Socially Awkward

Socially Awkward

Socially Awkward

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
April 29 2005 6:22 PM

Socially Awkward

Bloggers react to the president's press conference and grumble about the budget; they also applaud the return of a woodpecker once believed to be extinct.

Socially awkward: President Bush held a press conference last night to address, among other topics, his plans for revamping Social Security. Besides advocating private accounts, the president spoke in favor of "progressive indexing" for cost-of-living benefit increases, allowing for the largest increases to go to low-income recipients.

Reaction to the weighted-increase schemata has been mixed, with some pundits calling it a concealed benefit cut. "Let's state specifically what this to-some-sexy-sounding proposal offers: steep benefit cuts for all but the lowest income Americans and meager increases in benefits for them," argues liberal Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. "It's hard to see how there's anything particularly progressive about gutting Social Security for the entire middle class. And how this comes off as a politically attractive proposal once anyone understands it is hard to figure." Meanwhile Matthew Yglesias of the American Prospect's TAPPED writes, "(Bush) used to be advocating an across-the-board benefit freeze. Now very poor people will be exempted from the freeze via 'progressive price-indexing.' This switch has gotten a lot of play, though none dare call it flip-flop."

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Other bloggers say the proposal might be a political feint to draw out the plan's opponents. "He's made good adjustments to his plan. These will make it even harder for the Democrats to refuse to offer a plan of their own," saysStanley Kurtz of the National ReviewOnline's group blog The Corner, "They'll also take away some of the key arguments against the president's plan."

"Has Bush suddenly become a redistributionist, soak-the-rich pinko? I doubt it. Instead, I suspect there may be something else going on here," writes law professor Stephen Bainbridge. "If I'm right, the nice thing about Bush's plan is that it forces the Dems to make a tough choice: Do they publicly disavow their adherence to progressivity as a solution to income inequality or do they risk weakening long term political support for their signature program?"

Read more about Bush's press conference.

Budget stretching: Congress passed a $2.6 trillion budget outline for 2006 Thursday. It contains provisions to cut taxes and Medicaid spending while opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

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Some bloggers hold budget grudges. "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) says Medicaid needed cutting because it's "rife with waste," writes D.C. journalist Terry Turner of Watching Washington. Turner notes, however, that "Some bills get Rep DeLay's scrutiny, others don't. Especially if the money will be spent inRep DeLay's back yard. … He got NASA's full budget request delivered without a separate vote or debate."

For all every environmentalist concerned about the ANWR provision, there's someone like Tracy of conservative Minnesota blog Anti-Strib, who writes, "I paid $43.00 to fill up the Jeep today so I say we drill anywhere that even smells like oil."

Some bloggers question why the budget hasn't received more attention from the media. "As the president was giving his press conference last night, the Congress was passing their budget ... and nobody asked the president about it?" writesJohn Irons of econoblog Argmax. "Is the $300 billion we've spent in Iraq causing us to short-change domestic priorities? ... etc. etc. etc. Anyone? Anyone?"

Read more about the budget.

Not extinct, just shy: The ivory-billed woodpecker, once believed extinct, has been sighted in Arkansas, the first confirmed sighting of the species in more than 60 years.

News of the rare woodpecker's continued existence has been met with largely positive reactions from bloggers, though Ronald Bailey of Reason blog Hit & Run was quick to point out, "No one can argue that the Endangered Species Act saved the Ivory-billed Woodpecker since everyone thought it was already extinct." Not everyone is entirely optimistic about the species' chance of survival. "A single animal does not reverse extinction," writes the nature-loving The Urban Pantheist. "I know I sound like a typical doomsaying pessimist environmentalist, and I don't want to deprive people of their joy, but I feel like the celebrations are premature."

Read more about the woodpecker.