Defined benefits and defined contributions

Guest-poster Camilo Wilson lives in Monterey, California. He has had a long, long career in computers and software, including writing the popular VolksWriter word processor and publishing Correct Grammar and the American Heritage Dictionary. He is the founder of his very privately held cogix.com. He studied political philosophy in Berkeley in the 60's and incorporated that world view into a self-designated fiscally responsible liberal in 1980. He likes living in the forest.

Currently, Social Security pays a predictable amount until the end your days, just like a "defined benefit plan". The privatization proposals take 2/3 of employee contributions and invest them in a classical "defined contribution plan".

This terminology is important, as many people who care about retirement understand the difference perfectly well. A defined benefit spells out what you're going to get, and it is the government/employer's problem how it will meet its obligations, not yours. A defined contribution plan relieves that burden from the government/employee and transfers it squarely onto you, who now must make wise investment choices to make the money last until the end of your days.

The need to invest aggressively guarantees that people will make poor choices, and makes them specially vulnerable to greedy promoters. With the privatization option, you're giving up a rock solid, predictable pension for the rest of your life in return for a small amount of money you can gamble put to work today.

There Is No Crisis

There Is No Crisis is liveblogging the Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing on Social Security.

Who are the "Rational Conservatives"?

(As most STF readers know by now, since the election I've been alternating between fairly reasonable posts, and gloom and doom. This one is gloom and doom. I originally posted it, in somewhat different form, on the Crooked Timber comments, where some classic illiberals were defiantly holding the fort .)

Since the election I believe more than I ever did that all significant political debates in the US are now just matters of affiliation. Bush is in the driver’s seat, and people can affiliate for him or against him.

The otherwise-rational conservatives who remain on Bush’s team remain there on the basis of a personal anti-liberal existential commitment that they made after some life-changing experience, perhaps after rehabbing from drugs while blaming liberalism for all their problems. (The pro-conservative aspect of that kind of rehab is always weaker than the anti-liberal one).

For them to cease to be illiberals now would require a second existential crisis, and most people don’t want to have too many of those in one lifetime.

It’s not just Iraq. There still are many who, flying in the face of 24 years of political reality, call themselves fiscal conservatives and for that reason absolutely refuse ever to vote for a Democrat. Their politics is like their body type, changable only with major surgery.

The starve-the-beast Armageddonist neo-Confederate World War Four advocates are influencing policy now, and we aren’t -- and neither are the hapless rational conservatives who continue to support Bush. We’re just watching, and so are they (whether they know it or not.)

People are pleased that Bush’s attempt to destroy social security seems to be failing, but that’s sort of as though Boston, all alone, were making a stout defense against the forces of Robert E Lee. Bush has the Democrats fighting in their last ditch.

And no, I don’t think that I am the irrational one here. The Bush loyalists are a bunch of very sick puppies. Arguing with them is pointless.

Update: Corrected from New York City to Boston per Lizardbreath.

Arnold No Moderate

Just look at what he is doing!

California regulators suspend wireless customer protections:
"California utility regulators on Thursday suspended an 8-month-old crackdown on abusive practices in the wireless telephone industry, rebuffing the protests of consumer activists and the state's top law enforcement officials.

[. . .] the PUC's makeup has changed with the terms of two commissioners expiring. [. . .] ...first week on the job after being appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month. Schwarzenegger has appointed high-tech entrepreneur Steve Poizner to fill the PUC's remaining board seat.

[. . .] "I fear what we are going to start to hear is that what's good for business is necessarily good for consumers, and we know that's just not so," said Robert Finkelstein, executive director for The Utility Reform Network.

[. . .] The decision also provoked objections from consumer groups, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and all 58 district attorneys in California.

