Thursday, September 08, 2011


Jennifer Rubin, a reliable peddler of right-wing talking points at The Washington Post, is surprisingly negative about the GOP's presidential front-runner, Rick Perry -- she's written post after post in the past couple of days about his failings. In this one, she approvingly quotes denunciations by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove of Perry's angry Social Security talk, and she frets -- heck, she almost sounds like a liberal -- about an alternate Social Security plan that's in place in a few Texas counties, one that the Perry campaign has cited approvingly. Here's a summary of the plan, as described by a judge in one of the affected counties (PDF):

An election was called for all county employees for the fall of 1980. Newly and completely sold on the Alternate Plan, my colleagues and I campaigned for its passage. It passed by a 3 to 1 margin. The Galveston Commissioners Court then voted 4 to 1 to implement the Plan on January 1, 1981....

The payroll taxes of workers were deposited in personal retirement accounts that then purchased commercial banking and life insurance products already available in the marketplace -- like bank CDs (certificates of deposit) and annuities -- as well as government and commercial bonds, all with fixed and guaranteed rates of interest. It was this approach that sold my colleagues, and me because it essentially eliminated risk from the program.

Rubin writes:

It's not clear how rates of interest are "guaranteed."

So understand that if you were in the minority in the employee elections and wanted to keep your Social Security benefits, you could have been outvoted by your peers. The idea raises numerous concerns. Among them: How does it work when you transfer to a job with standard Social Security? If your plan goes bust, are you out of luck?

What is surprising is how ill-thought-out this appears to be.

I bring all this up because Rubin had a very, very different reaction when Paul Ryan proposed doing to Medicare something extremely similar to what Perry admires regarding Social Security. When Ryan was defending that privatization plan, Rubin praised it in a post with the gushy title "Rep. Paul Ryan: In Defense of Liberty, Prosperity and Modern Conservatism." She wrote:

...this is not a man looking to pull out welfare by the roots, but rather to prune and shape it for the long term.

But you remember the Ryan plan -- it's not a "pruning" job. Why the praise for him and not for Perry?

Because Perry is saying out loud that he's hostile to these programs. Ryan is just as hostile, but he's politic enough to deny it, and to pretend that he's just giving Medicare some tough love. When Rubin praised Ryan, it wasn't yet clear that the public understood the real meaning of his pretty words.

Whatever she might tell you, it's clear that Rubin worries less about Perry's plan than about the way he talks with an election coming up. Perry is like a lizard-headed alien in a sci-fi movie who's supposed to leave his mask on until he and his fellow lizards have conquered Earth. Rubin is cursing Perry for prematurely removing the mask.