Saturday, March 05, 2005


Republicans starting to rebel against Norquist

Kevin Drum alerts readers to a new story in the Washington Monthly, Is Grover Over?, which suggest that there is beginning to be a backlash against Grover Norquist and allies (think Kenny Blackwell) by both conservative and moderate Republican state government officials.
Business is the chisel driving a crack between moderate Republicans and the anti-tax fanatics.
Although there is no group in Washington more loyal to the GOP's anti-tax doctrine than the Chamber of Commerce, in the states, reality often trumps ideology.

“For businesses to be successful, you need roads and you need higher education, both of which have gotten worse under TABOR and will continue to get worse,” says Tom Clark of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, who notes that higher education has shrunk from 25 percent of the state budget in 1995 to about 10 percent today. “I'm a Republican,” Clark says, “but I made the decision not to give any money to the state party.”
TABOR? You never heard of TABOR? Ohioans will soon, and we'll explain what it's all about in subsequent posts. Go read the article for now!


Bush in Columbus Mar. 9

In what may be a small diversion from what Josh Marshall calls the Bamboozlepalooza tour Bush & Co. have been conducting on Social Security, it's been announced that the president will speak at Columbus's Battelle Institute on energy policy.

Perhaps this is just a different a Bamboozlepalooza to sell the benefits of new drilling over conservation, i.e., a big shout out for Alaskan drilling.

Now, it's hard to believe that this is not part of the grand 60-day, 60-city campaign to sell the phase out of Social Security, so we expect that Bush will also spend some time talking about Social Security. The temptation to hold a phony town meeting my be too much for Columbus area Congresswoman Deborah "Pollyanna" Pryce, who as chair of the House Republican Committee is one of the conductors of the pro-phase out choir. But the publicity on such an event would put Social Security hold outs like Pat Tiberi and Mike Turner in something of a bind. Or, maybe that's the idea.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Hmm . . . Ohio still hasn't released latest jobs numbers

As we mentioned last week, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services announced a delay in the release of its monthly jobs and unemployment report.

The delay apparently continues. This is a little frustrating given that the national numbers were released this morning showing an increase in the unemployment rate (+.2%) but also the good news that there was an (seasonally adjusted) increase in the number of people working of 262,000.

Talking to some economists, we had predicted another drop in Ohio's unemployment rate and a substantial decrease in the number of working Ohioans. We still think that there will be a 6-digit non-seasonally adjusted drop in the number of employed Ohioans from January to February. We think it will be in the 100,000 - 150,000 range.

We also have to think there will be a seasonally adjusted net loss of 5,000-10,000 jobs, covering nearly all sectors except education (there is always some bounce in education following a month in which there was a long holiday break).

Thus, we think Ohio will continue to buck the national trend with increasing and substantial net job losses.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Whither Mike Turner?

Josh Marshall puts Dayton-area Congressman Mike Turner in the group of Republicans opposing the phase out of Social Security. Marshall calls this group the Conscience Caucus. (We have to admit we stole the idea of categorizing Ohio legislators on the Social Security issue from Josh).

Turner has been pretty silent on the matter of Social Security, however Josh hangs his hat on a story from Dayton Daily News columnist Martin Gottlieb. We had much difficulty retrieving the story from the DDN archive, but it is available via Google's cache. Here is the key section from Gottlieb:
Meanwhile, though, Republicans are worried about losing election in states that aren't so Republican. And nothing seems to scare them more than Social Security.

The major deviation that Dayton Republican Mike Turner made from party orthodoxy when he first ran for Congress in 2002 was to oppose the president on Social Security. He was running in a district that could conceivably go Democratic. And he presumably thought hard about what might cause it do that.
We are still not so sure about Turner, however, and we are trying to get a constituent to get the skinny on his position. In the meantime, we acknowledge that Marshall has pretty good instincts on this stuff and we'll defer to his designation for the time being.


FEC versus bloggers?

This can't be right. Well, damn, apparently it is coming close to that. Anyone who uses the internet should be frightened.

Thanks to Josh Marshall for sounding the alarm.


Blade: Bush pension plan is doomed

The Toledo Blade associate editor Rose Russell asks, "What part of very bad idea does Mr. Bush not understand?"


Ney: Staying off the Titanic

In February we noted that Bob Ney sure didn't sound like a supporter of the Social Security phase out. Ney's comments in the Times Reporter makes his opposition pretty clear:
“The White House has got to get off the table any talk about changing benefits,” said Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville. “As long as that discussion is out there, this thing is going to sink faster than the Titanic. And anybody that thinks it’s not is just full of themselves.”
Ralph Regula also seems to continue as a hold out:
Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, is unwilling to support any reform plan until he sees a detailed proposal.

“We don’t have a plan, we have a concept,” he said. “You’ve got to think about how it would work in a practical way, so I’m not at this point ready to sign on to anything.”

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Gillmor plagiarises, elevated to phase-out supporter

We have to admit, U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor had us fooled for awhile. Back in early February we had him pegged as having passed on the opportunity to jump on the Bush/Pryce/Santorum bandwagon to phase out Social Security.

But, Gillmor later posted one of his "Gillmor Bulletins" on his website entitled, "Gillmor Outlines Social Security Debate".

At first, his language sounded a little soft to us, using phrases like that "[personal accounts are] an idea that deserves serious consideration." Now, those that know Gillmor know that while he might be a wily politician, he is dumber than a box of nails. When we re-read "his" outline, we thought, there is no way Gillmor wrote that.

