The Note: Hanging on the Telephone

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei turns in a must-read with Sen. Grassley (who supports personal accounts) and Rep. Leach (who still isn't sure) sounding awfully pessimistic about the chances of President Bush's Social Security plan, as well as how the President has -- or hasn't -- been able to sell it. LINK

"'Today, the public has not found his personal account approach compelling,' Rep. Jim Leach . . . said in an interview late Tuesday, less than 24 hours before appearing with Bush at Kirkwood Community College here."

". . . Grassley, chairman of the Senate panel responsible for Social Security, said in a separate interview Tuesday afternoon: 'I don't think [Bush] has made much progress on solving the solvency issue or what to do about personal accounts. It concerns me because as time goes on, I was hoping the president would be able to make my job easier. We are not hearing from the grass roots that, by golly, you guys in Congress have to work on this.'"

Note also Grassley's comments that lawmakers may not have to pay a price with voters if Congress doesn't deal with Social Security this year.

Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont has Grassley saying he's "gaining confidence." LINK

Grassley says he'll hold hearings on Social Security legislation in July, regardless of whether the public is ready for 'em. LINK

Warren Vieth wraps the President's Social Security pitch in Cedar Rapids for the Los Angeles Times, emphasizing Bush's belief that critics who don't come to the table will pay "political price" but also Noting the still-stiff opposition from older Americans and essential groups, such as the AARP. LINK

Des Moines' AARP members went to lobby against Bush's Social Security proposal, calling it "smoke-blowing and posturing." LINK

The Washington Times' Amy Fagen trails Deputy SSA Commissioner James (not Joe) Lockhart on a tough Social Security sell to Kansas. In an outright challenge to caucus voters in Iowa, Sylvester Zollichoffee, 71, "came to the meeting armed with a printed transcript of a recent Senate Budget Committee hearing and a press release from Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND)." Somewhere, Stu Nagurka is thinking, 'There's absolutely nothing wrong with Kansas.' LINK

Headlines aside, the Washington Times' James Lakely examines the President's mid-60-day tour trip to Iowa, taking stock of both the AARP's opposition and Sen. Grassley's essential role in the process. LINK

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews takes a stab at the "Admin assumes anemic GDP but stellar rate of return" apple. LINK

And he buries this nugget at the end:

"White House officials may be revising their assumptions. N. Gregory Mankiw, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said Mr. Bush's proposed break-even rate of 3 percent on personal accounts may be too high. The yield on inflation-protected Treasury bonds is about 2 percent." LINK

"White House officials say they are open to proposals for changing the break-even point, which would raise the plan's cost, but Democratic lawmakers remain fundamentally opposed to Mr. Bush's plans."

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board blasts the AFL-CIO's efforts to pressure financial services firms to give up support for Social Security.

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