The district attorneys say widespread consumer complaints about the wireless phone industry are diverting their attention from other law enforcement issues. "
You get the picture. Consumers of California, vuck ovv! Big corporations rule!
Iraqifying Social Security


Our Rule

Remember the Seeing the Forest rule: when you see a Republican accusing others of something, it means they are probably doing that thing. So we have a Republican reporter, (the same one mentioned in an earlier post) saying,
"the press corps, which, of course, deserves to be gone around because they're not telling the truth about Social Security reform. They continue to work off of the talking points provided them from the opposition."
Got that? He's accusing "the press corps" of using Liberal talking points. So a little research uncovers ... wanna guess? Oh yes! Talon News "reporter" lifts from GOP documents.

Simon Rosenberg For DNC Chair

I am a reform Democrat. My endorsement for the DNC Chair race goes to Simon Rosenberg first, second to Howard Dean, third to Donnie Fowler. I'd be very happy if any of these three win, and the Party will benefit greatly. (I also have some comments on Dean at the end of this post.)

My endorsement of Simon is based on his plan, "Renewing the DNC: Simon's Plan". Regardless of your own choice for a DNC Chair, please read his plan. Information about Simon is available online at SimonForChair.org. Info on Dean for Chair is available at DeanForChair.org. Info on Fowler is available at ChangeTheParty.org.

I'll let Simon's plan speak for itself. From his plan, (and regular readers will understand that this is close to my heart):
"A New Commitment to Persuasion, Advocacy, and Mobilization

One of the greatest tasks in the next four years will be to move all the parties into the 21st century communications era. My background as a successful television writer and producer, veteran of the Clinton War Room, manager of the 31 state Clinton communications operations in 1992, technologist, often-quoted spokesperson, and seasoned message-crafter makes me uniquely qualified among the candidates for Chair to take on this challenge. I come from the successful Clinton school that built our politics around a powerful, optimistic vision for our nation, and believe that we must make modern advocacy a more important core competency of our parties in the years ahead.

At the core of the new politics of advocacy are changes in media and technology. We are leaving a 50 year-long run of the broadcast era of political communications, where the model was a single message centrally managed and broadcast out to many. The new era we are entering requires a much more distributed, real time, personal, and intimate type of communications. The vital investment by Terry McAuliffe in the DNC Datamart has given all of us the opportunity to build a new politics for a new era of communication that will require us putting people once again at the very center of our Party.

To facilitate our adoption of new techniques and learning, I will create a New Politics Institute at the DNC. The NPI will be charged with bringing in some of the top technologists, social networkers, netroots and community activists and media executives to help us together imagine and implement a new 21st century politics built up from people and databases using the very latest technology.

In the years ahead, succeeding at the new politics and countering the conservative machine also will require the party?s willingness to partner with think tanks, policy shops, commentator/bloggers, interested academics, and governments that Democrats control. Having worked at a think tank, and as a veteran of the successful Clinton policy years, I can bring concrete expertise in forging these vital national and state links. For more details on how I plan to utilize the ?blogosphere,? please visit my web site at www.simonforchair.org."
Naturally a lot of readers will wonder why I endorse Simon over Dean when I was an enthusiastic support of Dean for President? My reason is that the DNC Chair is primarily a "behind-the-scenes" nuts-and-bolts position. I agree with Dean that reform of the party is badly needed, but I believe this will actually be better accomplished by electing Simon Rosenberg. If you read Simon's plan you will see the level of detail that is behind his run for DNC Chair. This guy has thought it through.

I also believe that Howard Dean would be a GREAT candidate for President in 2008. But becoming DNC Chair means pledging not to run for President in 2008. I have heard many Dean supporters say that after everyone sees how well Dean does as DNC Chair, they'll ask him to run anyway. I don't see where the idea of taking a pledge not to run in 2008 means running in 2008, and I trust that he means it! And this brings in the issue of party unity. Dean represents a wing of the party. I support that wing. But I remember how the Dean people felt when we thought the DNC was opposing Dean. I can imagine how this could be usable as a wedge to divide all the other parts of the Democratic Party coalition during the next election. And, finally, what becomes of Dean's organization Democracy for America should he become DNC Chair? This is one of the most vital, valuable movement organizations I have seen, and I think it is very important that it retains its independent-of-the-party role. This would be hard to do with its leader serving as DNC Chair.

