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VP BS on SS w/CCC - Cheney on the Privatization campaign trail

Reported by Chrish - March 12, 2005

Campaign Carl Cameron had an exclusive interview with VP Dick Cheney on Special Report 3/11, and Cheney repeated the administration's selling points in his hypnotic quiet monotone. It was still all distortions, no matter how much seriousness his demeanor might have added.

Cheney started out with a lie, "the fact of the matter is the Democrats have not been willing to step yet and engage in a debate, and we hope they will." (Just last week on Special Report Major Garrett reported on the Democrats own tour countering the administrations claims. Of course it was framed negatively by MG but hey, it's Fox. The Dems are definitely up for debating this one.) Cheney continued "The president's made it very clear he wants to approach this on a bipartisan basis. The important thing going forward is to recognize we've only just begun the campaign, only been at it 5-6 weeks...its important that people understand the nature of the problem with Social Security, that it does need to be fixed if it's going to be there for future generations. We believe personal accounts are an important part of that. And that we want to encourage people to put all the ideas on the table and get a big debate started on a national basis and we want to get Democrats to participate as well."

Carl asks Cheney a real question, but is so nervous at actually challenging the most powerful man in the world he laughs as he does it: "Sometimes we hear from the WH that the personal (good boy) retirement accounts are not related to the insolvency issue, and at other times we're told 'well it does have an alleviating aspect to it down the road. (Laughs), Which is it?"

Cheney stumbles a little and answers. "well, uh, eh, I think, uh a couple of points to make. I don't mean to take up all your time. (?! Does Carl have something more important to do?) Carl protests, "oh, absolutely. We do hear from both sides of the administration, it is part of the insolvency issue and no it's not."

Cheney says essentially the insolvency issue is because the plan was designed in the 1930s, and the life expectancy has changed and the baby boom generation is coming into retirement age and there are less people to pay into SS to support them. He acknowledges that insolvency caused by changing demographics is the problem to be addressed in order to ensure the future of Social Security. "We believe part of the solution is to create personal retirement accounts. We think it ought to be part of whatever we do here." The benefit would be it would be an asset "you" control, not a government IOU in a file drawer someplace. The government couldn't take it away from you, it would be yours. If something happened it could be passed on to your heirs. It would get an "ownership" aspect, if you will, not present today, and would also offer a higher rate of return.

Carl says "So there's an individual benefit there. Is there a benefit to the program?"

Cheney " ...the benefit to the program is that it will survive and it will be the kind of vital part of people's retirement planning that it has been for 70 years." What?

Carl says "Democrats say take personal retirement accounts off the table and it's time to talk."

Cheney "Won't happen."

Comment: Nice debating skills there.

Cameron "Which means, we go where? Because the president, according to the critics and according to the plan, hasn't really addressed the solvency issue himself. That's the part that's missing."

Cheney "We've encouraged people to participate and engage in that debate. At the appropriate time we'll be willing to zero in, sit down and negotiate with Congress. (Armtwist) Congress will ultimately write the legislation but we'll be a major part of that. (I'm sure.) We put a proposal on the plan with respect to personal retirement accounts...Lindsey Graham put out a plan...Chuck Hagel...Democrats in the past...there are a lot of ideas out there that need to be considered but we want to have a national debate, a dialog on the process. If we simply come out and say, here it is, this is the plan, you have to do it our way or the highway, I don't think we'll get anyplace. We need to have people buy in (suckers) and become part of the process. We went through this in 1983 - we had a crisis then in SS and couldn't pay the checks. We came together on a bipartisan basis and fixed the system so it survived in relatively good shape.

Cameron "Now instead of coming together we're moving apart. Democrats who were speaking favorably about private accounts (oopsy) just a few years ago, Harry Reid among them, are now saying absolutely not. You've got some Republicans...who are wanting to hang back because they're afraid of it. What do you say to Republicans who haven't gotten the message yet?" (The message...that you better or else?)

Cheney "Well, I don't find it surprising that a number of people want to hold back and wait and see what happens"...I was there, I understand..."there are a lot of members deeply committed to this process who are standing up now, holding town halls, talking to their folks trying to raise the level of public understanding. It would be unfair to label the entire Congress as holding back." It's tough issue, or it would have been solved a long time ago. What's changed is the PotUS. GWB ran in 2000 and in 2004 saying SS needed to be addressed (it's called the set-up) and if you elect us we're going to address it. I think you'll see the "vast majority of Republicans" will in fact be with us...and I believe a number of Democrats will come around as well.

He references a memo written by James Carville, a "Democrat campaign consultant of some note", basically saying it would be a huge mistake if Dems take the attitude that they're not going to engage in this debate where they don't have an answer or a plan. Cheney: "If all they've got is a position of "no" or even "hell, no", they're gonna be in big trouble. The fact of the matter is the American people and especially the younger people know there's a problem with SS - we have not funded those promises that have been made - and we need to do that... And personal accounts they find attractive. If the Dems are associated with a posture that just says "no. we don't want to talk about it" there's no problem, we won't let you talk about it, we'll filibuster any proposal on the floor of the Senate, I think that's a loser for them."

Comment: Carl asked meaningful questions and Cheney gave the spiel as his answers. As Cheney bashed the Democrats for not being willing to debate "the issues" he emphatically said that the issue of private accounts was not up for debate. Bushco won't take it off the table; Dems won't debate with it on the table. Stalemate.

If he was honest he would say the real issue is the insolvency, the funding, and debate the numerous ways SS could be tweaked to be solvent for a long time to come. It will always need tweaking as demographics and the economy change but the system is fine, it works well.

Fox gave him 7 minutes of uninterrupted airtime on their primetime news program to further promote the rumor that there's a problem with SS and to repeat the WH talking points, which is why so many see Fox as the propaganda arm of the Bush White House. Cameron's questions were not Gannonesque set-ups for which I give credit.

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