So we decided to do a little Googling on some of his phrases, and damned if it didn't turn out that ole' Pauly boy pilfered his little Congressional Report from elsewhere, lock, stock and barrel.

Where? Ah, that's the key! Back in January, U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce and Sen. Rick Santorum, chairs of the House Republican and Senate Republican Conferences, respectively, sent out their own 42-page guidebook for legislators on how to couch their support for destroying Social Security in the kindest-possible terms. This guidebook is essentially a re-hashing of the Frank Luntz points, re-packaged for dolts like Gillmor.

Why, Pryce and Santorum are even nice enough to include a "Sample Constituent Letter" in their guidebook.

We're pretty sure they intended that their sample letter would give ideas legislators and their staff, and they probably assumed that no one was stupid enough to use their sample letter verbatim. Ms. Pryce and Mr. Santorum, meet Gaffe Gillmor. For crissakes, Paul, Pryce didn't even use the letter on her own web page. And, if our Googling skills are any good, it appears that Gillmor was the only legislator who took the guidebook literally.

The end result of all this is that Gillmor has been exposed and is now solidly enshrined in the "Will Say Whatever It Takes to Defend the Phase Out Caucus."


Fifth Third hearts Toledo

Blade columnist Roberta De Boer chronicles the regional banks manipulations in Toledo and their ham-handed handling of layoffs (oops, consolidation):
Meanwhile, bank spokesman Karen Fraker said, "I'd call it a consolidation, not a layoff."

[. . . ]

One employee, recounting the Friday meeting with Mr. Lee, said the group was told "they'd known about [layoff plans] for a week, and that would have been before the council meeting."

Considering all the public debate about job retention, I asked Ms. Fraker why the bank didn't disclose the pending layoffs - er, consolidations.

Her circular answer left me dizzy.

"Because," she said, "this wasn't an issue when we were talking about saving jobs in downtown Toledo."

And why wasn't it? I asked.

"Because it hadn't been announced."

Unless Fifth Third announces something, it's not an issue?

(Hey, the bank STILL hasn't "announced" any of this - I called to confirm what workers said.)

"It just seems funny, their timing," said a laid-off worker. "I feel deceived. They said they were going to save all these jobs."

So, are any other downtown bank jobs at risk? Ms. Fraker's careful answer:

"Not that I'm aware of."


Who's making Social Security partisan?

Although the Enquirer's claimed that "Social Security is no partisan issue," apparently their crack editorial research staff (once they are done with the Frank Luntz play book) forgot to check out to whether the Social Security Administation, itself, was playing the partisan game.

That's okay. The Democrats did the work for them. From a new study released yesterday:
WASHINGTON - Today Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, and Rep. Sander M. Levin, along with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and Reps. Obey, Miller, and DeLauro, released a new report that shows how the Social Security Administration has modified its communications strategy to undermine public confidence in Social Security.

The report, based on a review of over 4,000 pages of Social Security documents from 1995 to 2005, reveals that the agency has systematically altered agency publications, press releases, PowerPoint presentations, website content, and even its annual statements to foster the impression that Social Security is "unsustainable" and "must change." The agency's new pessimistic tone and emphasis echo President Bush's warnings about the future of Social Security.
Seems pretty consistent with the Enquirer's own report on the presentations made in the Cincinnati area by James B. Lockhart, deputy commissioner for Social Security. Doesn't the editorial page team read their own news pages?

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Enquirer - Frank Luntz hired as new editorial writer?

Cincinnati Enquirer news story 2/24/05:
Pension-reform idea a tough sell
Cincinnati Enquirer editorial 2/27/05:
Deputy Commissioner of Social Security James B. Lockhart III toured Greater Cincinnati on Wednesday with U.S. Rep Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, not necessarily to sell a new plan for Social Security
Apparently honchos Margaret Buchanan and Tom Callinan forgot to send the message down the line that the Enquirer's new spin on Social Security is that the Republicans' town meetings aren't about selling the Bush plan, they are about gathering information. "Sell" is tired, "information and non-partisanship" are wired.

For example, the Enquirer further editorializes:
Social Security is no partisan issue.
Tell that to Karl Rove, Charles Givens and the their merry band who are trying to lay waste to AARP. This doubletalk of stressing that this is not a partisan issue while saying nothing of the Republican-orchestrated attacks on their political opposition sounds like the Enquirer stole a page from the Frank Luntz "How to Speak Republican" book.

No, wait a sec, IT IS from the Luntz's briefing book. Literally.

From Tab 7, page 1 we find his "The Social Security 10-Step Language Ladder." It's his step-by-step coaching guide for Republicans about how to "talking up" the Social Security issue. "Ladder". "Talking up." Get it? We bet he's a hoot at bachelor parties!

And, lo and behold, in his ladder, there is Luntz's talking point #7 that apparently jumped out at the Enquirer editorial writers:
Improving our Social Security system CANNOT be a partisan issue. We must all work together to put partisan bickering behind us.
And they were also touched by talking point #10:
I ask you to focus on the facts. Study the issue and then make up your own mind . . . the more you know the better off we'll be.
Aw, hell, they fell in love with #4 and #5, too.

Now, editorial-wise, this unbelieveable crap. We've grown to expect cesspools like the Wall Street Journal's editorial page to literally tow the line, but most dailies try to screen out the fey editorials in favor of op-ed coverage where readers, in theory, know they are being spoon-fed crap.

The Enquire is tiptoeing the plagiarism line here. Plagiarism is bad enough, but partisan plagiarism should be a career-ending move in the world of journalism.

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