Give Sleaze A Chance

social security graphic, with hand reaching for cash AP

This column was written by CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer.
Earnest and well-intentioned people across our earnest and well-intentioned country are all lathered because some of the folks who brought us the Swift Boat Veterans ads against John Kerry have now started a group called USA Next that is running ads against the AARP. They don't want the AARP to fight against President Bush's Social Security proposals. So the ads say that the AARP opposed our boys in uniform but supports boys who want to marry each other.

The earnest and well-intentioned think it's scurrilous and degrading to bring campaign dirty tricks into the serious business of fundamental social policy. I mean this is heavy stuff — intergenerational ethics, greedy geezers, the fiscal rights of the unborn, out years, privatization, assumed rates of returns. This is for the grown-ups.

Well, I say let's give sleaze a chance.

It's not like the "grown-ups" have done such a great job. This is like the fifth Social Security "crisis" we've had just since they cancelled "Dynasty." And we're still hearing about how the system's crash is hiding just beyond the next dawn of red ink. The massive and greedy Baby Boom generation, we've been told endlessly, is going to retire in velvet on the backs of people named Tiffany and Ethan who are now six and will be taxed at 104 percent when they get jobs. It's really bad!

But the grown-ups haven't managed to get much done except gridlock themselves into pretzels of pandering. Commissions, schlomissisions. Politicians, schmoliticans.

Let's give the dirty tricksters a turn. After all, they have managed to provide the past few couple of presidents of the United States of America and that's not chopped liver.

I think linking the AARP to gay marriage is brilliant. The response is obvious: George Soros and Rob Reiner need to secretly fund a Cayman Island based 527 advocacy group called Anti-Social Security (ASS) that will spend $487 million on television ads that link the Bush private accounts plans to forced female circumcision right here in America. Duh.

Obviously, the White House would then set up a slush fund run out of the bovine research shop at USDA to bribe Paul Krugman, Al Franken and The Nation magazine to flip-flop and support private accounts. Blackmail is reasonable option, too, and maybe cheaper. Maybe more fun.

The Dems could hit back in a couple ways. First they need to dig up some dirt on the economists who came up with whole private accounts concept. I heard there's a public finance economist at the University of Chicago had an illegal nanny for a couple months when his wife was in rehab a few years ago.

They obviously need front a group called Gulf War Vets With Really Sad Stories Against Private Social Security Accounts (GWVWRSSAPSSA) and book them on Oprah, Dr. Phil and The Daily Show.

And they really need some push polling that asks millions of Americans questions like, "If you knew that privatizing Social Security, as George W. Bush wants to do right this very second, would cause 56 percent of all seniors to eat dog food and also spark an outbreak of nostril-based psoriasis in women between 22 and 53…would you still support the president's plan?"

Finally, the Republicans need a Willie Horton ad. I suggest they consider the case of Wilmer Snizeman of Hull, Massachusetts. Snizeman, according to reports published on bureaucratichellblog.org, was so upset when Democratic bureaucrats in his local Social Security Administration office told him he couldn't open a private account that he went out and molested 16 pre-teens boys in a bowling alley. Snizeman had never been in trouble with the law before. I see it as a 60-second spot with Wilford Brimley narrating.

Until America gets this involved, in this way — they way we're used to, we're not going to have a serious debate about these issues. Senate hearings? Congressional Budget Office Reports? Blue ribbon panels? That is so elitist and soooooo 20th century. We need something to juice up the bloggers, spice up the talk shows and set talk radio on fire.

We need the kind of modern democracy money buys these days.


Dick Meyer, a veteran political and investigative producer for CBS News, is the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com, based in Washington.

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