Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bowing to reality? Or just a foot in the door?

A Senate committee is about to take up the subject of Social Security, and Republicans are signalling that legislation might not have to include private accounts. They're not looking for additional details from Bush, either.
In a briefing arranged by Republican staff on the committee and given to 60 reporters yesterday, a committee official involved in the Social Security discussions also said the legislation will move through the committee in June or July. The briefing was given on the condition that the official, who is an aide to Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), would not be named and that his remarks would not be directly quoted.

The official's account, given in preparation for today's hearing on various Social Security proposals, appeared to soften many of the statements Grassley had previously made. Earlier this month, Grassley said that he would like to see "principles and alternatives" from the White House such as reducing benefits, raising the retirement age or raising the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

The problem is that Republicans cannot be trusted on this issue. For example, the Senate could pass a bill that does not include private accounts, while the House version does; they could be included in the conference that resolves conflicts between the two versions, making it arguable harder for Democrats to oppose them.

No, I don't want this Congress touching Social Security. I'll wait and see what the next one looks like, thanks. We have time.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Your tax dollars at work.

How many taxpayer dollars is the government spending to push Bush's agenda on Social Security? That's what some members of Congress want to know:
The Bush administration's ongoing Social Security blitz is unusual in scale in the selling of a domestic policy, mobilizing the president and vice president, four Cabinet secretaries and 17 lesser officials, down to an associate director of strategic planning for the White House budget office.

It also may be one of the most costly in memory, well into the millions of dollars, according to some rough, unofficial calculations.

House Appropriations Committee Republicans have quietly asked the administration for an accounting of its "60 Stops in 60 Days" blitz. And yesterday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, formally asked the Government Accountability Office not only for the cost but also "whether the Bush Administration has crossed the line from education to propaganda."

"No one disputes the right of the President to make his policy recommendations known to Congress and the public," Waxman wrote in a letter to U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker. "Yet there is a vital line between legitimately informing the public, as the President did in his State of the Union address, and commandeering the vast resources of the federal government to fund a political campaign for Social Security privatization." ...

"Currently, no one in Congress or the public knows the full extent and cost of the federal resources being devoted to promoting the President's Social Security agenda," Waxman wrote.

Even Republicans raised their eyebrows when they heard new employees were brought on for the campaign, said a House Republican staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid embarrassing the president.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Stepford Town Meetings.

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne poses a very logical question:
If President Bush is so insistent on the need for his political adversaries to talk to him about fixing Social Security, then why does he keep throwing them out of his campaign rallies -- excuse me, "town meetings" -- on the subject?

Lately the president has been chastising Democrats for not sitting down with him to fashion a solution. "I think there is a political price for not getting involved in the process," Bush said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday. "I think there is a political price for saying, 'It's not a problem, I'm going to stay away from the table.' " But when Bush's critics show up at the president's taxpayer-financed events, they are often told there is no place at the table for dissenters.