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February 23, 2005

Crafty Republicans Planning Conference Betrayal?

Pardon the confusing headline; I really don't know how on earth to summarize this into something pithy.

You probably know that Bush recently floated the idea of raising the caps on payroll taxes -- not the actual rates, but the cut-off point for taxing income, from $90,000 up to, well, who knows.

Only a simpleton would fail to recognize that as a tax increase. I'm not necessarily against all tax increases, but I do know that Bush has rhetorically put himself in that camp, and of course Republicans generally don't like tax increases. (Unfortunately for liberals, neither do Americans generally.)

So why would Bush raise this possibility? Why even float something that would be shot down immediately by the House Republican caucus? I mean: we know he's not that dumb, right?

A blog I don't read -- the American Prospect's TAPPED -- posits a leftist conspiracy theory which I, for once, do not dismiss out of hand.

Before reading it, I think I should explain what the passage means by "phase-out bill." I don't really know what he means; I had to Google to find out what he's talking about. But, based on my (admittedly) cursory reading, it appears to me that partisan liberals are calling Social Security reform plans which include private savings accounts "phase-out bills," possibly to indicate that the ultimate goal is the complete phasing out of the Social Security system.

If I'm mistaken about that, I'd like to know, and I'll gladly print a retraction (despite the proof of my great ignorance that would entail). However, based on a quick search through left-leaning sites, they seem to just be using "phase-out" as a scare-term for any reform including private accounts. See this Social Security "Phase-Out" Q&A, for example.

At any rate. On to the actual maybe-not-so-crazy conspiracy theory:

Josh Marshall hints that some dastardly Democrat is contemplating a deal with Lindsey Graham wherein "current payroll tax revenues are left in place for now and private accounts are funded in whole or in part from new payroll tax revenues generated by raising or even lifting the payroll tax cap." This is a moderately bad idea on policy terms, and a simply terrible political idea.

Most crucially, the House Republican leadership has already ruled it out. Thus, the only possible effect of brokering a compromise of this sort with moderate Senate Republicans would be to create a conference committee in which whatever concessions the GOP makes to turncoat Democrats will be purged from the bill. Then, having already conceded the high ground on the need to "do something" and on the point that the "something" ought to involve private accounts, turncoat Democrats will be forced to argue that the only problem with the conference report on the phase-out is that it doesn't raise taxes. This will, at best, transform a political winner for the Democrats into a political loser and, at worst, lead to the passage of a bad phase-out bill.

Emphasis added.

Interesting, and I suppose a possibility.

Hat tip to...

And how I got on that site, I have no idea. I swear, my computer just dialed up Talking Points Memo itself, because I sure didn't enter that into the URL bar.

And...


If I'm sending traffic to TAP anyway, I guess I should point out this article as well.

In the lead up to the election, I complained repeatedly that the Democratic Party simply wasn't offering the voters actual positions on the most important matters of the day, but was merely offering positionings, quite a different thing.

Superliberal Michael Tomasky seems to concede the point:

I’ve long had the sense, and it’s only grown since I’ve moved to Washington, that conservatives talk more about philosophy, while liberals talk more about strategy; also, that liberals generally, and young liberals in particular, are somewhat less conversant in their creed’s history and urtexts than their conservative counterparts are (my excellent young staff excepted, naturally; I’m mostly wondering if young Democratic Hill aides have read, for example, The Vital Center or any John Dewey or Walter Lippmann or any number of things like that).

This came through, in fact, in the Balz and Edsall pieces. Go read them if you like. Balz’s account of the Democrats has them talking about things like positioning themselves to be tougher on national security, or whether the congressional Democrats should be more confrontational toward Bush. They’re talking tactics.

In Edsall’s piece, though, the conservatives are debating ideas. Grover Norquist and Robert Woodson, from an outfit called the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, engage in a debate about the nature of poverty; others discuss the morality-versus-personal-liberty question. Both conversations, as Edsall conveys them (and we can be sure that he conveyed them accurately), were far less about tactics than ideas.

One explanation for the difference in this particular case is that Balz was interviewing politicos, while Edsall had attended an ideas forum. This helps explain the difference, but it can’t be written off solely to that. Democrats just don’t talk about fundamental ideas enough, and anyone -- a person, a movement, a political party -- can’t really, deeply, profoundly know what he or she or it stands for without such conversations.

Well, duh. Welcome to the party, pal. Thinking about ideas n' shit. What a concept.

Tomasky seems to have an epiphany -- one he'll probably be attacked for -- but he manages to exhibit characteristic liberal cluelessness and condescension with this:

But we’ve also observed conservatives’ unanimity at election time, or when a major piece of legislation is up for consideration. We’ve explained this by citing their superior discipline. And it’s true, they are more disciplined. Conservative people by nature are more likely to heed their authority figures than liberal people are.

Uh-huh. Bush snaps his fingers, we all fall in line.

I am at this point a Social Security agnostic. I like the idea of private accounts, but I'm not keen on the multitrillion dollar transition costs. And I recognize that private accounts -- alone -- do not solve the Social Security crisis.

Many of you probably are in the same maybe, mabye not camp.

So we're not really showing that submission to authority that Tomasky feels is part of our genetic make-up.

On the other hand: Can you name a single prominent liberal commentator, politician, or blogger who is not foresquare against private accounts, in almost any configuration?

It seems to me that on this issue, for one, the liberals are marching in perfect lock-step.

And that actually annoys me a great deal. I'm not in lock-step with Bush on this; I could see myself supporting or rejecting his reforms based on, get this, the actual details of the proposal.

But Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, TAPPED, Al Franken, Jeneane Garofalo, and even

have all come out firmly against the very idea of private accounts, even in principle -- that is, in any form, under any circumstances.

So who here is actually submitting to "authority figures"? Or, perhaps more accuarately, who here is behaving like a crazed mob wielding pitchforks and torches, all acting in herd-fashion for a cause they don't seem to have taken very long at all considering?

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posted by Ace at 02:28 AM

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