So if you are a voting DNC member, please consider Simon Rosenberg to be Party Chair.

(Other Seeing the Forest writers might have other preferences.)

What do YOU think? Leave a comment.

Update - this MyDD diary.

Press Conferences From Now On

Earlier today I linked to a story about how government employees will soon be paid according to the level of service they are performing in the effort to consolidate the power of The Party. I have previously posted links to stories about people being fired for opposing Bush, or doctors refusing to see them as patients anymore, or getting tickets for having bumper stickers opposiing Bush... All ovre the blogosphere we are reading stories about reporters being intimidatred for using "private accounts" language even though the President used the same wording as recently as last week.

Now we have a glimpse of what to expect from the press in the future. Chris at MyDD has a post about a MEMBER OF THE PRESS prefacing a question to the President with the following,
"[H]ow are you going to work with people [Democratic leaders] who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"
Watch your backs.

Fraud In Ohio

The Sideshow has a story about possible fraud in the Ohio recounts.

Troll Policy

Many Progressive bloggers have been noticing a recent increase in "trolls" -- right-wingers showing up and disrupting the comments. The recent trolls also seem more sophisticated. Whatever the reason for the increase, I'm not going to let them disrupt Seeing the Forest.

If you want to have a discussion in the comments here, that is encouraged. In fact I have even invited commenters with opposing viewpoints to be guest posters here.

If you (are a right-winger and) insult other people in a comment, your comment will be deleted and you will be banned, which means you will be unable to post comments here from then on. (Left wingers are free to insult right-wingers at will in the comments.) If you insult me or another Seeing the Forest writer, or say anything even remotely unpleasant about the blog, your comment will be deleted and you will be banned. If I even catch a whiff that you are a professional, or that you are a skilled volunteer familiar with the current right-wing talking-points and tactics, constructive comments or not, you will be banned and won't get your bonus.

Democrats Fired, Not Hired

Now that the Party has merged withthe State, new employent policies will be in effect. From the story,
"A raise or promotion -- moving up in a pay range or rising to the next one -- will depend on receiving a satisfactory performance rating from" ... the Party.


Ted Turner compares Fox to Nazis

MediaLife reports that Ted Turner, founder of CNN, compared Fox News to the Nazis during his address to the National Association for Television Programming Executives conference in Las Vegas yesterday. He conceded that Fox News has passed CNN in terms of viewers, but also pointed out that Adolph Hitler got the most votes when he was elected to run Germany before World War II. Ted called Fox News the “ Bill O’Reilly network” and said it is “a propaganda tool for the Bush administration, and while that may be legal, it’s bad for our democracy.” Fox said it is sour grapes on Ted’s part because FNC has surpassed Turner network CNN in the ratings. However, Turner is not the only TV notable to compare Fox to the Nazis this week.” “Gilmore Girls” executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino called Fox network show American Idol” “like the Nazis marching through Poland. You just got to let them go. Get out of the way. We’re kind of France going, ‘You know, just don’t burn down Paris, that’s all we’re asking.’”

During my own experience with Ted in launching an environmental program on TBS and socializing at CNN parties when my wife was VP at CNN, Ted told a story about the time he and Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of Fox, once went skiing on Ted’s ranch. “There we were on our skies, stopped on a cliff overlooking the valley. Just one little shove from me, and ….” May have something to do with Ted's oft- stated reason for selling Turner Broadcasting System to Time-Warner...he was afraid Murdoch would get it in a hostile takeover.

Comment Of The Month!

praktike wins the coveted Seeing the Forest "Comment Of The Month" award. Regular reads of Seeing the Forest will know what a rare and true honor this is. See praktike's comment in context, following Matthew Yglesias: Personal Or Private post.

