THE INCREDIBLES (PART 1 OF 2)! You live in a deeply fallen time. Here—let Kevin Drum show you:
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2004
THE INCREDIBLES (PART 1 OF 2): Our resolution would have been: Be a bit less acerbic this year about various lefty/Dem/centrist bloggers. Then we came home from vacance Wednesday night and read Kevin Drums inexcusable piece about Social Security in that days L.A. Times.
And yes, Drums piece is inexcusable, built on a heartless, predictable slander. I used to be a Social Security doom-monger, he says at the start of his piece. Like everyone else my age, I knew the familiar drill: Social Security is a demographic time bomb. And why did Drum, like everyone else, think SS was such a mess? His explanation is simply astounding. It was because of Clinton and Gore, he reveals! Yes, this really is Drums account of how he became so disinformed about the future of Social Security:
DRUM (pgh 2): Politicians were eager to feed my fears. Bill Clinton urged us to "take action now to avert a crisis in the Social Security system." Al Gore made the Social Security "lockbox" a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. And George W. Bush insisted earlier this month that Social Security was "headed toward bankruptcy down the road." As a result, most young people today are convinced that Social Security will be gone by the time they retire.Incredible! Just try to believe that he wrote it! Clinton and Gore misled young people, Drum says. And theres more: According to this phantasmagoric account, Bush seems to have avoided misleading statements until he finally offered one earlier this month! Lets state the obvious: If this utterly ludicrous account had come from a Republican operative, it would have occasioned raucous, head-shaking laughter. (In fact, no Republican would ever write something so daft.) But coming from Drum—a voice of the liberal Washington Monthly—it helps us see, at the start of the year, the fallen state of our political discourse. And it raises an obvious question: Why exactly do Drum and his cohort lie in your face in this manner?
The sheer absurdity of Drums account almost beggars description. Why do young people believe that Social Security wont be thereby the time they retire? Their impression has nothing to do with Clinton or Gore, as Drum must surely understand. (So must the fallen Michael Kinsley, who edits the page where this lunacy appears.) Who started presenting the claim that Social Security was just a ponzi scheme, a phony shell game, whose trust fund was nothing but IOUs? It wasnt Clinton, and it wasnt Gore, and neither man created the ignorance Drum now seeks to debunk. This imagery began to appear in the mid-to-late 1980s, usually (though not always) offered by conservative think tanks and Republican spokesmen. By the early Clinton years, the various mantras were locked into place. For example, here was Ed Crane, head of the Cato Institute, in the Chicago Tribune:
CRANE (7/14/94): In April of this year Social Security officials announced that [SS] had a new "insolvency" date; 2029, one year closer than they had projected just last year.This was standard stuff by the early 1990s, but it wasnt coming from Clinton or Gore. Social Security is in the process of failing, Crane wrote, and he included another requisite creed: [T]here is no Social Security trust fund, only government debt issued to itself. Later that year, conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby recited in the Boston Globe:
JACOBY (12/20/94): Not being a politician, I can say anything I like about Social Security—even the truth. And the truth is that Social Security is an immense Ponzi scheme that is slowly bankrupting young Americans in order to enrich their elders. The truth is that people in my age group—under 40—will never get back in retirement benefits what we are paying in Social Security taxes...No, Clinton and Gore had nothing to do with the spread of these ubiquitous messages. And no, we dont believe for a minute that Kevin Drum (and Michael Kinsley) dont understand this fact perfectly well.
But Drum is the kind of well-fed liberal who feels (for reasons he must now explain) that he has to bad-mouth Clinton and Gore—and cover for Bush—when he writes in the nations great papers. Indeed, his contrasting treatment of Bush and Gore is a simple obscenity. Was Drum misled about Social Security because of Gores 2000 campaign? Incredible! While Bush spread disinformation far and wide (links below), Gore was saying that he would use projected budget surpluses to extend the solvency of the system. For example, heres part of a New York Times report about Gores stance on Social Security. According to Drum, this is the man whose campaign led young Americans to think that SS wouldnt be there by the time they retired:
JAMES DAO (5/2/00): Mr. Gore also used his Atlantic City speech to discuss his own proposal for keeping the Social Security system solvent.Was it Gore who was telling young people that the system wouldnt be there for them? Drums history would be laughable—from a Republican. Coming from him, it is simply obscene—and its a window onto the fallen times in which normal Americans live.
Clinton and Gore misled the young people! And Bush finally made a misstatement last month!! Drum is lying through his teeth, for reasons he should now explain. Readers, why do such poodles start saying such things when they join the class of the type-for-pay journalists? Do they see those millionaire pay-days ahead? Are they making their statements more pleasing to their owners and future pay-masters? We dont know, but Dems, liberals, progressives and centrists have to tells the Drums they must stop. Poodles are fun when they prance in the dog show. They arent fun when they pimp in the Times.
On, by the way, one more thing: Who is misleading young people today? Yesterday, Kevin Drum was that person! He ought to explain why he did such a thing—and in the meantime, Dems and centrists should chase such men through the streets of their store-bought, fallen land.
INCREDIBLE: Incredible! Here is Gore at the first debate with Bush. According to Drums disgraceful account, this is the man who convinced young people that SS wouldnt be there for them:
JIM LEHRER (10/3/00): Many experts, including Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan, Vice President Gore, say that it will be impossible for either of you, essentially, to keep the system viable on its own during the coming baby boomer retirement onslaught without either reducing benefits or increasing taxes. Do you disagree?I do disagree, Gore said, disputing the claim that SS wasnt fully viable. Somehow, this convinced Drum and his half-*ssed friends that SS wouldnt be there for them. Bush, of course, made his first misstatement sometime last month, Drum admits.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: During Campaign 2000, Bush recited an endless string of misleading spins about SS—and the press corps praised him as a bold leader. Gore was trashed for saying that the system was viable. For a four-part review of the clownish way Soc Sec was covered during Campaign 2000, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/15/02, along with the HOWLERS which follow it.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER: Yesterday, the White House bad-mouthed Clinton too, this time about the killer tsunami. Indeed, for a certain type of person, bad-mouthing Clinton/Gore is always good business. Drum proved it—and the White House did too. You know what to do—just click here.
TOMORROW (PART 2 OF 2): How bizarre is your discourse at the end of the year? We visit Slate —and American Prospect.