Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Latham's Nevada Fiasco

I made it to Tom Latham's forum today in Nevada. He got an earful from the 40 to 50 or so people who were there. The crowd was over 50% seniors, and they were clearly against privatization of Social Security. Latham is not well informed on the subject and tried to regurgitate Republican talking points, but I do not think many in the room were buying it. About half of the forum was on Social Security, which was the stated subject. But a number of other issues came up, including the bankruptcy bill, benefits for reservists, the budget deficit, and the war. He had some signs for the dog and pony SS show that the White House and Tom Delay are making him give, but he never even got a chance to go through them. Many people asked good, pointed questions, and Latham was clearly on the spot. It was great!

The privatization of Social Security came up several times, and that is what I asked about, too. I pointed out that the Republicans earlier (Bush just a few months ago during the campaign) used the word privatization to describe their plan to divert the payroll tax from the SS insurance program to personal retirement accounts. Now with the current Republican doublespeak, they say their plan is not privatization. I pointed out to Latham that his web site and the pamphlet he mailed out stated he is adamantly opposed to privatization, and I was glad to see that. But is he really opposed to Bush's privatization plan? He then tried to redefine privatization, and he would not say one way or another if he supported Bush's privatization plan. Others pointed out to him how misleading he is with his stated opposition to privatization. I think he is very vulnerable on this issue, and he came off to many as quite evasive and deceiving on this and other issues. I hope he gets the same response at his other forums.

His two biggest mistakes were in answering why eliminating or raising the cap on the SS payroll tax wouldn’t fly and on the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. To the first question, he said that if the rich paid more SS payroll tax, that they would more than get it back in increased SS benefits when they retired, and there would be even less money available for other people’s benefits - this is absolutely the dumbest response to a SS question that I ever heard, and I later explained to him that benefits are not in a 1:1 ration to the amount of tax put in. He did not argue with me on that, and I think he realized he made a very stupid statement.

On the second to last question, a woman asked if he remembered a forum at the North Grand Mall when Latham told her that the war in Iraq was worth the cost and that we will eventually find those weapons of mass destruction. Did he still feel that way today? He made a joke that they were out of time and they should end it there, and he and some of the audience laughed. She said soberly that she did not think it was funny. Latham was then embarrassed and agreed that it was a serious matter, and he gave the White House talking points that everyone thought Sadam had WMDs (a chorus rang out that “I didn’t”) and how democracy is spreading in the Middle East. What an ass!

The very last question was from a senior who said “If the majority of your constituents feel one way about the SS issue and Tom Delay feels the other way, then who are you going to side with?” Latham said he would take the side of his friends, them realized that that was ambiguous and added “you are my friends.” We’ll see. I think most of those in room knew that Tom Delay is a much bigger friend and that Latham will sell us out.

I strongly encourage you all to go to any of the upcoming forums that Latham has planned over the next month. You can tell he is uncomfortable selling the Republican bullshit on SS and other issues. And I think a lot of people have a much more negative impression of him now.

Please attend the other forums and ask tough questions.


Blogger Jon said...

Wow, Tom, that is great! Thanks for posting this, and thanks for attending the forum! We are really going to have to try to attend one of these. I wonder if he will can the idea if he doesn't think they are going well?

10:52 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I don't think he can stop the forums. It is pretty clear that the White House and Tom Delay are pressuring these guys to go out and sell the SS privatization scheme. Latham didn't do it last month when he was supposed to, they pushed him harder, and here he is. The Republican congressmen don't want to do this because they know it can only hurt their re-election chances next year. The more people that turn out for the forums, the worse it is for Latham.

Also, I think it would be better if it is more than just senior citizens that show up. If younger and middle-age voters also voice opposition to privatization, then it will make Latham even more nervous.

9:35 AM  

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