Friday, February 11, 2005

 

Where are Ohio's Senators and Congressional Reps on Social Security?

Obviously there have been a slew of articles written by both national and Ohio reporters on the proposed phase-out of Social Security, but we've seen nothing that documents - person-by-person - where the Ohio delegation in DC is at on the issue.

The best blog tracking the overall Social Security fight has been Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. He's done yeoman's work in identifying the wavering Republicans and Democrats.

No Ohioans show up on his list, and as mentioned above, we've seen nothing that shows where our Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen stand on the issue. So here is our first shot at trying to figure out where everyone is at. We need to note that this information is based on a combination of phone calls (fairly worthless so far), newspaper archive searches and perusing the legislators' websites (checking out the "On The Issues" links ).

First, we need to make it clear that Ohio's Democratic Congressional representatives - Tim Ryan, Sherrod Brown, Ted Strickland, Dennis Kucinich, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, and Marcy Kaptur - are all in strong opposition with privatizing any or all of Social Security. Nary a waverer among them.

So, let's look at where the Republican's stand . . .

Will Say Whatever It Takes Caucus: the Phase-out hardcore
Rep. Deborah Pryce: She is apparently taking her duties as Republican Conference Chairman seriously. "I plan to be a vocal proponent of the need to reform Social Security." Say no more, Deborah.

Rep. John Boehner: Boehner is off the chart, willing to use outright falsehoods such as the "the option of investing a small portion of their income, about 2 to 4 percent" scam. Now Boehner is apparently taking his talking points from Brit Hume including the bogus series of quotes from Franklin Roosevelt that have been exposed by a number of groups as the cobbled-together nonsense that they are.

Rep. Rob Portman: Portman is a close ally and personal friend of the Bush family. His knee-jerk support should be of no surprise. Following the State of the Union, he said, "President Bush made a strong case that now is the time to improve Social Security for our children and grandchildren. Ignoring the problem and passing it off for future generations is not the American way. We can find a commonsense solution to the problem now, or we can face massive tax increases or massive benefit cuts in the future." Although this is slightly less rabid than the comments of Pryce and Boehner, we believe he will be true-blue to Bush.

Rep. Mike Oxley: Long a hack for the investment community, it should be no surprise that Oxley is in the Phase-out camp. According to WKYC-TV, Oxley believes that the Bush plan would be safe and should help spur investment in American companies. The Ohio News Network also puts Oxley in the camp.

Passed-On-Signing-On-Caucus: they could have supported with the White House and didn't - at least yet
Rep. Bob Ney:
He says he believes that Social Security "still require[s] more detail before I can offer my full support." That's the Republican PC-speak for "no thanks."

Rep. Ralph Regula: He says, "Social Security provides an important foundation of support for retired and disabled workers. It is important that we debate and continue dialogue on the future of this program. I am hopeful that we can reach a consensus on how best to secure the long-term viability of Social Security for our children and grandchildren while fully protecting the benefits of current retirees and those near retirement. We have an obligation to preserve Social Security’s promise to all Americans. " That's also code for "no thanks."

Rep. Steve LaTourette: LaTourette has been burned in the past by overstating the problems with Social Security. He would probably be embarrassed to be reminded that in 1998 he said,
"Congress must address the rapidly approaching disaster of a depleted Social Security system. Within the next ten years 'baby boomers' will start retiring. It is estimated that, as a result of this, by 2013 Social Security will be making greater payments to retirees than it will take in from the workforce. By 2032 the Social Security Trust Fund will be completely exhausted. Congress could rewrite this forecast by establishing individual savings accounts, restoring Social Security to permanent actuarial solvency, improving work incentives and/or resolving internal administrative problems."
Even the hardcore conservatives admit the dates LaTourette was supplied with are extremely wrong and overstate the problem. Thus, it's not surprising that LaTourette is a little gun shy at this point. His spokesperson currently goes to great lengths to make it clear he has not signed on to the Bush plan saying, "For any group to target him when he hasn't issued a position on a proposal that hasn't even been spelled out is premature," she said. In other words, please, please don't associate him with the phase-out.

Rep. Pat Tiberi: His comments about Social Security zig, zag and go in so many directions at once, Tiberi should be a contortionist. "While we have not seen specific legislative proposals yet, I agree with the concepts that the President laid out in his [State of the Union] speech. . . He's got a big job ahead of him. In my Central Ohio district, many residents have not yet been convinced that there is a need for action, although they are willing to listen to the President's arguments. Without substantial support in my district and across the country, it is difficult to see how Congress will pass any Social Security modernization plan. The President will need to close the sale . . ." He is pretty clearly saying that he's not investing any political capital in this issue. In other words, the President's selling this, not me!

Rep. Dave Hobson: You can't find one mention of Social Security on his website. The Dayton Daily News, following the State of the Union speech, quoted him as calling Bush "courageous in his speech to begin a much-needed discussion on Social Security. As a senior citizen, I know how important the program is for many Americans. And, we need to honor our commitments to those people." Saying Bush is courageous and saying he is right are two different things. Hobson only choose the former.

Rep. Paul Gillmor: Gillmor is ducking the issue, and that's good news in this context. He fails to make any mention of it in his last two constituent newsletters. It takes a lot of work to find even one reference to Social Security on his website, and then it's only in a list of issues he asks readers to rank. The White House has asked Republicans to step up to the plate, but Gillmor clearly doesn't want to take a swing.
[UPDATED: March 1, 2005 - Moved to "Will Say Whatever It Takes Caucus]

Rep. Steve Chabot: The Bush Plan clearly makes him squirm. The Ohio News Network quotes him as saying that he has "serious concerns about proposals that reduce benefits or raise taxes." No sign of the issue can be found on his website.

Sen. Mike DeWine: DeWine's website's "Issue Information" page avoids any mention of Social Security. After the State of the Union, WCPO-TV reported that DeWine isn't convinced that "personal" accounts are the way to go." Further, the Voice of America quotes DeWine as saying that he will only support a bipartisan effort: "We have to have both parties, Republicans and Democrats, to come forward and begin the debate." DeWine sent a brief flutter thru the White House when he reportedly said in early February that he supports the president's plan to encourage personal savings. But Gannett reported that just one day later he made a point of separating himself from Bush and "modified the statement to say, 'I agree that we must do something to encourage personal savings.' But he said he had not 'determined whether ... private savings accounts should be a part of strengthening Social Security for our children and grandchildren.'"

Sen. George Voinovich: Like DeWine, WCPO-TV also reports that Voinovich is not convinced of the private accounts solution. Back in November, he told the League of Women voters that he would work "to balance the budget while ensuring that the Social Security trust fund remains untouched and safe for seniors." The Washington Post made a point of reporting about the State of the Union speech that, "When Bush told the crowd that personal Social Security accounts are the best way to improve the retirement system, most Republican lawmakers leapt to their feet. But a small band of moderates - including Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine), George V. Voinovich (Ohio) and Mike DeWine (Ohio) - were slow to join the applause."

Tactically speaking, it's this latter caucus where letters and phone calls are needed to help them resist the Bush arm-twisting.

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