Thursday, February 10, 2005

The gift of the (benefit) grab

As we've mentioned a few times recently, it's going to be difficult for politicians from Northern Ireland to get any face time with Dubya anytime soon. But that doesn't mean that there isn't anyone with a Northern Ireland background who can get quality time with Dubya. And we don't mean Van Morrison. Courtesy of Josh Marshall's tireless monitoring of the White House's campaign to abolish the Social Security program, we learned today of the featured speakers at one of Dubya's rallies in support of the effort.

These rallies feature Dubya's favourite kind of audience composition -- shills, boosters, and stooges. And among categories one or two, if not three:

"Background Information on Conversation [sic] Participants"
White House Fact-Sheet Released for Presidential Social Security Event in Raleigh, North Carolina
February 10th, 2005

"Andrew Biggs, Associate Commissioner for Retirement Policy, Social Security Administration (Washington, D.C.)"
"Before joining SSA, he served as a staff member for the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services, a Social Security analyst at the Cato Institute, and a staff member on the Commission to Strengthen Social Security. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, a Master’s from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science."

We haven't been able to track down Mr Biggs' full background, but the assumption has to be that since he went to Queen's, he's probably from Northern Ireland*, and it's sad to see the good names of Cambridge and the LSE being dragged into this propaganda effort as well. Josh Marshall and Atrios have rightly noted the fox-in-the-henhouse aspect of having Biggs go to his current senior position in the social security administration from the Dubya-loving, Social Security-hating Cato Institute.

And we'll have to look at the transcript of today's event to see his expert explanation of how Social Security is saved by dumping trillions of dollars of debt onto the same future generations that will experience severe benefit cuts. And how, if Dubya's plan is so great, we have to wait till 2009, one year after his term ends, for it to begin. Perhaps down the road, Queens will augment its Seamus Heaney centre for poetry with an Andrew Biggs centre for bullsh*t economics.

*UPDATE. Further research leans against him being from NI; this wedding announcement has him as a New Yorker.

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