What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 23, 2010

Hell, Yea!

After leaving the House of Representatives and before running for the Senate (this time) Pat Toomey was president of the Club for Growth.

If you've been following this story at Early Returns 2.0 you've seen that Tim McNulty opened with:
Readers of this site know full well how hard the Pat Toomey campaign has pushed back on claims that he wants to "privatize" Social Security.
Tim's being way too nice to Toomey. Here's Jim O'Toole from Tim's second link:
Democrats have repeatedly criticized Mr. Toomey for a statement at the Harrisburg Press Club last month in which he denied ever having advocated the "privatization of Social Security." That statement may seem at odds with Mr. Toomey's long and outspoken advocacy of a shift from the current system to one that would allow workers to invest their own retirement funds in private or personal accounts.

The dispute is not an example of a campaign trail conversion by the Republican but a replay of a semantic argument from the early years of the second term of President George W. Bush. Before it became clear that Mr. Bush's plan had no political momentum, its proponents tried to boost its chances with a rhetorical shift from the term "private accounts" to "personal accounts" -- a nominal but not substantive change rooted in the poll-tested notion that "personal accounts" would sound more appealing.

Mr. Toomey has not modified his position that such a change is essential given the projected shortfalls in the massive retirement program. In his 2008 book, "The Road to Prosperity," written with his campaign communications director Nachama Soloveichik, he devotes a chapter to his vision for the system, one that he reaffirmed in a recent interview. Mr. Toomey would retain the current system and promised benefit levels for current beneficiaries and those close to retirement.

For younger workers, however, he would establish the option of investing part of their Social Security contribution in private accounts -- or personal accounts, take your pick -- that would allow them to take advantage of the potentially more generous yields of private markets.
If it walks like a duck... Sounds like a privatize-quack to me.

McNulty earlier linked to this thinkprogress post which catches Toomey in some serious weasel words. When asked if he continues to to favor the privatization of Social Security, Mr Wall Street spun:
I’ve never said I favor privatizing Social Security. It’s a very misleading — it’s an intentionally misleading term. And it is used by those who try to use it as a pejorative to scare people…[T]hat doesn’t mean that we must perpetuate exactly this structure for future workers and for very young workers. So I’ve advocated that we consider offering young workers an alternative — a reform within Social Security that would give them the opportunity to take a portion of their payroll tax and actually save that and own that and allow that to accumulate over the course of their working years and for that to provide a portion of their retirement benefit. I think that’d be a very constructive reform, and that’s what I’m going to advocate. [emphasis in original]
Does he think we're not paying attention? What's that if not privatization?

The wonkroom points out:
Toomey seems to be under the impression that if you aren’t in favor of privatizing all of the Social Security system then you aren’t in favor of privatizing, period. But make no mistake, Toomey absolutely favors privatizing a portion of the program, as he makes painfully clear through his advocating that young workers “own” an account.
If there was any doubt about where he's coming from, his old pals at the Club for Growth have issued a statement on the privatization of Social Security. It's titled:
Privatize Social Security? Hell Yeah!
In bold green letters. And they write:
Most Republicans are running away from the Social Security issue. They've probably been told by establishment handlers to never defend "privatization" or personal accounts.


Fiscal conservative candidates should embrace it. While Americans in retirement or approaching retirement would stay in the current system, younger workers should have the option to invest a portion of their money in financial assets other than U.S. Treasuries.
Isn't that more or less exactly what Toomey's proposing? And doesn't the Club for Growth call that Privatization?

And doesn't that mean that Pat Toomey wants to privatize Social Security?

And doesn't that mean that Toomey was, uh, misleading the public when he said that he never favored privatizing Social Security?

Hell, yeah.

1 comment:

EdHeath said...

There's a logical inconsistency in the privatization (or personalization) of Social Security. We should all know that the social security tax collected from current workers is supporting currently retired persons. Now, if new workers, that is people just exiting college or high school do not pay into the system, that means there will be shortfall in Social Security tax revenue to cover the newly retired, people who have just exited the workforce. Now, in fact the ratio of the number of workers paying Social Security to the number of retirees receiving Social Security has been dropping anyway, but personal accounts will make things much, much worse.

Plus personal accounts will be a windfall for someone, either some pension management companies, investment management fund companies or traders on Wall Street, I dunno. Plus there will be the need to fit government retirement fund rules designed to protect people to the vagaries of the market - how much would people be able to move their money, how much commission or transaction fees could be charged, how would market information be made available, and of course what would happen if the market experienced a sharp downturn.

It surly pisses me off that Conservatives/Republicans are able to sustain an incoherent narrative that the market is superior to government regulation in all matters. Acid rain was not going away until the government regulated emissions from coal fired power plants. You know, there is a hell of a long distance between protecting the environment protecting consumers from corporate malfeasance and trying to moderate the worst swings of the economy versus the government owning everything. You know that if banks and the auto industry had gone into bankruptcy conservatives/Republicans would be screaming about how incompetent Obama and the Democrats are. Of course, since instead Obama and company prevented that, conservatives/Republicans are screaming about government takeover of the financial and auto industry (even as banks have record profits and bankers pay themselves record bonuses). Obviously what is bothering conservatives/Republicans is that there are elections and votes in Congress and taxes to pay. Things would be much simpler if the rich told us who the President and our Congressmen are, and how much we should pay in taxes to them.