Gingrich clarifies little, but plays the ‘socialist’ card

Wow. No telling what Newt Gingrich might say next. Yesterday he called the Congressional Budget Office a “reactionary socialist institution.”

The full quote, via CNN.com:

“The Congressional Budget Office is a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated.”

I see a certain tension between “reactionary” and “socialist,” but don’t let that bother you.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a Republican and a former chief of the CBO, gave a cute reply to the Gingrich quote:

“I think if you parse that phrase carefully, he got one out of three right,” Holtz-Eakin said. “I do agree it is an institution. If you’re playing baseball, that’s a decent batting average.”

CBO, while not perfect, is the most trusted, least partisan agency that the federal government has to estimate what various proposals are going to cost. They are not big fans of “dynamic scoring,” under which, for example, tax cuts can be “projected” to pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth. I assume this is one of Gingrich’s chief complaints against CBO, since it takes a lot of the fun out of proposing tax cuts. Although as president it would not really be any of his business (since CBO is an arm of Congress), Gingrich said that he would seek to abolish the agency.

Meanwhile, Gingrich tossed off the “CBO-reactionary-socialist” slander during his talk on privatizing Social Security reform yesterday at a New Hampshire college. Since I wrote about it yesterday, I have scoured the coverage of the talk looking for further explanation of Gingrich’s previous suggestion that he would finance the transition to private accounts with the $2.7 trillion of government bonds in the Social Security Trust Fund. So far as I can find, the spend-the-trust-fund idea never came up.

And the plan seems to lack most of the details necessary to assess it. In general, it sounds a lot like the plan that President Bush barnstormed the country for in 2005.

But, at least according to Fox’s coverage of the talk, the plan would have a wonderful safety valve that enables young workers to invest their nest eggs however they like with no risk.

“You can put them in very conservative bonds only, you can put them in much more aggressive and have stock only, some mix of stocks and bonds, it will be your choice,” Gingrich said.

To avoid a disastrous fluctuation in the market wiping out accounts, under the plan those who opt into the system would be guaranteed the minimum Social Security payment.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 11/22/2011 - 09:51 am.

    So I can take my savings to Grand Casino and, if I encounter those dang “market fluctuations”, the gov’t will bail me out? Well, it worked so well for Wall Street, why not Main Street?

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/22/2011 - 10:28 am.

    “it will be your choice,” Gingrich said.

    You’ll note that with ALL the republican plans being discussed, they all include an opt-in choice, a concept foreign to those on the left.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/22/2011 - 10:38 am.

    @#1 – Liberals always operate from the position of “You people are too stupid to be free. Here, we’ll take care of you but you have to do what we say.”

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/22/2011 - 11:14 am.

    Socialism? Hey Newt,the 50’s called and they want their paranoia back. Can you believe this guy actually taught history as some college somewhere? I shudder to think of the corrupted minds.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/22/2011 - 11:14 am.

    Dennis, you were in one of Newt’s history classes weren’t you?

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/22/2011 - 11:16 am.

    Gingrinch is still demonstrating the shallowness of his scholarship.
    The CBO would be a socialist institution only if it owned the means of production.
    Gingrich does not know, or does not care to know, what the term ‘socialism’ refers to.
    It’s just a name he uses to call people he disagrees with but whose arguments he can’t answer.

  7. Submitted by Rich Crose on 11/22/2011 - 12:36 pm.

    I don’t understand what this has to do with freedom.

    You can opt-in to social security and be guaranteed a retirement income or you can opt-out and not be guaranteed a retirement income.

    If you choose the second option, you don’t have the freedom to put your money where you like. You have to put it into the government funds.

    If the government controls that much cash to invest, the government controls Wall Street.

    Washington politicians will be able to make CEOs jump through hoops and destroy companies that contribute to their opponents campaigns –all with a phone call to a fund manager that serves at Congress’ convenience.

    Its all about power.

  8. Submitted by Jim Roth on 11/22/2011 - 12:38 pm.

    I am surprised at the expansion of Gingrich’s vocabulary- usually “socialist” is enough to describe anything he disagrees with. “CBO-reactionary-socialist” is at least an expansion of his vocabulary if not his views.

  9. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/22/2011 - 01:04 pm.

    The CBO issues reports based on data provided by, and under criteria set by the government bureaucrat or body requesting it.

    That’s why it’s technically true to call the body itself “unbiased”, but untrue to describe it’s product as such.

    When the CBO is producing reports for the Democrat party, for instance, it’s product could be accurately described as leftist, or in some cases, Socialist propaganda.

  10. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 11/22/2011 - 01:14 pm.

    Conservatives say they always want “their” country back, but they have no idea what made America a super power.

