The Social Security doom train
Stealing social security
GOP Lawmakers Acknowledge Uphill Fight on Social Security
Backers of Bush Plan Cite Public Awareness of System's Woes
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 30, 2005; Page A04
President Bush's congressional allies on Social Security are limping into the week-long Memorial Day recess, battered by public opinion polls yet hopeful that a rising awareness of Social Security's long-run financing problems will propel a legislative solution.
But with just 49 legislative days left before Congress's planned adjournment, the odds are still against Bush securing the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, Republican lawmakers concede.
"I don't know if we can get it done this year," said Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee. "I don't think you could get a third of the Congress to vote for any one plan at this point."
"They've made slight progress," said Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), a moderate, "maybe 'slight' being the key word."
Social Security was supposed to be the focal point of the Bush domestic agenda this year, but passage of a plan to secure its long-term financing and add private investment accounts has grown more complicated in recent weeks as Republicans appear increasingly willing to challenge the White House on issues including expanded stem cell research and the reimportation of prescription drugs.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Washington is exactly where Bush strategists thought it would be right now on Social Security, with a rising awareness of the system's problems and Congress entering a summertime legislative push.
Duffy pointed to poll numbers showing an increasing percentage of the population identifying Social Security's finances as a growing problem. But those same polls show the public strongly against Bush's proposals and highly critical of his handling of the issue. If anything, public opposition appears to be hardening. The senior lobby AARP has gained nearly 400,000 members -- 20 percent more than it expected -- since the beginning of the year, when it launched its campaign to sink the Bush plan, said AARP spokeswoman Christine M. Donohoo.
When Congress returns next Monday, the fate of Social Security restructuring will be in the hands of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, not the White House. Moderate Republicans are convinced that Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) will stitch together a large package of savings incentives, private pension changes and tax breaks for long-term health care that will be popular enough to win majority support for more controversial benefit cuts that will secure Social Security's financial future. If necessary, they say, Thomas will jettison the central plank of Bush's plan, private investment accounts financed out of the existing payroll tax.
Thomas's package could put intolerable pressure on Democrats to break with their leadership and come to the negotiating table, said Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), another committee member. Already, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa has suggested that organized labor should not stand in the way of dialogue on Social Security changes, and two Democrats -- Reps. Robert Wexler (Fla.) and James P. Moran Jr. (Va.) -- unveiled their own Social Security plan last month. "I just want to issue a clarion call to Democrats: Get ready, because Bill Thomas will ultimately deliver a product that most mainstreamers in the U.S.A. will find compelling," Foley said.
Why? There is no deal Bush can accept which will past muster with the Dems. Notice the contradiction: public opposition is hardening, while the Dems will face "intolerable" pressure to break with their leadership.
Really? Where is this pressure going to come from? I mean, I wouldn't take Mark Foley all that seriously. He still denies having a boyfriend.
They are planning to cut benefits.This is going to scare old people shitless. Why would the Dems feel the need to go along with a benefits cut? Moran and Wexler got their wrists slapped and ignored. The GOP has no good way to sell benefit cuts.
Here's the deal: Bill Thomas is going to propose cutting social security benefits. Once that becomes the issue, the GOP should plan on losing the House. Because once you dump private investment, you just have benefit cuts. Who the hell is going to support benefit cuts? You can gussie it up any way you choose, but it's a benefits cut.
The best thing in the world is to be able to ride this issue into the 2006 election cycle. Because even in red diistricts, you will be able to elect people to save social security. Instead of realizing this is a failed plan, they want to ride it to defeat. I say spur them on.
posted by Steve @ 8:27:00 AM