plans to fix all the problems 80 or 100 years from now, we have no guarantee that they won't just get trashed by the next round of politicians once we (using the term loosely) retire or get termed out of office.

          The solution to this is a unified party platform, since all of these bread-and-butter issues are linked. The real answer we need to give to the "crisis myth" of social security is that our federal debt is a crisis, and we should be fixing that, corporate handouts are at crisis levels, and we should be fixing that,there's a crisis in affordable housing, and we should be fixing that, our health care system is in crisis, and we should be fixing that, and our botched war in Iraq is nothing if not a crisis right now, and we should be solving these crises rather than inventing new ones. (or perhaps, if you prefer: we should work on today's crises as a way of allieviating the next generations' beforehand).  

          "There are no shortcuts to accomplishing constructive social change ... struggle is called 'struggle' for a reason." Ward Churchill

          by CAuniongirl on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:14:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  This massive debt is due to Reagan and Bush-- (none)
          "conservative" (actually, right-wing) Republicans, both.  And excess spending and rising costs relative to income occurred in a number of areas, but Social Security is not one of them.  (The rising costs have been balanced by raises in the payroll tax, which is being paid at a higher rate by your parents' generation than by any before it.)  In fact, because Social Security has been running a surplus it has been used to fund some of that government debt.  Now Bush wants to cancel that debt to our retirement funds, cut benefits, risk the principal in the market and open the fund to exploitation by corporate cronies.

          As others have said, reversing his tax cuts to the rich would solve the future SS shortfall.  Or there are a number of other, less drastic, ways to do so.  But this administration and this congress are not the ones I want in charge of any fixes.  That's like putting the fox in charge of chicken coop renovation.

          You don't sound like your brain has been entirely co-opted by Republican propaganda just yet! Please read the articles referenced--they will help you to gain a more balanced view.    

        •  Again, do some reading (none)
          I urge you to read the New York Times Magazine article someone posted the link to for you - it should give you some perspective on this.

          Second, as one of the people who fixed the program in the 1983 legislation, let me add that we did not only adjust payroll taxes - in fact, we simply accelerated tax increases that were already scheduled to take place.  We did a number of other things as well, all in the name of shared sacrifice - we delayed a cost of living increase by 6 months, meaning a permanent benefit cut for existing beneficiaries; we expanded coverage under the system to Federal employees and stopped State and local governments from pulling their employees out of the system; we started collecting income taxes on Social Security benefits, another cut in net benefit income for existing beneficiaries; and we raised the retirement age for the long run by two years, over two several-year phase-in periods that have started already.  When confronted with a real, as opposed to manufactured, crisis in Social Security, Congress responded and acted effectively (albeit using the Greenspan Commission report as politic cover for measures that every Social Security analyst had figured for years needed to be done).

          Third, you are deluding yourself if you think any type of private account system can underwrite retirement for the vast majority of people - if it could, Social Security wouldn't have been needed in the first place.  No industrialized nation has successfully maintained retirement for the middle and working classes without a social insurance system - and those who have tried privatization, like the UK and Chile, are discovering that massive increases in poverty among the elderly are the result.  This is hardly a surprise, since 60% of the elderly rely on Social Security for more than 60% of their income.

          I agree that the huge budget deficit is a big problem, one that Bush is attempting to divert attention from by casting the blame on Social Security.  But, in fact, the blame for his deficits rests squarely with himself and his massive tax cuts, the impact of which will be only fully felt after he's out of office.  The best thing we can do to insure retirement for your generation is to  repeal those tax cuts and leave Social Security alone.  

  •  But "dead horse" (none)
    should not mean that we end up with even minor "reform."  Keep up the drumbeat, and keep the pressure on your elected representatives.  Inching towards giving your retirement to investment bankers is not something we can afford, even in small measure.  I worry that the "dead horse" just means we'll see a somewhat scaled back version of this disaster: "disaster lite."
  •  manual labor (4.00)
    When I look at my family members who have careers in offices working at desks, I can easily picture them working until 75 or later (perhaps part time) and enjoying it.

    When I look at my family members who work in manual labor jobs, I don't see how their bodies will put up with the work much after 55 or 60.  And they have few other options once they can't do their manual trades.  Unfortunately not all are receiving union wages.  They seem to sacrifice a lot of their physical self and get little in return

    I don't know what the solution is, but I am concerned  that the manual laborers in this country are poorly compensated and left to face a possible early retirement with little financial support.

    •  SS adjusts for this (none)
      You can begin drawing SS benefits at age 62, and Thomas indicated he wanted to retain that provision for precisely the reason you raise.  The benefit is reduced, but I calculated that it would take 11 years to make up the money I get between age 62 and the age when I could draw maximum benefits, assuming I live that long.

