Friday :: Feb 4, 2005

The Slippage In GOP Support For Bush’s Privatization Plan, and The Truth Squad Effort

by Steve

In the last twenty four hours, after what is now seen as an unsuccessful roll-out of his privatization plan through his State of the Union message, President Bush is not only seeing GOP defections from his proposal, but is also seeing an organized opposition following him around the country to challenge him on Social Security. Better yet, the mainstream media is now noticing the Truth Squad concept in action as well.

First, influential GOP Representative Jim McCrery of Louisiana yesterday said that the Bush plan to divert Social Security contributions into private accounts is a political minefield for the GOP, noting the coordinated attacks by the AARP and the Democrats (a nod to a Truth Squad campaign here). Three GOP senators, Olympia Snowe, Chuck Hagel, and Lindsey Graham also said they wanted to look for a different fix than what Bush was proposing. Democratic senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska wanted to keep an open mind on the Bush plan, but is already working on an alternative with Graham. Unfortunately for Nelson, he cannot admit that the Bush tax cuts have created our deficits because he voted for those tax cuts and is up for election next year.

Edmund Andrews, at the end of his NYT story today, reports that GOP members of Congress suggest raising the income ceiling for Social Security withholding, against the White House’s wishes, noting that raising the ceiling to $200,000 almost eliminates the entire projected funding shortfall.

And in another nod to the opposition, the AP reports this morning that House GOP representative Mark Foley says some of his fellow Republicans are “panic stricken” at how this has rolled out so far, even as he welcomes a debate on the subject. In the same piece, GOP senators Susan Collins and Pete Domenici say that Bush’s plan is not viable right now, even while Bush calls for bipartisanship. Bush is reaping what he and Rove have sown all these years: he wants bipartisanship after compiling a record of stabbing those in the back that cross over to participate in his version of “my way or the highway” bipartisanship. The same piece reported that McCrery and GOP representative Clay Shaw both said Bush’s plan was too risky politically, noting the united opposition of the Democrats and the AARP.

This story in the Tampa Tribune today reports that in advance of Bush’s appearance today, there was a press conference yesterday to set the negatives on Bush’s proposal and to announce a rally opposing Bush when he appears today. Again, this is the Truth Squad in operation.

Bush will be in Detroit next Tuesday to pitch his plan to the Detroit Economic Club. If the Truth Squad opposition campaign wants to make a big impact upon GOP senators and representatives, as well as the media, a major opposition event would need to be scheduled to counter Bush’s speech in Detroit next Tuesday, with the participation of both Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, along with the AARP and labor.

Once the markers have been laid down that there will be an organized opposition and a price to be paid for supporting Bush’s plan to divert funds from the current program into private accounts and to borrow trillions on top of that, Democrats should step up to the plate and allow Bill and Ben Nelson and other senators like Kent Conrad and Max Baucus to work with the likes of Graham, Collins, Hagel, and Snowe on solutions that deal with the solvency issue without new crippling debt and significant benefit reductions. For as effective as the Truth Squad may be in blunting Bush’s usual steamroller, it is no substitute for an acceptable policy alternative. Just saying "no" isn’t enough, but the Truth Squad approach demonstrates that Democrats can use it to pressure the GOP to change the agenda and terms of debate.

Steve :: 10:13 AM :: Comments (11) :: Digg It!