Dick Cheney has taken charge of the Social Security Demolition Derby while Georgie
hides from the fundies relaxes in Crawford. Regular readers know that I’ve been poring over the White House transcripts of Chimpy’s Social Security road show for the past couple of months.
Funny thing, though – Cheney did two Baboon-a-palooza events yesterday, one in Battle Creek, Michigan, and a second in Pittsburgh, but the White House as of 8AM CST has not posted transcripts from either event.
So I turned to local press coverage of the two events and soon found out why the White House is holding onto those transcripts. Big Time Dick is getting blasted by both the local press and his hand-picked audiences.
Unlike Dear Leader, when Cheney does a Social Security “town hall” meeting he allows audience members to ask him questions instead of placing “regular folks” on stage with him for well-rehearsed exchanges on the evils of Social Security. Turns out that was a huge mistake on Dick’s part.
Here James Prichard, writing for the AP in an article picked up by the Lansing State Journal, notes that even the host for Cheney’s Michigan “conversation”, Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-Battle Creek), is not buying privatization.
Cheney was joined on stage by U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, R-Battle Creek, who said he and the White House have “some disagreements on how we get there” when it comes to Social Security reform.
Schwarz said Wednesday he was not convinced that allowing personal retirement accounts will help solve the problem.
The Battle Creek audience posed questions that would have sent Bush muttering about “hard work”.
During a question-and-answer session with audience members, Cheney was asked what he thought about taking the entire Social Security trust fund and allowing the federal government to invest it in the stock market, in an attempt to improve its current annual rate of return of about 1.3 percent. Cheney said he would oppose such a plan.
“There’s a lot of resistance to the notion that the federal government own that big a piece of the stock market,” he said.
Conditions did not improve when Cheney reached Pittsburgh. James O’Toole of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette focused on the bubble.
By design, most of the audience, and most of the questions to Cheney, were friendly. Bob Glancey, chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party, asked him why the proportion of contributions eligible for personal accounts wasn’t even larger. Mike Rubino, 19, head of the Seton Hill University Young Republicans, asked another approving question on the virtues of private accounts.
But despite the Pennsylvania GOP’s best efforts, a few actual citizens slipped through to question the Veep.
Cheney did face some skeptical questioning, however, as other members of the audience challenged him on the likely returns of the investment accounts, and on the fact, which Cheney acknowledged, that establishing personal accounts would not shore up Social Security’s long-term financial outlook.
Burnishing the merits of personal retirement accounts, Cheney pointed to the experience of federal workers who have the option of placing part of their retirement savings in somewhat similar accounts. But that argument fell flat with one of his questioners.
Kim Miller, of Mt. Lebanon, said that she had been a federal employee and invested in the Thrift Savings Plan, “and I didn’t do well at all.”
Miller was eligible for the plan as a member of the staff of a former Democratic congressman. She is now an employee of the United Steelworkers union, which strongly opposes the president’s private accounts proposal.
Another questioner, Barbara Bush [!!!], an AARP volunteer from the North Hills, pressed Cheney on the fund’s solvency, arguing that the creation of private accounts would do nothing to solve that basic issue.
Cheney acknowledged that “other things” still would have to be done to address projected shortfalls, but maintained that private accounts would give individuals the opportunity to make up for whatever belt-tightening the overall program would experience.
“I thought he skirted the question,” Bush said later. “With [private accounts], you would just weaken a system that is already weak.”
O’Toole then set his rhetorical sights on Cheney’s host, Rep. Melissa Hart (R-Entertainment Tonight)
Not surprisingly, Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Bradford Woods, the vice president’s co-host for the gathering, offered rave reviews both for Cheney’s performance and for the merits of personal savings accounts.
Despite recent poll results suggesting that a majority of the public disagrees with the president’s proposal, she predicted that Congress would enact some version of it this year. Hart said sessions like yesterday’s would help that happen. She noted poll numbers that showed that, whatever the attitudes on specific remedies, the proportion of the public who viewed Social Security as having serious financial problems had climbed sharply over the last year.
Is it any wonder the White House won’t release these transcripts?