      SS benefits are mildly progressive.  The minimum benefit is a much greater percentage of a low-income worker's pay at retirement than the average, and the maximum benefit is somewhere around $1500 a month at full retirement, I think, in any event a much lower percentage of a high income earner's pay at retirement.  Plus benefits are taxable to retirees over a certain income.  

      If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

      by Mimikatz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:40:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If its for the blue collar crowd (none)
        then why make it available at all as a choice for the white collar crowd?  If there is concern for the blue collar then it seems they would have another option even before 62, or the white collar option age gets raised.  I can see really not wanting to open up this can of worms as a policy issue, but the current system can kind of be read as "if you are a white collar person you have a choice, and if you are blue collar person you may or may not make it far enough to have a choice, so thats fair".

        Oh well, such is life.  Nothing can be perfect, but it still grates a little.

  •  Man, is Harry Reid awesome! (none)
    This war room thing is great. We're getting in most stories.
  •  "Aging nation" framing (none)
    It seems to me that this is very powerful.  Is this the framework that the Republicans really want to operate within?  The ruling party of an aging, decaying nation whose best days are behind them?

    Today the youngest cohort of eligible voters is the SECOND BIGGEST, behind only the oldest segment of Boomers.  Yet Washington is seemingly only focused on the problems associated with aging.  It applies very strongly to Republican policies: the blatantly irresponsible deficit spending, the clamping down on scientific funding, the lack of interest in keeping college affordable.  They've given up on looking towards the future.  I think this is an excellent point to attack on.  America is not an "aging nation" that's slowly sliding into obsolescence, it's still strong enough to look ahead.  At least, 48% of it is...

    •  End Times thinking? (none)
      the blatantly irresponsible deficit spending, the clamping down on scientific funding, the lack of interest in keeping college affordable.  They've given up on looking towards the future.

      Is this a reflection of some Evangelicals' view that the world will end before then anyway? Or that they'll be swept up in the rapture and so won't have to deal with the mess? ...or whatever.

  •  Don't exhaust the outrage (none)
    What worries me is that this might be a hint that the Bushies have realized that SocSec is a non-starter, so they're hoping to do what they always do: exhaust the outrage on one issue, and then sneak something equally (or more) outrageous past while we catch our breath.

    If they give up on SocSec, what will they try to sneak through?

    •  Thomas is a maverick. (none)
      He operates independently.  He does not reflect the Bush view, or the GOP leadership view.  He comes out with his own views on fiscal policy fairly often.  Don't take this as necessarily reflecting the views of either the Bushies or the GOP House leadership.

      If you're going in the wrong direction and you stay the course, where, exactly, do you wind up?

      by Mimikatz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:43:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Usually (none)
      they dismantle environmental regulations behind our backs. Ensuring that soon "we'll all be dead", in the words of GWB.

      don't go after Bush, go after the Republicans.

      by Joe B on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:12:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like the Clinton Health Plan? (none)
    The prospects for Bush's Social Security "reform" in Congress are looking more and more like those of the Clinton health plan in 1993.
  •  Be Careful (none)
    This may be the first attempt to put out an extreme policy, only to see it replaced with something more "benign".

    Though I must say, "Dead Horse" and "less for women" is great ammo to fire back with. We should pound those 2 hard. Glad to see Reid doing just that. Way to go Harry.

    I am a Reform Democrat

    by Pounder on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:04:29 AM PST

  •  No! No! No! (none)
    There's speculation that he already knows it would never pass. The whole point, the speculation goes, is to make the Democrats seem like the tired old party of the status quo and to make the Republicans seem like the party of reform. There's also speculation that he may use this as an opportunity to create more tax shelters.

    We need to not simply need to kill his gutting of Social Security. We need to beat them over the head with it, and hard.

    "But Democrats mustn't give up the fight. What's at stake isn't just the fate of their party, but the fate of America as we know it."-Paul Krugman

    by theprogressivemiddle on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:16:10 AM PST

  •  women...sheesh (none)
    According to David Brooks, women are screwing up social security because they aren't having enough babies.  Fewer babies = fewer workers to contribute to social security.  Brooks thinks women should postpone career plans and get breeding.  And we all know that every woman wants kids and won't be fulfilled without them.

    Then, of course, many want women out of the workforce, at home with all those babies, so they don't contribute to social security, either.  

    I guess it's this "women" problem that has messed up social security.  

    •  Buchanan for president (none)
      Brooks must have loved him.  Buchanan thinks we should outlaw abortion and birth control...to increase the number of taxpayers.  Without having to open the doors to immigrants, who might be non-European or non-Christian.

      Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

      by randym77 on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 10:06:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Even if there were more babies then we'd (none)
      still have to have more jobs that actually pay a decent wage.  Otherwise, we just have a bunch of extra unemployed people.  

      Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -- Robert F. Kennedy

      by LionelEHutz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 10:19:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I read that article (none)
      Or at any rate one he wrote about birth rates in Red vs. Blue states.  Someone needs to first of all explain to him the difference between "fertility" and "fecundity", as his main premise was that Red state women were more "fertile".  This implies somehow that liberalism impairs ones fertility, which is such obvious baloney that I'm surprised nobody has called him on it yet.  Red state women have more babies than Blue state ones, perhaps, but not because they are more fertile, just more fecund. They have more babies because they just do, not because they are more able to do so.    
    •  It's all women's fault! ; ) (none)
      Yes, we women screwed up Social Security, and we're glad. ; )
    •  asdf (none)
      Someone should explain in simple language to David Brooks that there are solid economic GOP-promoted reasons that women are having fewer babies.  It's not just the diapers and the spit-up and the mess.  It's the lack of decent maternity benefits or affordable quality child care (if you work for pay) and the complete lack of a social/economic safety net for families in which one parent stays home full-time.  

      I wish I could be surprised that someone with Brooks's visiblity can still be trotting out the old "feminism makes women selfish" sermon.  I'm a feminist, I'm a mother, and I wish like hell I could AFFORD to have more children.  And he wants to blame me for social security's so-called underfunding?  Pardon me while I go vomit.  

  •  Yes. Reid get's it. (none)
    "The President's plan is a `dead horse' not because of partisan politics but because it is a privatization plan based on massive benefit cuts, risky Wall Street accounts and $2 trillion in new debt. It will undermine Social Security at a time when we should be looking to strengthen the program and help Americans save."

    Note the word "Crisis" isn't in there. He's not just negating the GOP frame. The words "privatization" "benefit cuts" "risky" "Wall Street" and "help American's save" are all part of our frame. And all this is done publically and most importantly preemptively. The GOP has to react to us for a change.

    Bravo. For once one of our leaders gets it!

  •  SS also unfair to Black Men (none)
    Bush made this comment at his first town hall meeting - that because black men have a shorter life expectancy - the retirement age is unfair.

    I WAS STUNNED.  Even the hand picked black man sitting next to him was stunned.

    When all else fails...panic

    by David in Burbank on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 09:33:09 AM PST

  •  Run with Thomas' comment... (none)
    Thomas may have saved his party some major heartache in 2006. Because if Bush's plan had included different benefits calculations for men and women...

    Thomas didn't save a major heartache -- he just opened the floodgates to one.

    Pound this point home in your LTEs and water-cooler conversations: The conservatives wanted to give women less Social Security benefits just because they live longer.

    That is discrimination: pure and simple.

  •  Bush's plan = Social Insecurity (none)
    Why should anyone believe whatever comes out of the mouths of Republican think-tankers?  

    They put our kids into harm's way in Iraq, they've cut taxes for the richest and placed the burden for it on the middle class and poor,
    they've dumbed down the value of education and the sciences, and now they want to raid Social Security to promote their religion of Economic Darwinism?

    I wanna see that "dead horse" beat until it's glue.

    "You can't keep the Democrats out of the White House forever! - Sideshow Bob

  •  It'd be nice to get a copy of Bush's SS plan (none)
    but without a leaker on the WH side that ain't gonna happen.

    Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -- Robert F. Kennedy

    by LionelEHutz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 10:16:28 AM PST

    •  I'm beginning to think... (none)
      that it's not so much a plan as it is a collection of trial balloons. Since the Presidential campaign of 2000, BushCo has kept us all busy trying to figure out under which shell is located the pea. This game of distraction has worked so well that the neocons have no reason to change their strategy.

      I believe this whole manufactured Social Security crisis is intended only to distract our attention (and our ire) while the important agenda items are implemented, e.g. war with Iran, a massive draft plan, etc.

      •  It's like a game of whack-a-mole (none)

        Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -- Robert F. Kennedy

        by LionelEHutz on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 11:17:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Stalking horse, not dead horse (none)
        The trial balloon theory is good, but I concur with the poster above who thought it might be more of a Trojan Horse.  In a shell game, at least you know what is under the nut.  I wonder though if we arent being fed an unfocused stalking horse to reject, with no real specifics, while the specific plan will be hidden in the depth of tax code or other changes.

        Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

        by barbwires on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 11:18:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Two components to the solution (none)
    The Republicans are right about two things: the system will spend more than it takes in starting around 2018, and stocks generally outperform bonds. From this, they want to extrapolate an overhaul of the system (in preparation for killing it).

