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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Free Birds in the House

Unbelievable.Fresh from a vote to abolish inheritance taxes, and thus increase the federal budget deficit by, oh, about a trillion smackers over ten years, the House GOP Caucus seems poised to do something even more irresponsible, if that’s possible: push through a Social Security privatization bill with no new revenues and no benefit cuts. That’s the word from conservative warhorse Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times, and he should know what he’s talking about. Get a load of this:

Conservative House Republicans, beset with growing distrust of the Senate, are urging the House leadership to jump ahead of the Senate on Social Security reform and pass a bill based on large personal retirement accounts and no tax increases or cuts in benefits.They also want House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and House Majority Tom DeLay to say publicly that any bill sent over from the Senate that doesn’t meet all these requirements will not be taken up in the House.

And it looks like they are going to get what they want, in the form of a bill that’s even more outrageous than the various Bush trial balloons:

Mr. DeLay yesterday that he agrees with his fellow conservatives.Mr. Hastert has publicly endorsed a Republican bill by New Hampshire Sen. John E. Sununu and Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan that would allow about half of the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax to go into a worker’s personal account. Workers could pick from a list of approved investment funds managed by firms regulated by the government.

I can barely begin to imagine how much you’d have to borrow–or cut from guaranteed benefits–to pay for this woofer, but we are probably talking about many trillions. I’m sure Josh or Max or somebody will soon enlighten us. Now, as Hallow explains, the House GOPers don’t actually think their proposal will become law; it’s all about shifting blame for failure to serve up this massive free lunch to the Senate and of course, those free-spending Democrats. But somehow, I don’t think overt cynicism is much of an excuse for complete irresponsibility. If these guys actually go forward with this stunt, it will remove any lingering doubt about the House GOP’s fundamental values: screw future taxpayers, to hell with paying for the war on terrorism, we don’t care if debt ruins our economy, don’t confuse us with arithmetic or facts: we will ride our agenda of cutting taxes for the wealthy, starving the beast, and demolishing the safety net to the gates of delerium and beyond. And in Tom (the-rules-don’t-apply-to-our-team) DeLay, they have the perfect leader. You know what their campaign song ought to be for ’06? That great anthem of white-male irresponsibility, Lynard Skynard’s Free Bird. Having proudly liberated themselves from any sense of restraint on any policy front, they might as well try to make a virtue of it. All together now, boys:I’m as free as a bird nowAnd this bird you cannot change.Lord knows I can’t change.

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