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Why You Read: Catching Up Edition


There are a few things that have come in over the past week that serve as handy reminders of why this site continues to be worth your time. No, it’s not the regular posting schedule, I’ll give you that (last week I was plagued by some pesky technical glitches on Wednesday and Thursday). No, it’s the timeliness of the coverage and commentary.
First up, Joe Klein’s column in last week’s Time, “The Incredible Shrinking Democrats.” Here’s the graph that caught my attention:

“There is, then, a profitable discussion to be had between ‘ownership’ Republicans and ‘third-way’ Democrats about transforming the stagnant bureaucracies of the Industrial Age. Republicans refused to play during the Clinton presidency; the stunned and churlish Democrats are refusing to play now. It will be interesting to see whether Bush, at the height of his powers, actually tries to break the impasse.”
My bet is that he doesn’t. Bush is too lazy and too sure of himself. But my bet is that the conversation that will take place will take place between the group that I’ve labeled Progressive libertarians which Klein is scoping out.
Next: Dean Murphy, The New York Times San Francisco bureau chief on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s celebrity. Yeah, he works it. This piece is pretty ho-hum for you regular readers. Here’s the short version: Arnold is a new kind of celebrity politician. Oh, yeah, and the story ran on the front of the Times’ Sunday Style section, the editorial front for the wedding announcements. There’s a story here but it’s not about Schwarzenegger. It’s about how this story got where it was – Sunday Style, what the hell? – and that’s probably a lot more interesting than the piece itself.
UPDATE: It’s so rare that I get to say something nice about The Chron that I want to take the chance while it’s here. This piece by Carla Marinucci goes a long way to explaining exactly what’s wrong with coverage of Gov. Terminator. She doesn’t emphasize all the he-man white guy bonding that takes place whenever Arnold’s in the room but you get the idea.
And lastly, Social Security. The heat has been about private accounts. That’s fine as far as it goes. But the real purpose of the administration’s reforms isn’t all that connected to the private accounts. The more I watch this debate the more convinced I am of that little, not very well noticed, fact.
But here’s a good story by Mary Willliams Walsh in the NYTimes. She makes the point – it’s a good one that can’t be made enough times – that decoupling Social Security payments from inflation means smaller benefit checks. It turns Social Security into a bare-bones anti-poverty program. The posturing Democrats are doing on this issue is, I’m afraid, I’m very afraid, missing one of the most important points.
Now, that’s probably going to mean lower payroll taxes for businesses; there’s been some talk about that. But, again, not enough.
Here’s something else you’re not hearing – not much anyway – in all the heat and smoke on this issue. You’re not hearing about widows and children who receive benefits. You’re only hearing about retirees, and the assumption there is that we’re talking about married couples, older folks. People whose houses are paid off, whose children are through college. Social Security payments have long been a vital lifeline for many families who have lost a wage earner. This administration’s desire to reduce those benefits for this group – at this time, a time of such enormous economic uncertainty – is something that should not be overlooked.
These are the fights the Democrats better starting having. And soon. Cutting benefits is going to make private accounts a lot more attractive. Which means Democrats might win this year’s battle but lose next year’s war.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 7:50 PM | Permalink

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