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I Don't Even Need to Speak Up For Myself

Kevin Drum comments thoughtfully on Ron Brownstein's column on the politics of Social Security. He concludes:

Finally, there was reaction #4: that's interesting. Here's what Brownstein has to say about the conservative strategy on Social Security:

The USA Next attacks on AARP so spectacularly set back the cause of restructuring Social Security that they deepen suspicion that conservatives are less interested in striking a deal than provoking a stalemate they can use as an issue in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Now that's something I haven't heard before.

Haven't heard it before? I know Kevin reads the Decembrist, so that seems unlikely.

Fortunately, commentor Bob McManus speaks up for me:

You are reading the wrong blogs. Try Mark Schmitt at the Decembrist:

"What Thomas was saying is exactly the point I've been trying to make: that the Bush/DeLay goal is not primarily to privatize Social Security, although they would be happy to do that if they can. Rather, the goal is to create a political dynamic over the next one to two years in which the Republicans appear the party of opportunity, ownership, dynamism, and forward thinking, while the Democrats appear to be the defenders of old, boring, inadequate safety net programs."

I've been making this argument for a long time, and I guess it's beginning to catch on in the mainstream media!

Posted by Mark Schmitt on March 1, 2005 | Permalink


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Have you listened to the head of USA Next?

He's a maniac.

The more air time he gets in interviews, the worse the Repub party may do. Good.

Posted by: Movie Guy | Mar 1, 2005 6:54:17 PM

I've been making this argument for a long time, and I guess it's beginning to catch on in the mainstream media!

That's great. Does it matter at all that it seems to be wrong? Social security privatization is a millstone Democrats can hang around the Republicans' necks, and the harder the push it, the heavier it becomes.

Posted by: Mithras | Mar 1, 2005 11:23:57 PM

"I've been making this argument for a long time"

I've thought long and hard about your argument, and maybe it will happen that way. The legislation will fail and Bush will barnstorm the county in 2006 screaming, "It's your money! It's your money!"

But the whole idea seems dubious to me. If SS legislation fails amidst chaos in Congress, it seems to me that the GOP will both be in great jeopardy in 2006, and will encounter greater headwinds getting other legislation passed during this Congress.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 1, 2005 11:27:48 PM

And a secondary but very important effect of Bush's SS push is that it steers the Democrats to unify and organize around economic issues instead of social issues.

I can't imagine a better gift to receive.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 1, 2005 11:30:56 PM

Mr. President! Mr. President! PLEASE don't throw us Dems into that briar patch! Oh, Please don't keep social security privatization alive as a campaign issue in 2006! We are so worried! What a dastardly strategy! PLEASE don't throw us into that briar patch!


Posted by: charles | Mar 2, 2005 9:10:18 AM

I'm sure Republicans are more than capable of coming up with any number of rationalizations implying how they had something else in mind all along and are so di-a-bo-lick-y clever.

I think it's just so much lemonade-making on Republican's part, now that Social Security privatization is blowing up in their face. The political opportunity cost to Bush here after wasting months on this issue is not a trival thing to Republicans, and the longer privatization hangs in the air the more time they waste while Bush becomes an ever-lamer duck than he already is.

Posted by: David W. | Mar 2, 2005 9:34:08 AM

If there were no budget deficit, no job creation sluggishness, no housing bubble, the GOP would have a winning hand using this strategy. But as it stands with the New Stagnation these aren't "good times" despite GDP growth. While it will work well enough for the GOP base, which believes in "ownership" anyway, it won't cut well as persuasion.

As long as the Dems come up with a reasonably coordinated strategy for using the economy in 06 and 08. (Too bad 9-11 preempted that in 04).

Posted by: Crab Nebula | Mar 2, 2005 11:58:16 AM

I could believe that Bush is strategerizing with the 2006 elections in mind, but Mark, don't you think Bush is serious about wanting to end SS?
It's not like gay marriage, where Bush obviously doesn't give a flying fuck---Bush really does want to kill Social security. I think he will try as hard as chimpily possible to succeed.

Posted by: marky | Mar 2, 2005 12:05:37 PM

Bush wants to get rid of Social Security. Perhaps his handlers believe that if "obstructionist" Democrats kill the plan, the GOP will do well in the next election, a repeat of the 2002 Homeland Security bill fiasco. They saw SS reform as a win-win, with a bill with a comfortable majority in the House being dragged down by a filibuster in the Senate.

Too bad for them it isn't turning out that way. Bush really does think he has a mandate on this issue, perhaps because he won Florida. And since it appears to be a capital crime to report bad news, nobody is telling him otherwise. The fact is, people are opposed to major overhaul precisely because the program doesn't need it. And that's why, regardless of whether or not the GOP thought they would be able to make hay on this issue, the fact is that they cannot.

Posted by: Rob W | Mar 2, 2005 12:56:24 PM

This is OT, but FYI on Ted Nordhaus.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 2, 2005 1:01:26 PM

I personally think we should not stand in their way on Social Security. Let them go ahead and cut Boomer benefits, as Chairman Greenspan wants them to do. Sacrificing some of my benefits would be well worth the spectacle of the Republicans committing suicide.

Posted by: Bob H | Mar 2, 2005 7:45:04 PM