Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Hey, someone finally asked Little Scottie the question about the Social Security Trust Fund, but Scottie merely played it for yucks.

Q Scott, I’m confused by something the President said in his press conference the other night where he’s talking about Social Security and he says that it spends the money on current retirees and with the money left over, it funds other government programs, and all that’s left behind is file cabinets full of IOUs. Those IOUs are U.S. Treasury obligation, and it’s the sovereign debt of the United States. Is he saying something about something the U.S. possibly defaulting on those IOUs? Isn’t that guaranteed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I think that the President, if you’ll recall, went to West Virginia and stood in front of the file cabinet to point out to people what the trust fund really is. I mean, most people when they think of a trust fund, I think you would agree, believe that money is being set aside in account, and that it’s their money and that they’re going to receive that money back. Well, that’s not the case. In terms of the so-called Social Security trust fund, it is a file cabinet of paper IOUs. And that’s what it is.

Q Well, it is the case to the extent that the United States guarantees that it will repay on that. If the United States government, if the President or if any President decides he wasn’t going to repay that debt, then, of course, they argue it —

MR. McCLELLAN: What is happening now under the current Social Security system, as the President has talked about, is a pay-as-you-go system. Money is being paid in to support today’s retirees. So that money is not being set aside, it’s being spent by the government. And the President, one thing he has talked about, is the importance of personal accounts.

Maybe someone is trying to help you with a follow-up there. (Laughter.)

Q I’ve got a follow-up all ready. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: And that’s why the President believes personal accounts are an important part of a comprehensive solution for making Social Security permanently sound. Personal accounts will be something that is your money, it’s being set aside, it’s real savings. It’s not phantom savings. And that money will be there for you when you retire, and it will accrue a better rate of return than under the current system. And it’s something that Washington can never touch, it is yours. And I think that’s one of the points the President was making in the press conference.

Q Just to follow up, Scott. But even if you have your money in dollar bills, if the United States decides that they aren’t going to guarantee that dollar bill, that money is worthless, too — the same way with U.S. Treasury obligations. People buy them. They used to buy them for 30 years, because they were confident that the U.S. was not going to default on them. And what the President seems to be indicating is that that possibility does exist. What does he mean by that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, it’s the difference between real savings and phantom savings. It’s what I just explained. Would you agree that a trust fund is where you set aside someone’s money, and it’s their money, and that they get it back?

Q It’s no good unless the person issuing the money —

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s not what’s happening under the current system.

Yes, defaulting on U.S. Treasury bonds is nothing but a big joke to Little Scottie.

Later, a gaggler tried to nail Scottie on the inviolability of private accounts, again to no avail.

Q Back to Social Security. After the press conference, I was still confused as to whether President Bush will accept the plan that does not include personal accounts. I sense — my reading seems to be that he will not accept a plan that does not have personal accounts. Am I right?

[Scottie blah edited for your sanity.]

Q Scott, are you — are you deliberately leaving the door open — I just want to finish up on this point — on the idea that without personal accounts he might still accept something? I realize you don’t want to negotiate in public, but you’ve been asked a couple of times, this question.

MR. McCLELLAN: But you’ll ask me anyway. (Laughter.)

Q Well, this question has come up. I mean, will you say the way it was posed, which is that the President will not accept a reform plan that does not include private accounts?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes personal accounts — voluntary personal accounts, under the current Social Security system, are an important part of the solution. And that’s the argument he’s going to continue to make.

Q Are you trying to leave a door open there, or —

MR. McCLELLAN: But he’s made it clear: come to the table with your ideas, and let’s advance a bipartisan solution.

Q So the door is open, right? I mean, that’s a fair reading?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

And now, your daily Les.

Q Scott, page one, plus follow-up stories in both The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun have detailed such NAACP documents as two female employees getting into a fistfight over the attentions of President Kweisi Mfume, who has admitted dating female employees. And my first question, will the President ask Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele of Maryland to run against the sexually-troubled Mr. Mfume?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I’m sure at the appropriate time we can talk about the 2006 Senate races. I think it’s a little premature for that at this point.

Q Well, let me — just one follow-up. Does the President believe that all of this may provide an explanation for the NAACP resisting an IRS audit?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, those are questions that you need to direct to other people. In terms of the IRS —

Q Other people — I want to know what the President —

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of the IRS, you need to direct those questions to the IRS

Go ahead.

Q Evasion.

That’s Les’ “Evasion” at the end. Sounds like Scottie pissed Les off. I guess that’s just tough duck, right Les?