Although there has been no public polling, the U.S. House race in southern Minnesota’s First Congressional District must be getting clomser because the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced today that is will immediately begin spending on TV ads attacking Demmer as a Social Security privatizer.
Walz, of Mankato, is a two-term Democrat. Demmer, of Hayfield, is a state representative. Until recently, Walz was considered a fairly safe bet to retain his seat, but as the Republican surge continues, he would be likely the first of the DFL incumbents to have a close race. The First is a swing district that is rated as having a slight Republican lean. Demmer’s side has been touting an internal poll that showed them just a few points behind, and then the Republic National Congressional Committee added the race to the list of those where it would spend. At the time, the main reason for skepticism about the closeness of the race was that the DCCC wasn’t spending. Today’s announcement changes that.
Gabby Adler, DCCC Midwestern spokester just confirmed the ad buy to me. She wouldn’t say how much was budgeted but said it would be enough for “saturation levels” of air time. The sprawling, mostly rural First is a tricky and inefficient district for TV advertising. Its residents get TV signals from stations in the Twin Cities, Mankato, Rochester, and even Sioux Falls, S.D. and Mason City, Iowa. When you buy time on Twin Cities stations, the vast majority of the audience is outside of the district.
Adler wouldn’t confirm that the DCCC is worried about Walz, but the DCCC is having to perform serious triage in placing its late bets. She said that the RNCC has been attacking Walz (which is true) and the DCCC wanted to make sure that First District residents knew about Demmer’s plans to privatize Social Security.
Here’s the ad (which will start airing Thursday):
Social Security privatization is a fairly standard late-inning advertising topic for Dems, obviously intended to scare seniors about the idea. The new ad uses the word “risky” twice.
I don’t know whether Demmer disputes the claim that he favors partial privatization but I have a call in to his campaign. The DCCC is relying on a statement Demmer made in 2008 at a debate in Winona. According to the DCCC’s press release, Demmer told the audience he said he would support giving people in his age group and younger the chance to put some of their retirement money in private investments instead of Social Security.
If so, that would be consistent with the idea that Pres. Bush promoted assiduously in 2005. Bush wanted to allow those under 55 the option of putting a portion of their FICA taxes into individual accounts that could be invested in stock and bond mutual funds. The idea has been around for a long time on the right, although in recent versions Republicans have tried to stop calling it “privatization.”
The DCCC ad suggests that if the plan had been in effect when the stock market plummeted about 40 percent in 2008-09, the country could have lost 40 percent of its retirement investments. These scary scenarios are excessive compared to the plans that have actually been proposed. First of all, under the Bush plan, only a portion — definitely less than half, the percentages varied among several possible proposals — of Social Security in the private markets. And the maximum investment per year was $1,000 per individual. It’s hard, if not impossible, to get from a proposal like that to a claim that forty percent of retirement savings could have been wiped out. That claim seems to rely on the assumption of total privatization with all of an individual’s investments made at the top of the market and redeemed at the botom.
The ad is on more solid ground when it says that partial privatization would require $2 trillion in new spending. That would be necessary to cover the transition from the current system — in which FICA collections go to support the fixed benefits of current and future retirees — the partially privatized world. There are various estimates of what that would cost, depending on the extent of the privatization. But the estimates are always in the trillions.