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Reporters are still bird-dogging Sen. Mitch McConnell over a story in The Hill that said his campaign offered to pay volunteers to help boost “an enthusiastic atmosphere” at his campaign rallies.

McConnell Social Security

The other day, Louisville’s WAVE TV ran a news story featuring McConnell’s response to the continuing controversy. Predictably, the senate majority leader wannabe tried to fluff it all off.

But what got my attention was how the WAVE story ended:

“McConnell also faced a question…about whether if he became majority leader he would push legislation to offer privatized accounts for Social Security. McConnell said he wasn’t going to say what his agenda would be” [Italics mine].

Alison Lundergan Grimes is this union card-carrying, 63-year-old Social Security recipient’s candidate.

Yet if I were a retiree on the fence wavering between Team Mitch and Team Switch, I’d give what McConnell said – or, rather didn’t say – some serious, if not prayerful, consideration before I voted a week from Tuesday.

In any event, this lifelong Kentuckian and out-to-pasture community college teacher is grateful to be getting Social Security. I want Uncle Sam to keep running the program.

Right-wing scare tactics about Social Security going broke are baloney. They are calculated to undermine public confidence in one of the best federal programs, thus helping pave the way for Republicans like McConnell to privatize Social Security.

I don’t want my Social Security turned over to private businesses whose main goal is turning a fat profit for their owners and stockholders. A privatized program would also be subject to the vagaries of the stock market.

Of course, right-wing Republicans have been trying to deep six Social Security since Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a New Deal Democratic congress enacted it in 1935.

McConnell doesn’t have to worry about making ends meet after he retires. He’s a millionaire.

Almost every other conservative critic of Social Security is as well-heeled as McConnell, or even richer. Like McConnell, those plutocrats will still be living on Easy Street, too.

Up and down the campaign trail, Grimes has repeatedly promised to oppose Social Security privatization.

Meanwhile, Team Mitch would rather the media get back on Grimes for not telling us who she voted for in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

I voted for Obama both times. I don’t care who Grimes voted for. It doesn’t affect my future.

What happens to Social Security does, big-time. So I care a lot that that mum’s the word from Mitch about the program’s status if he ends up ramrodding the Senate.

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Anyway, McConnell evidently clammed up about Social Security during a session with reporters after he gave a speech to the Republican-leaning Rotary Club in Louisville, his hometown. That’s when he tried to dismiss the cheerleader hiring flap as much ado about nothing.

Joe Sonka, my favorite Bluegrass State blogger, was there. He might have been the reporter who asked McConnell the question cited in the WAVE story.

McConnell knew the Rotary Club was friendly turf. “Though he hasn’t mentioned it much on the campaign trail over the past year, McConnell specifically touted his effort to push President George W. Bush’s plans to reform Social Security in 2005, which would have set up private accounts for retirees,” Sonka wrote for Insider Louisville online.

Sonka quoted the captain of Team Mitch: “After Bush was re-elected in 2004 he wanted us to try to fix Social Security. I spent a year trying to get any Democrat in the Senate — even the most reasonable Democrat of all, Joe Lieberman – to help us.”

By the “most reasonable Democrat” McConnell meant “the Democrat who most often agrees with me.”

Sonka added: “Bush’s reform plan stalled out, as it polled terribly and Republicans chose not to pursue it. Democrats at the time painted private accounts as a risky scheme that would endanger seniors’ retirement security in the wake of a downturn in the market, make the Social Security program less solvent, and lead to benefit cuts.”

In his story, Sonka also quoted Grimes: “What we have now is a senator who says privatizing Social Security is a good thing. I don’t want to risk my grandmother’s retirement with gambling her wages…I’m not for turning Medicare into a voucher program, and on my watch we will never privatize Social Security.”

I’ll be going on Medicare in a few weeks. I’m also for keeping Medicare in Uncle Sam’s hands. (Interestingly, McConnell was a young intern under Republican Sen. John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky. Cooper had co-sponsored the Medicare bill in 1965.)

Sonka also asked Team Switch to comment on McConnell’s Rotary club remarks. He quoted the statement he got back: “Mitch McConnell’s idea of how to ‘fix’ Social Security is to end the program as we have known it for 80 years by privatizing it. Barely three years after he set about this deplorable task in 2005, the economy and stock prices cratered in the Great Recession. How would that have worked out for vulnerable seniors living on a fixed income?”

Grimes is right. The Bush “reform” wasn’t designed to “fix” Social Security, which Gov. Rick Perry, his fellow Texan and soul-mate, famously called a “Ponzi scheme.” Indeed, Bush and the Republicans really did aim to end Social Security as we know it – and rely on it.

Bush is living high on the hog in retirement in the Lone Star State. But back in Washington, congressional Republicans still can’t wait to take another crack at privatizing Social Security.

Sonka wrote that “Insider Louisville asked McConnell after the event if he would make a push for such reforms to Social Security if he was elected Senate Majority Leader and could set the agenda, but he declined to reveal if he would do so.”

berry craig

Again, Sonka quoted McConnell: “I’m not announcing what the agenda would be in advance. We’re not in the majority yet. We’ll have more to say about that later.”

McConnell’s unartful dodge reminded me of the proverbial Kentucky horse trader of old. The shady fellow was happy to show you his teeth, but not the horse’s.

A footnote: The story about Team Switch and pep squad payola was old news to me.
Before I switched to teaching, I was a newspaper feature writer and columnist for more than a dozen years. I was on one of my annual pilgrimages to Fancy Farm for the state’s – and maybe the country’s -- biggest yearly political picnic. I was collecting material for a feature story when this busload of McConnell supporters rolled up, from Louisville, if memory serves.

I asked a passenger, a guy in his late teens or early 20s, why he was for McConnell. He said he really wasn’t all that into politics. He said the McConnell campaign paid him to come to cheer the senator and jeer his Democratic opponent.

Berry Craig

Berry Craig