'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, March 17, 2005

How Bush's Number One Priority For His Second Term Is Going So Far 

When Republicans in Congress go home this weekend they aren't going to hold townhall media events because of the protests that greeted such meetings last month. From USA Today:

Shaken by raucous protests at open "town hall"-style meetings last month, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio and other GOP leaders are urging lawmakers to hold lower-profile events this time.

Republicans plan to heed President Bush's call Wednesday "to talk to their constituents not only about the problem, but about solutions" to Social Security's looming financial shortfall. The president wants to allow workers to divert some payroll taxes into private investment accounts. [ ... ]

This month, Republican leaders say they are chucking the open town-hall format. They plan to visit newspaper editorial boards and talk to constituents at Rotary Club lunches, senior citizen centers, chambers of commerce meetings and local businesses. In those settings, "there isn't an opportunity for it to disintegrate into something that's less desirable," says Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Apparently, the "something that's less desirable" is a photo op in which it is apparent that 65% of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of social security and that 58% say "the more they learn about Bush's Social Security plans, the more likely they are to oppose them"

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO plans to mobilize its members to protest corporations that back and stand to profit from Bush's plan to privatize the country's most successful social program. From the LA Times

The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor union, plans public protests against Charles Schwab Corp. and Wachovia Corp. because the companies back President Bush's plan for private Social Security accounts, a union official said Tuesday.

The union on March 31 will hold at least 50 events in dozens of cities, including rallies outside Schwab and Wachovia headquarters, as it intensifies a campaign against financial companies supporting Bush's plan, said Bill Patterson, AFL-CIO director of investment in Washington.

The union is trying to choke off funding to the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, the main business group backing the Bush plan. This month, Edward Jones & Co. and Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. withdrew from the group, which no longer lists members on its website.

"The campaign to sell this by the White House has not been firing all cylinders," said Ethan Siegal, president of the Washington Exchange, a Bethesda, Md.-based group that tracks federal policy for institutional investors. "It gave the unions an opening to pressure and use their political muscle."

The labor group's main target is San Francisco-based Schwab, "the poster child of the push by Wall Street firms to promote privatization," said Suzanne Ffolkes, an AFL-CIO spokeswoman. The union expects at least 1,500 demonstrators outside Schwab headquarters and dozens more outside Wachovia offices including the company's headquarters in Charlotte, N.C..

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