Tuesday, February 22, 2005



Swift Boat Redux

President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security by transferring risk
onto the nation's elderly is proving a hard sell
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42455-2005Feb21.html) .
Even administration officials and Republican congressional leaders
"acknowledge that Bush's plan has yet to gain traction." A recent
CNN/Gallup/USA Today survey of Americans showed 55 percent think the president's
plan is a bad idea. And a recent poll by the Washington Post shows
barely one in four Americans believe the president's claim that there's a
crisis. Without public support, conservatives have turned to dirty
tricks to try to sway public opinion. But no amount of deceptive advertising
can mask the fact that Americans don't want this risky plan.

DIRTY TRICKSTERS BACK IN ACTION: The Swift Boat Veterans -- who wreaked
havoc on John Kerry's presidential campaign with untruths, innuendo
and ugly rumors (http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0824-06.htm) -- are
back and ready to focus their tricks on the Social Security fight
(http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/21/politics/21social.html) . The New
York Times reports the right-wing lobbying group USA Next is planning to
sink $10 million in commercials and other back-room tactics to hit the
AARP. ("They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal
savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, the group's president. "We will
be the dynamite that removes them.") In an attempt to manipulate public
opinion, USA Next is rounding up all the usual suspects from the Swift
Boat campaign. They've hired Chris LaCivita, the former marine paid
$30,000 during the campaign to advise the Swift Boat campaign on Kerry
attacks. They're looking to hire Rick Reed, a partner at the firm that put
together attack ads for the Swift Boat group. Also back: Creative
Response Concepts, the PR firm that backed the Swift Boat group, and
Regenery Publishing, the group that published "Unfit for Command," the screed
against Kerry's military service put out by one of the primary leaders
of the Swift Boat vets. And Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo
uncovered a link between USA Next and the United Seniors Association, a
"soft-money slush fund for a single GOP-friendly industry:

ATTACKING THE AARP: The Swift Boat vet group is already starting the
attack. The AARP, a group that looks out for the best interests of
seniors, has come out against the Bush plan. A new ad posted on the American
Spectator (http://www.spectator.org/) purports to show the "real" AARP
agenda. The weird ad shows a photo of soldiers in Iraq -- with a big
"X" through it -- next to one of two men kissing -- with a big green
check. The group doesn't even pretend to provide the rationale behind the
ad; clicking on the "click here for details" merely brings you to USA
Next's home page, with nothing about either troops or gay marriage. Thus
the ad exists just to spread the implication that AARP hates U.S.
troops but loves gay marriage. (Thanks to DailyKos
(http://www.dailykos.com/) for finding the ad.)

exposes the truth behind the Bush Social Security plan: "no group of
Americans would be affected more...than those earning the least
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36311-2005Feb18.html) ."
Today, Social Security is the largest -- or only -- source of
retirement income for low-income workers. The program makes up more than half of
retirement benefits for almost two-thirds of the nation's seniors.
Further, "it is the only source of income for 20 percent of retirees." The
Bush plan, which would transfer risk onto the individuals while cutting
benefits, would be devastating to these seniors. E.J. Dionne points out
the real agenda behind the Bush plan: "The real 'crisis' we face is
created not by Social Security but by the administration's unrelenting
effort to lighten the tax burden on the wealthy, which, in turn, creates a
fiscal mess that forces cuts in programs -- for poor kids and needy
seniors alike
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42608-2005Feb21.html) ."

LOOK TO THE STATES: Employees in seven different states were offered
the opportunity for private accounts similar to the ones President Bush
is touting. In many cases, these accounts proved to be both unpopular
and unsuccessful
. President Bush's plan assumes two-thirds of American workers will
jump to set up private plans: in most of the states offering private
plans, only about 5 percent of workers actually signed up. Much of the
hesitancy was due to the risk involved. Take Nebraska, for example. State
and local workers who used the do-it-yourself accounts made so many
errors in investing that they "ended up making less than colleagues with
fixed-benefit pensions -- and less than what analysts have said is needed
for old age." The Nebraska legislature got rid of the accounts two
years ago. West Virginia switched teachers' retirement plans to private
accounts over a decade ago. Today the state is looking into switching
back, after finding the change "did nothing to solve the funding shortage
and ultimately cost more money." As with Nebraska, West Virginia found
teachers with private accounts had lower benefits than they would have
with the traditional system. Want to weigh in on this? Visit
ThinkProgress (http://thinkprogress.org/index.php?p=294) and tell us your