TheDC Morning: Social Security insolvency will be resolved in years-long cage fight

Mike Riggs Contributor
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1.) FCIC dissenters defend bailing out Wall Street — Two reports will come out of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission today. The one written by the panel’s liberal majority will blame lax regulation and the banking industry for the collapse of the housing industry. The other, written by commissioners Bill Thomas, a former Republican congressman from California, Keith Hennessey, former chairman of the White House National Economic Council under President George W. Bush, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, spreads the blame more broadly among “investors, creditors, regulators, homebuyers, and politicians,” all of whom must take “personal responsibility.” The dissenters also defended bailing out Wall Street: “For a policymaker, the calculus is simple: if you bail out AIG and you’re wrong, you will have wasted taxpayer money and provoked public outrage,” the paper reads. “If you don’t bail out AIG and you’re wrong, the global financial system collapses. It should be easy to see why policymakers favored action–there was a chance of being wrong either way, and the costs of being wrong without action were far greater than the costs of being wrong with action.” Thank goodness we didn’t destabilize the global financial system, which might have led to really scary stuff, like high unemployment.

2.) Social Security insolvency will be resolved in massive, years-long cage fight — Do not fear the collapse of Social Security, slated for 2037. Yes, SS is “projected to collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in retirement, disability and survivor benefits” this year; and yes, “that figure swells to $130 billion when a new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included, though Congress has promised to repay any lost revenue from the tax cut.” But we have a solution. Instead of privatizing SS (too risky!), or means-testing benefits (socialism!), Americans will have the option of being put on an icefloat and set adrift, or fighting for their retirement benefits in a post-apocalyptic cage match refereed by AARP member Tina Turner. The Thunderdome Solution solves the problem of too few people paying into a system being used by so many: Two social security recipients will enter, only one social security recipient will leave.

3.) Someone should rig D.C.’s revolving door to a battery — When you stop by the bar tonight, pour one out for Billy Tauzin: The man responsible for Medicare Part D has finally parted ways with the prescription drug industry. While Tauzin will continue to lobby on behalf of rent-seeking corporations, he’ll no longer be doing it for PhRMA. Last night it was announced that Tauzin will join former Sen. Bob Dole and former Rep. Earl Pomeroy at Alston + Bird. When the news broke that the firm had added another former legislator to its menagerie of back-room deal-brokers, A+P’s Dennis Garris told Politico, “Billy Tauzin continues our record at Alston + Bird for bringing the very best and brightest of legislators to our Washington team, and we and our clients welcome him. He will be a great addition and will complement our full-service practice in Washington.” Tom Daschle, who wants you to know that he is not a lobbyist, also not-lobbied for Alston + Bird.

4.) Issa cuts the crap, offends grandstanders — “Rep. Darrell Issa’s first Oversight Committee hearing on bailouts and the foreclosure crisis started with a bout over procedure,” reports ABC. “At the start of the hearing, chairman Rep. Darrell Issa announced the committee members would waive their opening statements and instead would have seven days to place them into the record.” Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who wants to make olives illegal, and Rep. Elijah Cummings immediately got their panties in a twist. “I’ve been in the Congress for 14 years, and I’ve never – it’s just unprecedented that the ranking member not be permitted to give an opening statement,” Kucinich said from atop a pile of phone books. But Issa made clear that the most important part of a testimonial hearing is the testimonies. “I recognize that tradition is we hold the members, the witnesses here for sometimes an hour through opening statements,” Issa said. “That is a tradition that I intend to break.”

5.) Is Mitt Romney playing hard to get? — The New Hampshire GOP believes that the race for the Republican presidential nomination “will come down to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney—and the rest,” reports National Journal. But what New Hampshire Republicans can’t figure out is why Romney is not buying them chocolates and asking them to “go necking” in his drop-top Chevy. “As other contenders hit the trail, Romney has left his best battleground undefended for four months,” writes National Journal. “He has not held a public event in New Hampshire since late October” and “His next scheduled stop is an address to the Carroll County Republican Committee’s annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner, on March 5.” If Romney is not careful, this is going to get messy, like “The Notebook.”

6.) Senate Republicans check themselves into rehab — “As part of what appeared to be a desperate cry for help with their addiction to spending other people’s money, a group of Senate Republicans requested Wednesday that Congress assist them in kicking the habit by passing a strict balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” reports TheDC’s Chris Moody. “Led by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the amendment would cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, require Congress to take measures to meet a budget, and force the president to submit a balanced budget except in times of war. Senate Republicans said Wednesday that without a rule requiring them to balance the budget, they would never be able to bring themselves to do it on their own.”