The National Mood of Intimidation

High School Journalist Faces Firing:
"When high school journalist Ann Long sent a recent edition of her school's newspaper to the printer, she hoped her profile of three gay students would generate some discussion in the hallways.

But she didn't expect to be punished for writing the article."
The national mood of intimidation is getting worse. If you write pro-Bush stuff, you get government money. If you oppose Bush and the Right, you get fired, arrested, refused service, beat up, canceled, taken off airplanes, etc. It doesn't have to happen every time for the "message" to be clear.

Bush Sends Holocaust Denier to Ukraine Inauguration

Mary beat me to it. I was going to kink to this story, and then I saw that Mary at Left Coaster beat me to it, so I'll link to her instead. (It's a blog thing.)
A delegation sent by President Bush to Ukraine's presidential inauguration last weekend included a Ukrainian-American activist who has accused Jews of manipulating the Holocaust for their gain and blamed them for Soviet-era atrocities in Ukraine.

Bush Said Social Security Would Be Bankrupt In 1988!

Chris at MyDD has a great story up, Social Security Will Be Bankrupt in 1988. In 1978 Bush, running for Congress, said Social Security would be bankrupt in ten years. As Chris puts it,
Back then, he was completely wrong. Now, he is just lying.


No on Gonzales

I'm writing this to add my voice to Daily Kos :: No on Gonzales:
"With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him."
Go to the original post to see which bloggers have signed up so far.

Why Republicans Win

A typical generic blog post written by a Progressive in the last several months would read something like this: "Everyone can sum up the Republican core beliefs in a sentence or two, while Progressives need to search for a candidate who can articulate core Progressive values." Some bloggers might also refer to George Lakoff's "framing" work as a solution to the problem. Not being able to explain your product concept in a sentence is a classic marketing problem, and what these posts show is a budding awareness that Republicans have been outmarketing Democrats. Think about this - if you are in a "red state" area you are told a hundred different ways every day why business is good and government is bad and why unregulated free markets work better than democracy. But you are never told the other side of the story.

The Republicans win because the modern Right has developed around the core idea of persuading people to support their ideology, which then leads to support for their issues and candidates. In other words: marketing. The Right developed this persuasion capability in reaction to the dominance of the existing "liberal establishment." Because of this, most of their organizations are designed as advocacy and communications organizations, with the mission of reaching the general public and explaining what right-wing ideas are and why they are better for people. Today's Progressives, on the other hand, think there already is a public consensus supporting their ideals and values, so they have not developed a culture that is oriented around persuading people, and their organizations are not designed at their core to persuade the public to support them.

For example, everyone used to think that it is moral to help the poor or protect the environment, so there are organizations that are designed to do that. Then along comes the right, funding organizations designed to convince people it is wrong to do these things. The result today is that on one side you have organizations trying to help the poor, protect the environment, etc. On the other you have organizations telling people what those organizations are doing is wrong. But now you have no one explaining to people that it is GOOD to help the poor and protect the environment so over time support for helping the poor obviously will erode and eventually the organizations that help the poor will be in trouble and have little public support.

So you can see how things got to be the way they are. Democrats understand themselves as a political party, not as a movement. The party grew out of a time when people already understood why they were Democrats or not, so there was no need for organizations that talked to the general public about why it is good to be a Democrat. Instead the party naturally focused on elections. And it is still that way. Democrats look for the "right candidates" to appeal to voters. The candidate is expected to "voice" the issues, and develop messaging that works, and is expected to do it after putting together a campaign team, which happens during and after the primaries. The Democrats use the election cycle as a time to come up with specific "issues" and "messages" and educate the voters. Then the campaign is supposed to reach the voters and educate them about the candidate and the issues... This is the old way of understanding politics. The problem is that times have changed -- they have been changed by the rise of "movement conservatism."