    The ’40’s-late ’60’s are considered the Golden Age of capitalism. Yet conservatives will say capitalism cannot exist if tax rates on the wealthy were 70% at the top tier.

    Conservatives will say socialism is unAmerican, then cal every American program from the last 70 years socialist. Either America was socialist for 70 years, or these clowns don’t really understand what socialism is.

  11. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/22/2011 - 04:54 pm.

    I’ve read repeatedly that Mr. Gingrich is considered the “intellectual” of the current crop of Republican candidates. If that is, indeed, the case, I can only conclude that the writers reaching that conclusion, not to mention the members of Mr. Gingrich’s party who agree, have no idea what “intellect” means, just as Mr. Gingrich, not to mention Mr. Tester and Mr. Swift, appear to have no concept at all of what the term “socialism” means, and instead simply use it as a pejorative term for whatever it is they don’t like.

    Eric is very kind, indeed, to suggest a certain “tension” between the terms “reactionary” and “socialist” in Mr. Gingrich’s comment, since in the reality-based universe, they’re more or less diametrically opposed. If we need proof (pardon me… if we need MORE proof) that Mr. Gingrich is simply that latest demagogue in the Republican parade of demagogues this political season, labeling the CBO as a “reactionary socialist institution” ought to provide it.

    As for #9, the CBO does, sometimes, provide information for specific agencies, and even individuals in the government, who request it. Typically, however, the CBO is tasked with providing information to…
    wait for it… C-o-n-g-r-e-s-s. To the surprise of no one except the fevered brains on the right, that’s why it’s called the C-o-n-g-r-e-s-s-i-o-n-a-l Budget Office. Normally, it’s Congress that asks the CBO for costs and benefits and analyses of the two. According to Mr. Swift’s interesting definition, it produces “Socialist propaganda” when Congress is controlled by Democrats. What label shall we apply to that same information when it’s requested by Republicans? Neofascist drivel? Outright lies?

    In fact, the body is about as neutral politically as any agency in government, and the same goes for its product. Yes, there are lies, damned lies, and then statistics, but the CBO provides the best and least biased statistics available to both Congress and our elected officials. I’m aware that there are other numbers out there, but they come from policy outfits that have their own agendas, both left and right. I sometimes like those other numbers better than the CBO numbers if they favor something that I, myself, favor, but that says more about my own biases in most cases than it does about the work of the CBO.

    As Alec Timmerman has so elegantly phrased it, “…these clowns don’t really understand what socialism is.”

  12. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/22/2011 - 05:23 pm.

    “”You can put them in very conservative bonds only, you can put them in much more aggressive and have stock only, some mix of stocks and bonds, it will be your choice,” Gingrich said.

    To avoid a disastrous fluctuation in the market wiping out accounts, under the plan those who opt into the system would be guaranteed the minimum Social Security payment.”

    So, a very exact copy of the failed Chilean model. The one that resulted in only about 50% reaching the minimum pension results after 20 years, resulting in more money being dumped into the system by the government. The one that actually transformed people’s pension contributions into fees for bankers.

    Sounds like a grand scheme to force people to invest in the stock market if they ever wish to retire. And I mean wish. Can you imagine how flush Wall Street would be if EVERYONE invested in such a volatile investment?

  13. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/22/2011 - 05:32 pm.

    @#3
    If the shoe fits… Did you know that half of all people are below average intelligence?

    In any case, your assessment is overly simplistic to the point of being wrong. The concept is that people, as individuals, aren’t incredibly good at recognizing the needs of individuals as a group. In order to benefit from being in the group (e.g., a citizen of your town, your state, your country, etc.), you have to play by certain rules in order for your group to profit as a whole. That is, by applying the rules equally to all individuals in the entire group, more individuals will benefit and the group as a whole will do better than if fewer individuals did better. Game theory–it’s proven to work. We all do better if we all do better.

  14. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/22/2011 - 09:35 pm.

    The canonization of Newt Gingrich as an intellectual is amusing. First please note that Newt left academia after he did not get tenure at a third rate institution. I really wish he had as this might have saved us all a lot of trouble.

    Professor Margaret Soltan at George Washington University does a nice job destroying the Newt in her essay: “A stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.” link: http://bit.ly/spX33X

    Sample:

    “Gingrich has the worst traits of the worst stereotypical professor: Vain, irritable, cynical, superior, verbally fat and polemically thin.

    Yet stupid people read his fast-talking smooth-operator thing as smart; they think being a smug and dismissive know-it-all is what it means to be a smart person.”

    I guess this is why he appeals to people like Swiftee and Dennis.

  15. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/23/2011 - 09:44 am.

    Rachel–
    The Prisoner’s Dilemma is not quite that simple.

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