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Hullabaloo


Thursday, March 24, 2005

 
You Eat Spinach

Atrios links to another of TAPPED's great posts about the "pain caucus." Earlier this week Sam Rosenfeld wrote an interesting piece on the same subject regarding the punditocrisy's reflexive conventional wisdom that says "political courage" equals average people suffering. He brought up one of the most egregious examples I've ever had the misfortune to watch on last week's Capital Gang:

HUNT: Bob, for Bush to succeed in this or have something he calls success, does he have to get something on -- on personal accounts?

NOVAK: To have any success, of course, he does. If he just has a changing of the index, which is a reduction in benefits, that's not going to do it. And he's not going to go for a tax increase.

I agree with Mark, which I rarely do, that the Republicans look like chickens. They look like they're afraid of combat. But I think the Democrats really look bad because I -- I was talking to some very prominent ones, and I didn't realize that not only is personal accounts off the table, any indexing of -- of the -- of how many -- how the benefits will be is off the table. They are saying, We will not go along with any reduction in benefits to our constituents in the future! I mean, they're being very responsible, and -- and...

HUNT: You meant to say irresponsible, I think.

NOVAK: Irresponsible. And Nancy Pelosi...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Nancy Pelosi, I thought, just typifies exactly what's going on when she says, Stop him, stop him, stop him.

CARLSON: I agree with Bob, in that Democrats have to pivot now and acknowledge, yes, there's a problem, and put forward a proposal for fixing...

O'BEIRNE: And when that happens...

CARLSON: ... Social Security...

O'BEIRNE: ... the Republicans are confident that personal accounts, plus some other things which do affect solvency, will look a lot better than what liberal Democrats are likely to come up, which happens to be tax increases!

CARLSON: Kate, not only would personal...

HUNT: Mark -- Mark -- hurt Social Security, they're going to hurt the economy.

HUNT: Mark, the problem is that people say the concept of personal or private accounts is not such a bad concept, but the minute you say it has to be accompanied by benefit cuts, that's when...

SHIELDS: And tax increases.

HUNT: ... it plummets.

SHIELDS: No, that's absolutely...

CARLSON: And all that borrowing.

SHIELDS: That's absolutely right, Al. And the reality is that the president said there was a crisis. The president said, I have a plan. He said that in the 2000 campaign, said it in 2004 campaign. We just haven't seen the plan unveiled.

O'BEIRNE: Oh!

SHIELDS: And I would -- I would point out if the people in the White House feel so good about the polls, thank goodness they haven't seen the CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll, which shows 35 percent approval for the president's handling of the Social Security issue.

O'BEIRNE: And it shows 76 percent of people under age 50 like the idea of the personal accounts, and people above that age won't be affected by them!

NOVAK: Let me just say that the idea that you have the benefit cuts, Mark, because you have personal accounts is ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous. You're going to have to have benefit cuts. Pat Moynihan said you had to have benefit cuts. Everybody knows it, and the demagogueing that's going on -- I was -- I was talking with two members of the Social Security subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee. They say, We will not have any benefit cuts for our constituents. They're crazy! They're going to have to have them!

HUNT: You know, Bob, you're right on that. I think there are going to have to be benefit cuts, but I also think that if you move to some -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some kind of indexing, you can do it in a very progressive way.

NOVAK: I agree with that!

HUNT: And I think that's what...

NOVAK: But it's still -- they say they -- they want no benefit cuts!

CARLSON: Do you think borrowing a trillion dollars...

SHIELDS: Did the president...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... personal accounts is a good idea? (CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... any of his three dozen appearances when he mentioned it, ever mentioned benefit cuts? He never did.

NOVAK: But he told...

SHIELDS: He never did! No, Bob, but I mean, seriously, he never has.

HUNT: Kate, they at some point...

NOVAK: Do you think -- you think you can get by in this -- with this system without benefit cuts?

SHIELDS: I think -- I think you have to have benefit cuts. I'd like to see you struck from the Social Security rolls, and people of your ilk


The sheer inanity of that dialog is just so depressing. How much money do you suppose those guys all make a year? Do you think that any of them will actually be affected by "benefit cuts?"

We will have to have benefit cuts. Just because we will. There is no other option and the Democrats are just being obstinate in not accepting what we all know will have to happen which is benefit cuts. Pat Moynihan said so! You Americans who will depend on Social Security top keep the wolf from the door are just going to have to deal. That's the way it is.

Taxes? What are these taxes you speak of?


This relates to a Talking Points post from last week in which Johnathan Chait wrote:

Yesterday, Josh argued here that "One of the Democrats' greatest problems -- far more insidious than many realize -- is their desire to gain the approval and approbation of establishment Washington and its A-list pundits."

Interestingly, a reporter friend of mine came across some evidence of this proposition that very night. As he told me:

I was talking yesterday with a very influential Democratic congressman who firmly defended the current Democratic position of not having a specific Social Security 'plan' on the table. Yet at the same time he was a little defensive about it. Why? "Because I keep hearing from you guys" -- i.e., Washington reporters -- "that we're going to be in trouble for not having a plan," he said. "And it makes me nervous."


It occurs to me that liberals should spend more time writing reasoned e-mails to the punditocrisy than we do. It would be nice to break the lock that these gasbags have on the Democrats but we shouldn't just pin our hopes on that alone. We should be working these refs with wily cunning. They seem to be pretty vacuous. It can't be that hard.



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