Republican Propaganda

I just saw a commercial on CNN sponsored by the Progress for America Voter Fund. This commercial was designed to build support for President Bush's Social Security plans, whatever they happen to be. The commercial first states that "President Bush wants to rescue Social Security". This must be an idiosyncratic meaning of rescue, since Bush's short-term goals are to reduce guaranteed benefits, and his long term goals are to replace social security with a defined-contribution system that has no guaranteed benefits.

Next, the ad says that, "He asked for all ideas to be put on the table." This is a reference to his 2005 State of the Union speech, in which he did use very similar language to that. But in the next minute or so, he listed what was non-negotiable, including, "We must not jeopardize our economic strength by increasing payroll taxes." So any plan which is made up entirely of benefit cuts is acceptable. Also, while he did not specifically state that private accounts were a non-negotiable aspect of reform, he strongly suggested this. While I object to these first two parts of the commercial, the next part is much worse.

Progress for America then asks, rhetorically? "Can you think of any ideas the national Democrats have offered?" They then show a stopwatch ticking off ten seconds, and don't say anything. The final message is to tell Congress to stop playing partisan games with Social Security. Like the man said, I agree with the second part. As for the first part, there are a host of problems. The first is that the ad doesn't make the claim that Democrats have nothing to contribute to the Social Security debate, which would be easily refuted. Instead, they just strongly imply that Democrats are engaging in partisan games.

The second problem is that use of the qualifier "national." For any particular Democrat one were to bring up, this propaganda organization can claim they aren't national. For instance, if I site to the Diamond-Orszag proposal from the Brookings institute, which is a plan to keep social security fully funded forever, I would probably be told that I have to cite to someone holding a national political office, even though Brookings is a nationally recognized think tank and the ideas coming out of it tend to garner far more support from liberals than conservatives. Obviously, many other Democrats in journalism and the academy have proposed reforms for social security in the future. Also obviously, many Democrats don't believe there is a social security crisis, just a future funding shortfall which can be fixed without drastic measures.

But to actually answer the question, here are plans by Harry Reid and Howard Dean, and John Kerry (the Kerry plan is pretty weak, I have to say) for Social Security reform. So there are some contributions from national Democrats. Also, George W. Bush has refused repeatedly to announce what his Social Security plan is, so it's absurd to ask for other plans to counter it. Finally, the obvious reason that Democrats aren't being far more vocal about advocating for small reforms which they are in favor of is that once the bill is in a reconciliation committee, they have every reason to believe the bill would be changed into one they oppose. This is what happened with the Medicare drug benefit. So, who's playing partisan games?