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Thursday, January 06, 2005

That Old Jiu-Jitsu 

Via Zemblan patriot T.C.: An internal White House memo on Social Security -- meant for the eyes of "some members of Congress and influential conservatives," according to the Wall St. Journal, but leaked on Wednesday night to multiple news outlets -- pretty much gives the game away. The Bush administration hopes to destroy Social Security on the pretext of "saving" it:
Calling the effort “one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times,” Peter Wehner, the deputy to White House political director Karl Rove, says in the e-mail message that a battle over Social Security is winnable for the first time in six decades and could transform the political landscape.

“We have it within our grasp to move away from dependency on government and toward giving greater power and responsibility to individuals,” said Wehner, the director of White House Strategic Initiatives. He called the Democratic Party the “party of obstruction and opposition. It is the Party of the Past.”

But the administration must “establish an important premise: the current system is heading toward an iceberg,” Wehner’s e-mail said.

Bush wants to let workers divert some of their payroll taxes into investment accounts similar to a 401(k) plan. That will require convincing the public of the need for immediate change.

“We need to establish in the public mind a key fiscal fact: right now we are on an unsustainable course,” the e-mail said. “That reality needs to be seared into the public consciousness; it is the precondition to authentic reform” . . . .

Revamping the system to allow investment accounts would not shore up the future finances and would make the financial picture worse. The administration is considering borrowing $1 trillion to $2 trillion to continue paying benefits to current retirees while tax revenue is diverted into personal accounts, called transition costs, the e-mail said.

Separately, to address the future financial shortfall, the administration is looking at plans to cut future promised benefits, by 46 percent in some cases, with investments expected to make up the difference.
Commentary from Josh Marshall:
So now you can see from memos emerging from the White House itself that this isn't about 'saving' Social Security. If it were, what would that sentence mean -- ("For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win")? The first time in six decades they can save it?

Clearly, this isn't about 'saving' Social Security. It is a battle to end Social Security and replace it with something that Wehner clearly understands is very different, indeed the antithesis of Social Security.

This entire debate is about ideology -- between people who believe in the benefits Social Security has brought America in the last three-quarters of a century and those who think it was a bad idea from the start. There is an honest debate to have on this point, a values debate. Only, the White House understands that the belief that Social Security was always a bad program isn't widely shared by Americans. So they have to wrap their effort in a package of lies, harnessing Americans' desire to save Social Security in their own effort to destroy it.

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