Thursday, May 05, 2005


Pelosi's bunglefest, or how not to save social security

A few days late, but anyone concerned with how the Democrats are responding to the last ditch efforts by Republicans to destroy social security should read Daily Howler's account of the House minority leader Nancy Pelosi's trainwreck on This Week last Sunday. Her only argument: Americans should trust the Democrats because Roosevelt was a Democrat. Beyond this, she didn't seem to really understand how social security works, or offer any substantive reason why Republican proposals should be (and, thanks to a skeptical American public, likely will be) rejected. It's a truly amazing example of how inept Pelosi is (which we also saw in her response to Bush's state of the union speech in January), but also how not to make an argument when the majority is already losing steam on an issue. All she had to do was exude some confidence and she would have won this one.Here's a sample:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're saying repeal the tax cuts?
PELOSI: I'm setting up the, why there is a problem. Secondly, you can't take the money with no intention of paying it back. When President Reagan and Speaker O'Neill went to the table they established a robust trust fund that would keep us, this trust fund solvent and pay full benefits until the middle of the 21st century. Take whichever date you want. This proposal that the president put forth on Friday is an assault on the middle class, a guaranteed stream of income for them will now be reduced. The president says we're helping lower income people more. No, lower income people are, excuse me, are treated the same.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's still a better deal than doing nothing. And the Democrats still haven't come forward with a plan.
PELOSI: No, it isn't, because you're not saying doing nothing. You're saying pay the Social Security trust fund back.
PELOSI: Stop deficit spending.
PELOSI: Pay as you go on your budget.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, how? That's what I'm just looking for. What are the ideas?
PELOSI: How is it, how is it, pay as you go is how.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How is what's important and the question is why should American people trust the Democrats if you don't have a specific plan?
PELOSI: The American people should trust the Democrats because we originated Social Security. This was a very entrepreneurial idea of the New Deal and Democrats will not allow the Republicans to turn this great deal for the American people into a raw deal for them by what they are proposing. They've never really supported Social Security, and the way to damage it, I'm trying to select my word carefully, is to destroy the universality of it. The genius of Social Security at the time was that everybody supported it in terms of the working families of America because they got a stream of income commensurate to what they put into the program. Now we have a situation where the president says, you pay every paycheck into Social Security and instead of getting a commensurate value as a retirement guaranteed benefit, we're going to have a sliding scale so if you're in the middle class, you make an average of $58,000 over a lifetime you get a 42 percent cut. It's just not right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand the critique of the president's plan. I understand the defense of Social Security, but why the reluctance to come forward with a specific plan that would show how you would get Social Security to solvency?
PELOSI: Well, you're not listening then, because what I'm saying to you is that you have to stop deficit spending which is taking the money out of Social Security. Privatization of itself will take $5 trillion, $5 trillion out of the trust fund. That's a huge amount of money. Deficit spending, borrowing the money without the intention to pay it back with interest, which is the law, now, if the president does not intend to pay Social Security back, he has to pass a law to say we will not pay Social Security back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But even if you take private accounts, personal accounts off the table you still have a $3 to $4 trillion hole over the next 75 years. How do Democrats propose to make that up?
PELOSI: Well, first of all, what you have to do is stop taking money out of Social Security without the intention of paying it back. And then as we have said to the president over and over again, let us go to the table in a bipartisan way and consider all of the options.

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