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March 05, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Joshua Micah Marshall Gets Shrill Department)

Today his screeds of unbalanced shrillness are directed against George W. Bush, and against Anne Kornblut and Sam Roberts of the New York Times:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: February 27, 2005 - March 05, 2005 Archives: "The more he sinks the more he lies. In fact, I'm not even sure 'lying' quite does it justice. He just makes it up as he goes along now.... [T]here's been a debate... over private accounts carved out of Social Security [vs] 'add-on' accounts... in addition to Social Security. The add-on terminology has become close to universal in large part because it accurately describes what is being discussed.

Indeed, as recently as yesterday, Secretary Snow said that while the president greatly preferred [carve-out] private accounts as part of Social Security... he was willing to put add-ons on the table if Democrats would negotiate.... On the same day, the Post helpfully pointed out that though Snow was sent out to signal willingness to compromise, the president was only doing this to lure Democrats to the table ...

Snow told reporters that Bush also has not ruled out embracing a plan backed by many Democrats to create government-subsidized personal savings accounts outside the existing system. White House officials are privately telling Republicans that Bush is opposed to the idea but does not want to say so because it would appear he is not willing to compromise.

But that was yesterday. Now, realizing that the add-on terminology is less toxic than his Social Security privatization policy, the president has decided that privatization really is an add-on after all....

This is a retirement account we're talking about.... See, personal accounts is an add-on to that which the government is going to pay you. It doesn't replace the Social Security system....

Now we would be remiss if we did not note that the Times article covering the day's events adopted what can only be called a singularly generous approach to the president's word games....

Bush did not retreat from his plan to divert some payroll taxes into individual accounts... he shifted his language... describing the popular program as a 'safety net' and borrowing a term for the types of accounts some Democrats have favored, 'add-on' accounts outside the Social Security benefit system, to now describe his version of private accounts.

Where to start? In a case where A and B are fundamentally different and you take the term for A and apply it to B, that is not usually known as 'borrowing'. I'm not sure whether 'lying' or 'deceiving' or something else altogether is a better term for it. But this isn't borrowing. It's simply an effort to mislead....

Posted by DeLong at March 5, 2005 08:45 AM