Forget The Rhetoric - Bush Doesn't Care About Solvency; All He Wants Is To Undermine Social Security With Private Accounts
Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he met with the president last week and urged him to take private accounts off the table so the two parties could work on solvency...Mr. Rangel said Mr. Bush replied: "Congressman, I am the president. And private accounts are not coming off the table even if it's the last day I spend in the presidency."
--From Wednesday's New York Times
Both the Post and the Times are reporting in Wednesday's edition that despite Chuck Grassley's best efforts to be a good soldier and try and get a partisan GOP Social Security plan out of the Senate Finance Committee this year, it appears from today's hearing and the comments of Republican witnesses that Grassley doesn't even have the support from his own GOP members to report out a bill that includes Bush's privatization proposal. The NYT says that of the eleven GOP senators on the 11-9 panel, two already (Olympia Snowe and Craig Thomas) are against private accounts, and if only one votes with committee Democrats, the private accounts concept will never leave the committee.
Grassley seems to concede, in the face of steadfast Democratic opposition that has yet to crack, that his only chance to get a bill out of his committee and get all of his own GOP members to support it would be to drop the privatization proposal. But Bush told Charles Rangel last week where his true priorities lie: he doesn't give a rat's ass about fixing the program's solvency. All he cares about is insisting until his last day in office that private accounts get their chance to undermine the program and Wall Street gets a piece of the pie.
So with this piece of information from Rangel, and with Bush's true intentions now more clear than ever, Senate Democrats have no reason to compromise and should ram the privatization proposal up Bush's ass.
Update: BigDog raises a point about my coarse closing remark and the lack of opposition solutions so far. Let me be clear on this point.
Bush has had the stage on this issue for almost four months now. He has done numerous road shows in front of handpicked and screened crowds, and the only part of a "plan" that he has put forward so far is privatization, which even his administration admits does nothing to address the one issue that has put Social Security on the radar screen now: system solvency. When forced to address his lack of a plan after four months, the onmipotent ruler retreats into his shell and says that he wants to hear from Congress, but also says that privatization will be part of the "final solution." And it is the one item that does nothing to address solvency, and actually exacerbates the problem by pushing forward the system's insolvency.
When you are the president, and want to act like an onmipotent ruler (with his usual talk about "I'm the president" or "I'm not negotiating with myself",) then there is no explanation for proposing only a "solution" that does nothing to fix the problem at hand unless you are only amplifying a long-term problem as a cover for pursuing an agenda.
Bush is the one who has said that Social Security's solvency is a high priority in his second term. When he gets around to proposing a solution that actually deals with that problem, then Democrats I'm sure will engage him. Until then, it's simply empty Bush rhetoric.
Some of us here have been talking about supportable solutions, such as raising the taxation ceiling for witholding, and changing the benefit calculations for upper income beneficiaries, two things I might add that by themselves obliterate the entire long-term solvency problem. These are two solutions that already trump the zero solvency solutions that have come so far from the White House.
So yes, my language is coarse. But we are four months into this "debate", created by the White House, and have yet to hear a solvency solution from Bush himself, whereas Democrats and their think tanks have been ready to engage on this issue with ideas from Day One. But when Rangel tells Bush point blank that bipartisan solutions can be pursued when the White House takes off the table something that does nothing but exacerbates the problem, and Bush responds with his usual "I'm the president" crap, then it signals once and for all what his true intentions are.
And those intentions are not to deal with Social Security's solvency, but to undermine the system as part of a long-term conservative wet dream, while pushing another payout to Wall Street at the expense of those who rely on this social insurance safety net to stay out of poverty.