Remember how Republicans celebrated the Memorial Day weekend a decade ago by lining up behind George W. Bush's attempt to use the "political capital" he had collected in the 2004 election as kindling to set fire to the Social Security system?
From the late Steven Gilliard:
The Social Security doom trainAnd why exactly did we hafta get rid of Social Security immediately?
Backers of Bush Plan Cite Public Awareness of System's WoesBy Jonathan WeismanWashington Post Staff WriterMonday, May 30, 2005; Page A04President 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.
Because after just four years in the hands of the Bush Crime Family, the budget surpluses which Bill Clinton had left behind had been magically transformed into deficits as far as the eye could see.
Which is weird, because as those of us who still cling to the increasingly fugitive notion that the past is something to be engaged as grouchy mentor (and not poisoned and buried in an unmarked grave) remember, just four years before President George W. Bush tried to justify bulldozing Social Security because of those terrible deficits...
...America's Godfather of Humility had written very clearly and vividly that Social Security going to be just fine, that deficits would never return, and that people who said otherwise were brainless, self-destructive idiots and demagogues.
From David Brooks in 2001 -- before he jettisoned the "Liberals are to Blame" Big Lie for the "Both Sides are to Blame" Big Lie -- on those Stupid Liberals, who cooked up some crazy "brainless, self-destructive" fantasy that Bush Administration policies were about to wipe out the Clinton surplus, run up a gargantuan deficit and put Social Security under the gun (emphasis added):
The New Stupid PartyLONG AGO, the Republican party was nicknamed the Stupid Party, and at times Republicans have done their best to live up to the label. But after the past week, it is perhaps time to acknowledge that when it comes to brainless, self-destructive behavior, the Democratic party has achieved a level of excellence that will be unsurpassed in our lifetime.Last week the Congressional Budget Office came out with a budget forecast. The report immediately got submerged in a chatterstorm about whether Congress or the White House would dip into something called the Social Security trust fund, but the essential facts are these: The CBO economists estimated that the federal government will run a surplus of about $150 billion in 2001. That’s a lower surplus than the CBO estimated a few months ago, before the economic slowdown, the Bush tax cut, and the recent congressional spending splurge. But even in these adverse circumstances, the surplus is still projected to grow to about $200 billion a year in 2004 and close to $300 billion a year by 2006.The Democratic party proceeded to work itself up into a collective aneurysm. Dick Gephardt—who, when given the chance to play the demagogue, never goes halfway—said that the United States now faces "an alarming fiscal crisis." Democratic national chairman Terry McAuliffe said on Face the Nation that it had taken Bill Clinton eight years to build up the surplus, but Bush was able to "blow it in eight months." Other Democrats rose up en masse to declare that the Bush administration was going to bankrupt Social Security/the federal government/western civilization because the administration was going to have to "raid the Social Security trust fund."
And here is Mr. Brooks showing off his brilliant command of post-causality economics (March 2001):
Yes, There Is a New EconomyThanks to once-in-a lifetime productivity gains, Bush's plans are easily affordableMAR 19, 2001...This year's tax and budget debate really comes down to one essential question: Is the money going to be there? The Congressional Budget Office projects surpluses of about $ 5.6 trillion over the next 10 years. The Republicans insist that those projections are conservative, so the government can afford to return $ 1.6 trillion to the taxpayers and still have money left over for Social Security, Medicare, and an $ 800 billion contingency fund. The Democrats cry that projections are notoriously inaccurate, that the tax cuts will blow a hole in the budget, and that the Bush administration's risky scheme (which sailed through the House last week) would cast us back into the days of piling debt.......even if today's productivity improvements are only on the scale of, say, the improvements our economy saw after World War II, we may be in for a long and sunny ride. There is a rough historical pattern here. A new technology is invented. It takes a long time before people figure out how to use it. The electric motor was invented in the 1880s, but it didn't transform factories until the 1920s, economist Paul David has noted. Once the technology is fully deployed, however, there are decades of positive results. Daniel Sichel of the Federal Reserve points to previous technology-driven surges that lasted 10 and 25 years. That suggests we may still be near the beginning of this particular period of bounty.If we are, an occasional period of slower growth or even a recession may occur, but the U.S. economy is fundamentally strong, and both laymen and legislators have good reasons to believe it will remain strong for many years. Industrial productivity is surging. Americans are not only the hardest working people on earth (the average American works about 10 weeks a year more than the average European) but also the most productive workers -- by far. If you measure value added per hour worked, Americans do about 20 percent better than Germans and the French, and 40 percent better than the Japanese.In other words, if you wade through the economic literature, it's hard not to agree with the Cleveland Fed's Jerry Jordan: We are living at a once-in-a-generation moment of economic opportunity. As productivity grows, the economy will grow. As the economy grows, revenues will grow, maybe beyond what the CBO projects. The real question about the Bush tax cuts, then, is not, Can we afford them? The real question is, Why are they so small?