Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nancy Pelosi: Being the first female Speaker among her lesser accomplishments

 (picture from Nancy Pelosi's Flickr)

After reading a few articles this week about how Nancy Pelosi is taking Medicare off the table in budget negotiations I was reminded of how important she was as minority leader in 2005 when the Republicans tried to kill "privatize" Social Security. To set this point up I think it's important to point out that back in 2005 all the pundits claimed that electing Pelosi as minority leader was a huge mistake. She was obviously too liberal for middle America, and by electing her the Dems had consigned themselves to losing in the 2006 midterms. Obviously that didn't happen, but it's what happened between the 2004 election and the 2006 midterms that this post is about. In 2005, having won reelection Bush decided it was time to fulfill a major conservative dream: the privatization of Social Security. Bush's proposal was incredibly bad, as most proposals to fix the "Social Security crisis" seem to be (whether something can be called a crisis if literally doing nothing is a reasonable proposal is up for debate. See also: deficit crisis). Bush's proposal cut benefits in order to put the money in the hands of Wall Street where rich people would do that thing they do where the turn money into more money and everyone would be happy. The problem is that, right now, almost every dollar which goes into Social Security goes to a recipient and gets spent. That means that to give everyone their own account to invest, either benefits have to be cut or taxes have to be raised. Naturally, the Republicans decided to cut benefits.

At this point many Democrats in the house were ready to negotiate, and wanted to come up with their own proposal to fix Social Security. Fortunately, Nancy Pelosi came up with an alternative brilliant in its simplicity: nothing. When asked when the Democrats would be putting out their alternative she would respond with never. Naturally this shocked many people, but the plan worked. Pelosi was able to attack the Republican plan relentlessly. Her strategy turned a common Frank Lutz Approved Republican term into political poison. One libertarian website actually rewrote several of its articles to remove any reference to privatizing.

Today it seems that Pelosi is poised to repeat this success. With the Republican majority in the house anxious to put Medicare on the chopping block Pelosi is standing firm. As well she should. If there's any program in America more popular than Social Security it's Medicare. Right now, the Democrats are poised to pick up a seat in NY-26 all because the Republican nominee supported Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare. Pelosi is poised to attack, and I'm sure all the pundits will claim she's moving her party too far to the left, or that we have to kill Medicare in order to save it. But I'll bet that by 2013 Pelosi will be Speaker again if the Republicans keep on attacking Medicare, and she will have had a huge hand in saving two of the most important strands of the American safety net.

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