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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Oh, Norm...

Via Talking Points Memo, at Forbes.com we have a story about Social Security where our own Norm Coleman in mentioned, along with several other politicians. Coleman, talking about how he weathered attacks that he was for privatizing the program, he said. "I countered it by being very clear that I supported personal accounts and opposed privatization." True Norm-speak.

If we substitute "personal accounts," that focus group-tested phrase that Republicans are flocking to, with "private account," which has pretty much been declared synonymous by the White House and everybody else involved, we have this: "
I countered it by being very clear that I supported private accounts and opposed privatization." Which is not much different than the Senator saying that he supports cars and opposes driving.

So what does this mean? I see two options. The first, more likely possibility is that prevaricatin' Norm fully supports privatizing Social Security, but like many Republicans he is hemming and hawing and insisting that he opposes it right up until he votes for a privatization bill that is "moderate" and "fiscally sound" and "makes Social Security perfect forever" even as it "creates huge deficits" and "drastically cuts guaranteed benefits." We've seen this before. A lot of Republicans seem to be taking this path, and Coleman, being a herd animal, will follow.

There is one other possibility, though. You can believe in cars but not driving if you see cars as a museum piece only. So maybe he wants to set up "personal accounts" that are just pretend portfolios that people can play with. Of course, when you retire the money isn't real and you will get the same guaranteed benefit as everybody else, but if your portfolio does especially well perhaps the Social Security Administration will send you a button or a t-shirt or something. Kinda like those fake stock portfolio projects we all did in business class. That would be fun, yes, but it is hard to see that as solving Social Security.


At 7:38 PM, February 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is interesting about this story is that Norm says that he was making the distinction between personal accounts and privatizing social security in 2002, long before the current debate, and the Republican discovery that personal accounts are more palatable than the dirty word privatization. Norm was apparently quite clairavoyant. I would love to see the evidence for this in quotes from the 2002 campaign.

At 8:13 PM, February 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norm Coleman is the only man I've
ever seen who can turn around inside
his own suit of clothes without taking anything off.
He gives real meaning to the term,
"empty suit."


At 9:35 PM, February 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh jay, you know Republicans make their own reality. Evidence is for sissies. /snark

At 1:59 AM, February 23, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the shift to "personal accounts" happened in mid-2002. Josh Marshall has a screen shot of the GOP strategy memo.

The Wellstone campaign had a file of contradictory statements made by Coleman that they sent to reporters, and it ended up getting posted on the internet. Here's the text of it on Social Security. Sorry for taking up so much space.

Coleman Supported Bush’s Presidential Campaign Proposal to Privatize Social Security Benefits, Which Would End the Guaranteed Benefit to Seniors. During the 2000 presidential campaign Coleman said George W. Bush showed "bravery and courage" by making a proposal to privatize Social Security that he knew might not be popular right away. "Leadership sometimes requires you to lead people to places they may not be prepared to go," Coleman said. Coleman also said Democratic candidate Al Gore’s proposal acknowledges that his Social Security plan didn’t fix the system. "You can’t keep the system the way it is, because it’s broken," Coleman said. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/3/00]

 Coleman Said "Absolutely" to Privatizing Social Security Benefits. On August 24th of 2001, Norm Coleman told KSTP Radio host Jason Lewis that he "absolutely" favors placing Social Security benefits in the stock market. Privatizing Social Security would end the guaranteed benefit that America’s seniors have depended on since the retirement program was created. [Jason Lewis Show, 8/24/01]

Coleman Said He Was Not For Privatization. "I am not for privatization," [Norm Coleman, talking about Social Security in Princeton, Minnesota on 8/14/02]

At 8:22 AM, February 23, 2005, Blogger cleversponge said...

He wants to be as close to the lifeboat on the good ship Social Security as possible. If the sucker floats, then he'll talk about his support of "personal accounts" until the cows come home in 08. If the thing sinks, he'll be screaming from the raft that he was against privatization the whole time...even when he was a Wellstone Democrat.

At 4:13 PM, February 23, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a great moment at the Univeristy of Minnesota the other day when Norm was their to talk about his ideas for streamlining student visa applications. His bill is actually quite good, but i couldn't help laughing when he said something like this about the value of foreign student experiences:
"When I meet with Prime Ministers, Presidents and member of Parliament abroad, they inevtiably tell me that they went to school in the United States, or their child goes to school there. It's a great way for the US to gain goodwill abroad."

So I thought to myself, who is the most famous foreign student to ever study in Minnesota? It was probably UN Sec. General Koffi Annan, a Macalester grad, whom Coleman called onto resign--utterly prematurely-- because of the Iraqi oil for food "scandal."

What a piece of work!

At 7:10 PM, February 23, 2005, Blogger cleversponge said...

From a Strib article in Oct 02:

Coleman's position

     Coleman, who chaired the Bush 2000 campaign in Minnesota, became associated with the concept that year. He praised Bush for showing courage and leadership in offering the plan.

     But this year, partly because of the stock market's wretched performance in recent years, many Republicans have been advised by their political professionals to avoid the issue and to avoid the use of the word "privatization" to describe it.

     Coleman has not changed his position on the issue. But he has not made it easy for voters to know his position, either.

     The only Coleman campaign ad that mentions Social Security says that he opposes privatization and "would fight against anybody who would do that." That ad depends on the unstated Republican argument that Bush's concept of individual accounts is not "privatization" because under such a plan, the government would still be heavily involved. But the ad does not say that Coleman favors individual accounts. Social Security is not mentioned in the issues section of his campaign Web site, although it is mentioned in some news releases.

     When asked for a written statement of Coleman's Social Security position for this article, the campaign wrote that Coleman will look at options that will extend the solvency of Social Security but that will not result in cutting benefits, raising the retirement age or raising taxes. "One possibility is allowing younger workers the option of investing a portion of their Social Security earnings in safe and secure personal savings accounts," the statement concluded.

     Asked whether he firmly favors the idea, or just favors considering it as a possibility, Coleman staked out a middle ground. He said he favors the idea but is not committed to it unless someone can devise a transition to private accounts that won't threaten the system's ability to pay all promised benefits to those at or near retirement.

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