The Note: Blessed Is He Who Expects Nothing . . .

"Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the White House has privately assured him that the president will assist by offering his preferences on some of the most politically sensitive issues, such as whether to raise taxes or cut benefits to fix the system -- as well as what form the accounts would take. Grassley will hold the first Senate hearing on the Bush plan later this month, and his staff has started coordinating its efforts with the White House."

"But Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has been lobbying the White House to detail a solvency plan, said, 'It will be up to the president, not Senator Grassley, to generate momentum by being specific.'"

"There are many ways to fix Social Security, and White House aides are signaling they like the idea of reducing benefits, but not for the working poor; tightening eligibility restrictions; and, preferably, not significantly raising the cap on taxes, according to several Republicans who have discussed the issue with them. Al Hubbard, Bush's chief economist, and other White House policy advisers have come up with a list and are awaiting more details from Grassley and other key congressional Republicans on the blend of changes they prefer, a senior White House official said."

"The emerging Bush-Senate Republican strategy is to entice Democrats into the debate by first focusing on shoring up the system and then selling the private accounts as the smartest way to ease the pain of benefit cuts. All of this relies on Grassley's ability -- and willingness -- to push ahead on an issue some Republicans would rather avoid."

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman examines how President Bush's private accounts plan for Social Security is -- or isn't -- playing with the working poor, who his Administration insists has the most to gain from overhauling the system and taking ownership of their retirement. Some are too occupied with getting from day to day, Weisman writes, to be interested in shepherding these accounts, and last month's Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that support for private accounts increases with income level. LINK

An amazing story on Social Security was buried in Saturday's Los Angeles Times, in which Peter G. Gosselin and Ed Chen used the President's touting of the Ohio state employees retirement system to look at -- huh!! -- the system's rate of return and found it ain't that great. Imagine if this ran on a weekday New York Times front page. LINK

Newsweek's Jane Bryant Quinn isn't impressed by the double cut that the private accounts idea would bring to the Social Security system, writing that the payoff in increased earnings with private accounts wouldn't cover both and would end up costing retirees more than they'd gain. LINK

Cato President Ed Crane is a smart guy, but we're not sure whether he intended for this paragraph in his "memo" to Karl Rove to be amusing:

"You want to get people excited about personal accounts? Tell them about the 1960 Supreme Court case, Flemming v. Nestor, which explicitly says Americans have no ownership rights to the money they pay into Social Security. It is, the Court ruled, a social program of Congress with absolutely no contractual obligations. What you get back at retirement is entirely up to the 535 members of Congress. Where's the dignity in that?"

If the best advice he can give to Mr. Rove about how to better sell Social Security hinges on an interpretation of a Supreme Court case from 1960, well . . .

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