    We need to acknowledge the above two things and propose our own solution. We don't want to cut benefits, so the solution lies in increasing revenues. We can do that in two ways:

    1. Eliminate or raise the income cap. If you earn $87,500 a year, you pay $5,425. If you're Bill Gates, you still pay $5,425. If you and your spouse each earn $50,000, you pay more than Bill Gates. Republicans are strongly opposed to raising the cap, but 'saving the millionaires' doesn't yet sell very well - though they're trying.
    2. Diversify the trust fund's investments. Let the trust fund convert some of its bonds to normal treasuries and sell them on the open market. Invest the proceeds in new instruments that will earn more than T bills - stocks, bonds, even foreign currencies like the euro. We get the benefit of the returns that the republicans are trying to sell, without the mutual fund middleman taking his cut (and routing some of that back to the RNC).
    •  SS (none)
      Maybe I'm missing something...

      Will someone please explain to me just what is so flippin' wonderful about Social Security that we need to keep it going?  I mean, are we all too dumb to save for our own retirement?

      •  Short answer? (none)
        Yes.

        Slightly longer answer: shit happens. Life has its ups and downs, many of which have nothing to do with being smart or dumb. (They will happen to you, too.)

        You still can't leave old folks to beg on the street for a few coins to pay for tea and toast.

        Massacre is not a family value.

        by Canadian Reader on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:59:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  SS (none)
        it's insurance not a savings's program.  

        try to think of ss as an insurance policy integrated with a mutual fund but only better. maybe your outlook on it will change.

        let me know, k

        •  SS (none)
          Sure, life has its ups and downs.  I'm 50 years old.  Tell me something I don't know.

          Right now, they take part of my income whether I like it or not and MIGHT give me some back (at a crappy rate of return, BTW).  And if I die early, they keep it.  I could put it in a savings account or, say, buy U.S. Savings Bonds with it, get a better return, and if I die, my wife and kids get it.

          I repeat...what is so flippin' great about Social Security?

          We're too dumb to save for our own retirement?  Speak for yourself, sir...

    •  That point in 2018 was planned for. (none)
      The real issue is that there is a planned surplus to handle that period when SS will be paying out more than it takes in. That surplus is held US Treasury Bonds, backed by the entire credibility of the United States. If Treasury Bonds aren't paid when due, the US government is in default -- and a lot of other creditors are going to start calling in their debt. (You do not want this to happen.)

      What the Republicans don't want you to see is that they need to get rid of those bonds. Why? They want to cheat. They want to not pay the debt. They want the debt not to be in US Treasury Bonds because then they won't have to pay up, and if the private accounts get emptied by brokerage fees or a predictable stock market slump... hey, it's not their problem.

      That's the crisis. If you let them do that, then SS is definitely in deep trouble -- because its bank account will have been robbed. This is not some act of nature or accounting; it is a plan to embezzle the money that was supposed to cover the period of greater obligations.

      You don't react to an embezzler by saying, "Oh wait, we have a better plan for you, you should really do it this way."

      No. You yell, "Stop, thief!" And you keep yelling until the auditors come.

      Massacre is not a family value.

      by Canadian Reader on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:53:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let them present it (none)
    Since most women recieve less in SS payments anyway (since women get paid less) I actually wish they would try to fly this.  Talk about class warfare, white collar versus blue, men versus women...I think Bush should "bring it on" and watch the Republican Party implode.  I want to know why we aren't pushing the need for reform of Medicaid, since that is where the real "crisis" is.  Bush called terrorism a crisis and then walks away from OBL to chase is fantasies, now he is calling SS a crisis to chase another fantasy, we need to make him face reality and not "leave problems for future generations" as he keeps saying.
  •  Common Tactic (none)

    The first thing they seek to establish is the common wisdom that if Ways & Means Chairman Bill Thomas says nay, nay it is.

    Then, when Bill Thomas changes his mind, and back the President, it will be presented as a huge victory for the President, and no one will dare stand up against the President's "political capital" that accrues from this "victory".

    We do not have a victory until we control the debate (which is possible without controlling any of the branches of government).

  •  you've come a long way baby? (none)
    I show my boomerish age by quoting the Virginia Slims ad. Remember those specially designed cigarettes for the feminine hand to push up the cancer statistics for us ladies?

    Perhaps GWB is taking a cue from the president of Harvard, who thinks females are biologically incapable of understanding science, engineering and math, and therefore won't understand the numbers.

    And somewhere in this thread I read that GWB couldn't possibly be interested in alienating half the population.

    Read my lips: no more abortion rights.

  •  "Where did my Social Security go?" (none)
    The military budget.

    Fraud, waste, abuse, and unnecessary, criminal policies of aggression and imperial over-reach.

    Throughout our entire adult, working lives -- unquestioned, unchallenged, uncut.

    Now embedded in an impossible national debt of, what?, 8 trillion ++, which will swamp Social Security's ability to pay benefits.

    Coming soon, to a Boomer retirement hovel near you...

    What Would Gandhi Do?

    by HenryDavid on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 12:13:27 AM PST

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