Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005
The soft underbelly of the welfare state
Before the wingers get too geeked up about Social Security reform, and before you moderates start signing on, remember what the intellectual architects of privatization, the libertarian CATO Institute, has had to say about the New Deal program conservatives love to hate:

More than actuarial tables are at stake in the overhaul, particularly for ideological conservatives who think the current Social Security system verges on socialism.

“Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state,” according to Stephen Moore, the former president of Club for Growth, an anti-tax group.

“If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state.”
---- Globe and Mail, Feb 2, 2005

And this from a memo written by an aide to Karl Rove early this year:
For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country. We have it within our grasp to move away from dependency on government and toward giving greater power and responsibility to individuals.
BTW the idea of creating private Social Security accounts that would eventually replace the traditional program isn't new, and it isnt' George W. Bush's idea. Last July, a pair of Republican Senators introduced a bill that is virtually identical to what Bush is proposing:

This from Human Events magazine, July 20, 2004:

New Legislation for Real Social Security Reform by Merrill MatthewsPosted Jul 20, 2004

Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) introduced a dramatic and sweeping Social Security reform proposal. The legislation would allow workers the option of having personal retirement accounts, rather than relying on a Social Security system that is financially unsustainable.
Currently, the Social Security payroll tax takes 12.4%--split between the employer and employee--of workers' incomes. Under the Ryan-Sununu bill, workers would be able to devote, on average, 6.4 percentage points, just over half the total tax, to their personal accounts. Thus the legislation would create the largest accounts ever proposed in Congress; and it is turning out to be the most popular Social Security reform bill on Capitol Hill.
The HE writer even used the same rhetoric Bush has been using on the stump:

HE: Of course, there would be no change in Social Security of any sort for today's retirees. Indeed, there are no benefit cuts in the bill of any sort for anyone at any point.

ABC News, Feb 3:
"We must guarantee that there is no change" in current or promised benefits for anyone age 55 and older, he said in a move to neutralize opposition from older Americans.

And let's not forget that Bush and Co. have already admitted that their plan won't fix Social Security's finances ...

Meanwhile, it looks like Bush's $2.5 trillion budget isn't making many friends on Capitol Hill:

But it’s almost certain that more senators and congressmen of both parties will step forward to fight Bush’s proposals, as nearly all the programs slated for chopping have champions on the Hill, including some of the most powerful bulls in the Senate.

Many of the cuts may have little chance of passage, given the number or power of the programs’ congressional patrons.Bush has already put himself at odds with Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, by proposing to eliminate nearly $600 million in agricultural subsidies and shear the Department of Agriculture’s budget by 9 percent.

“I am concerned that the budget proposal would have the effect of cutting support programs for Southern agriculture while leaving other regions largely untouched by the budget knife,“ Cochran said, hinting that the trench lines are as likely to fall along geographic as along ideological divides.

Keith Ashdown, who as the vice president of policy for Taxpayers for Common Sense has rooted out many of the proposed cuts buried in Bush’s budget, predicted “most are dead on arrival,” adding, “The president will move heaven and earth before 50 percent of these cuts are made.

... Especially since it turns out his administration woefully underestimated the cost of the 2003 Medicare bill, which is now set to cost upwards of $1.2 trillion over ten years.

Some conservatives are finally waking up to the decidedly unconservative slant of this White House's policies, which seek to expand the reach of federal government in an unprecedented way into the lives of individual Americans, while using American power abroad in a breathtaking grab for global domination that true conservatives realize will jeopardize American democracy.

Money quotes from the folks at The American Conservative:
The last weeks of 2004 saw several explicit warnings from the antiwar Right about the coming of an American fascism. Paul Craig Roberts in these pages wrote
of the “brownshirting” of American conservatism—a word that might not have surprised had it come from Michael Moore or Michael Lerner. But from a Hoover Institution senior fellow, former assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, and one-time Wall Street Journal editor, it was striking.

Several weeks later, Justin Raimondo, editor of the popular website, wrote a column headlined, “Today’s Conservatives are Fascists.” Pointing to the justification of torture by conservative legal theorists, widespread support for a militaristic foreign policy, and a retrospective backing of Japanese internment during World War II, Raimondo raised the prospect of “fascism with a democratic face.” His fellow libertarian, Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell, wrote a year-end piece called “The Reality of Red State Fascism,” which claimed that “the most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism.

Whereas the conservative middle class once cheered the circumscribing of the federal government, it now celebrates power and adores the central state, particularly its military wing.”

posted by JReid @ 12:32 PM  
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