Robert Dreyfuss

Robert Dreyfuss is a senior correspondent for The American Prospect. He is the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. He can be reached through his website.

Recent Articles

The Biggest Deal: Lobbying to Take Social Security Private

Privatizing Social Security would create an enormous financial bonanza. So guess who's spending millions to change public perceptions and national policy.

N ot long ago, the Wall Street Journal called privatizing Social Security "the biggest bonanza in the history of the mutual fund industry." No wonder: By diverting 2 percent of payroll from Social Security into private accounts, the government could shunt $60 billion a year into the coffers of investment firms, banks, and insurance companies. And some advocates of privatization, such as the libertarian Cato Institute, want to replace Social Security entirely with individual, IRA-like accounts that would end the government's role once and for all in providing for the security of retirees. Proposals for privatizing Social Security have circulated on the right-wing margins of American politics for decades. Not even the Reagan administration would embrace the idea. For years, tampering with Social Security was considered politically untouchable. The 43 million people who typically receive 30 to 40 percent of their income from the program—many of them members of the American Association of...

Hardball

I f anyone had any doubt that the former Texas Rangers official in the White House plays hardball, the newly created President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security erases it. This is the Nolan Ryan approach to political combat: Here comes my high, hard one. Hit it if you can. By shamelessly naming a team of committed privatizers to the panel, President Bush has demonstrated political courage that liberals can only wish Democrats might display. Jauntily tying himself to the proverbial third rail of American politics, Bush ignored the rules that normally govern Washington commissions. Usually, a commission assigned to deal with a thorny political problem draws on a wide range of perspectives, with one of two purposes: Either it's designed to discuss a problem politely until the urgency goes away, allowing politicians to duck an issue, or it uses its bipartisan cast to make unpopular decisions that diffuse the political onus equally. [See "Sins of Commission," by Michael Lipsky and...

Bush's House of Cards

O n a sweltering morning in late July, 300 demonstrators, rallying to defend Social Security against President Bush's plan to dismantle it, swarmed around the presidential limousine as it pulled up in front of the Capital Hilton. Inside the hotel, members of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security--which is supposed to come up with a program that replaces a chunk of Social Security with uninsured private-investment accounts--were getting ready to meet. Peering down at the gathering through a pulled-back curtain on the second floor were Mike Tanner and David John, analysts from right-wing think tanks--the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, respectively--that have drafted privatization schemes and provided the commission with staffers. "So that's the working class!" huffed John, not impressed. The limousine door opened, and President Bush emerged looking only slightly more goggle-eyed and clueless than usual. The revved-up crowd--which had been chanting, "Hey,...

Body Count

For congressional Democrats, losing the White House meant the loss of more than the president's veto power over Republican-sponsored legislation. It also left the Democrats without a central idea factory and place to commune with the Democratic Party's constituency groups. "The loss of the White House left us in a vacuum," said a staffer for the Democratic House leadership. "In the past, the administration served as the nexus, in charge of coordinating with outside groups." House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut have stepped into the void. In April they convened the first of what are likely to be weekly strategy sessions with a wide range of groups. Off the record and closed to reporters, the meetings are set up as two-way discussions to help House Democrats deal with GOP initiatives. "They're supposed to allow us to respond quickly to presidential initiatives and to the agenda in Congress," said Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's legislative...

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