On the Right, they developed their movement in response to the existing liberal consensus, which means that their movement developed based on the idea of changing people's minds away from those liberal ideas and values. So the result is that today the Right is structured around persuasion, while the Democrats are not. And their organizations have spent decades studying how best to persuade people.

For Republicans, functions like message and issue development are handled by the multitude of "conservative movement" organizations, not the Republican Party or its candidates. A Republican candidates' job is to voice the messages of the Right but not to develop the messages, like a Democratic candidate is expected to do. The job of Republican campaigns is to take advantage of the issues that their constituency has already been exposed to, not to define the issues from scratch like Democrat candidates have to do. And the Party's job is to harvest the voters at election time.

Organizations like the Heritage Foundation comprise the persuasion machine of the Right. Republican candidates get their talking points from these organizations. They get their issues - tort reform, Social Security privatization, NCLB Act, etc. - from these organizations. The organizations spend years educating the public about the particulars -- "lawsuit abuse", woman gets a million for spilling hot coffee in a moving car, environmentalism costs jobs, Social Security is going broke, etc. They do the core research to learn how to reach the public, what words to use, etc. A focus group might show that some voters will change their minds if they think Democrats are "rich elites who drink lattes" and a week later every single columnist, talking head, talk show host, etc. is saying that Democrats are rich elitists who drink lattes. It is not about their candidates -- I mean, look who they run! Compare Bush the person or the candidate to Gore or Kerry, and then try to tell me it is about the candidates!

The Party is not the SOUL (ideology) of the Right. It is the other way around: the Right and their organizations are the soul of the Party. And what is the Right, in this context, at this time? Understanding this points us to a path out of this.

The Right as I use it is the "conservative movement" -- a few hundred well-funded ($300 million per year that is NOT counted as "election spending") and centrally coordinated (Grover Norquist, Philanthropy Roundtable, etc.) advocacy organizations, all preaching right-wing "free-market" ideology. They preach the ideology. They persuade people. THEY define the issues and educate the public. Not the Party, not the candidates, not the campaigns.

The way out of this is to understand that we need to EDUCATE AND PERSUADE THE GENERAL PUBLIC about the fact that core Progressive ideas and values are good for them. What we are instead doing now is spending a LOT of money on narrow-interest environmental and other kinds of interest organizations that largely talk to the converted. Environmentalists have to combine forces with civil justice advocates, consumer litigation advocates, peace activists, etc. and all together go after the Right AS ONE.

We need to change what our existing organizations see as their core mission. They need to understand that the public consensus they thought they have is not there anymore. They need to understand that to survive a good part of their effort has to be toward persuading the public that the core progressive values of democracy and community are good, and benefit them, and only then can they also do the work that before now they thought was their core mission, be it environmentalism, helping the poor, or whatever else they do.

And, more important, we all need to understand that new organizations have to be started, with their entire mission being to educate and persuade the general public that core progressive values of democracy and community, and all the things that means, are better for them than right-wing ideology.

See Don't Blame the Democrats.


Matt Wrote A Great Post

Matt's History Is Never Past is a great post:
"The post-Civil War thinkers, pragmatists, believed that truth - objective truth - is a real notion, but that objective truth cannot be owned by any one person. It can only be owned by a social group, if at all. Diversity of perspectives, and real critical debate and discussion, led to the scientific method and the modern notion of science and academia. Right-wingers believe either that there is no such thing as truth, only interpretative variations that are a proxy for power, or that truth is held by atomized individuals or groups.

[. . .] Liberals are those who see the endpoint of a media system as a broad culture of tolerance, discussion, and argument leading to a socially higher truth. Reactionaries either want to limit participation to a small group of social liberals or conservatives, or the more extreme version of the them seek to remove the concept of truthfulness from discourse altogether."













Approaching the Post-Democratic Era

"We had planned for the new Not In Our Name statement of conscience to run on Friday, January 21, in the New York Times. We had a contract and a confirmation number. This ad was to be our answer to the inauguration, and it was timed to appear in the middle of the inauguration news coverage.

The ad did not run. The advertising department were themselves deeply surprised by this, and have not been able to explain what happened. In fact, we were told that to their knowledge this had never happened before.

At the same time, the Times lead editorial said that this should be a time of legitimacy and acceptance for the President -- and that this was especially something that the opposition has to come to terms with.

It is unacceptable that we do not yet know why something that "has never happened before" happened -- a full page paid ad, accepted and slotted in, did not run. This is especially so when the content of the ad, the need to resist the course that this administration has set, is so important to the people of this country and the world. There needs to be an investigation of what went wrong and why. If it was just an honest mistake, we expect that the Times itself would want to know why in order to prevent it from occurring again."

No-one is forcing the Times to run ads they don't care for. It's their paper.

They have no business ignoring their contractual obligations.

Perhaps Mr. Okrent would be interested in hearing what you think about this.

Yeah, well, perhaps you should tell him anyway.

. E-mail:public@nytimes.com>
. Phone: (212) 556-7652
. Address:
Public Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036-3959


Cut-and-pasted from Sisyphus Shrugged


One of the wingnut trolls assigned to Seeing the Forest asked in a comment below why don't Democratic leaders just go ahead and do something themselves about criminal acts by the Bush administration, if they really think it's so bad?

Democratic leaders do not have any power to investigate anything. They can not call hearings, they can not issue subpoenas, they can not ask the FBI. They can't even petition the courts -- that's what the whole thing about Bush's judicial appointments has been about.

The Right currently controls every single investigative and legal agent of our government, from top to bottom.

And, as a result of this, can any of the readers here think of even ONE member of the Bush administration - at any level - who has been held accountable for even one transgression of any kind, whatsoever? One who has even been fired? Even demoted? Even scolded?

I think this might be something to use against Republicans in Congress for the next election. Pick the ten worst examples of Bush corruption, and start going after heads of Congressional committees in their own districts for refusing to do anything about it! Letters-to-the-editor would be a good start, leading to radio and TV spots, leaflets, etc. Put the pressure on. Point out the corruption, but give it a target - the members of Congress who are not doing the job of holding people accountable for their acts.

I Never Seem To Learn

I never seem to learn. Why do I bother to even look at stuff like this anymore? Written by Howard Fineman should be a clue... The results of the Right's "conventional wisdom" machine - targeted straight at people like Fineman - at work before my eyes.
But the 477 DNC members who choose the party chair haven't settled on a leader of the 2005 version of the Anybody But Dean movement. For now, the front-running alternative is former congressman Martin Frost of Texas, a pro-labor moderate with a lifetime of traditional organizing who survived 13 terms in Dallas before the GOP redistricted him into oblivion. He's followed by Simon Rosenberg, a young Washington-based fund-raiser and strategist who claims to be as digitized and Net-friendly as Dean?and yet more popular than Dean among the bloggers, who are emerging as new grass-roots powers in the party. Pro-lifer Tim Roemer is also running.
Front-running alternative-to-Dean Martin Frost? Front-running?

The rest of the piece is just barely-readable mush (if you know anything about the subject he is covering). I suspect what is going on here is that the guy gets paid well, but has to come up with something every week. So he sends them stuff like this. Also, he has to write things that fit inside of his editors' understanding of what is going on in the world - their own views cooked by the "conventional wisdom" machine - so he has to write in divisive contradictory trivialities. Like this:
"As for Dean, he is playing it cool and trying to soothe fears within the citadel he may soon occupy. He has vowed not to run for president in '08 if elected chair? -- a kind of backhanded bribe that may induce many DNC members to vote for him."
The DNC delegates dislike Dean so much that they will put him in charge of the party just to keep him from running for President. What?

No wonder it was linked by Drudge.