Bush Misbehaves During Recess

Friday, April 06, 2007 at 11:36 AM

While Wednesday's recess appointment of Swift Boat contributor and GOP fund-raiser Sam Fox as ambassador to Belgium gathered most of the media attention, another recess appointment President Bush made yesterday may be even worse.

The appointee was Andrew Biggs to serve as Social Security's deputy director, although his nomination to that position had been rejected by the Senate in February.

No big deal, you say? Well, to the extent that deputy director of Social Security has any substantive say over policy, or even over the agency's PR activities, it is not a small deal.

Biggs works for Cato, the Ayn Rand-loving Institute of free marketeerism, which describes him like this:

Former Social Security analyst and Assistant Director of the Project on Social Security Choice Andrew Biggs is a former Social Security analyst and Assistant Director of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Choice. Prior to joining Cato he was Director of Research at the Congressional Institute in Washington, D.C. (where he remains a Fellow), and a staff member for the House Banking and Financial Services Committee. He holds a Bachelor's degree from the Queen's University of Belfast, Master's from Cambridge University and Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In 2001 Biggs served as a staff member for the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security, and in 2002 he was appointed by the Bush administration as a delegate to the National Summit on Retirement Savings and addressed the United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development. He has been published or quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, Investors Business Daily, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, CNNfn, Fox News Channel, Bloomberg Television, National Review and others. Given dozens of speeches, radio and television interviews.

Not bad you say? Well, if you want to see Biggs in action, check out his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee at the Hearing on the final report produced by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, held on October 3, 2002. There, he repeatedly disputed claims that the commission was recommending Social Security changes that would substantially reduce benefits for future retirees. Not so, said Biggs.

Want to know his reasoning? Really? Because that charge is based on a comparison of the commission's recommendations with the current system of benefits.

Say what? Isn't that precisely what the concept of "reducing benefits" connotes? It is to me.

But not to Biggs, who is adept at the semantic finagling required to get national approval for ideas that are bad for most of the nation. His reasoning? Since the current system can't continue to provide its current level of benefits without some changes, you need to compare the recommendations of the president's commission with what the current system could actually deliver in the future, if it wasn't changed at all.

Dishonest as hell to my mind. The kind of dishonesty that the Cato Institute, his employer, churns out in endless reams of dead trees dressed up as analytical papers and reports, all insistently demanding that the free market be elevated to one step above God (two above the Constitution).

This is who our feckless leader has appointed to be the Social Security Administration's Deputy Director.


Check your facts.

"Biggs works for Cato." Wrong.

Biggs left Cato years ago. He is Associate Commissioner for Retirement Policy at the Social Security Administration.

"Biggs left Cato years ago. He is Associate Commissioner for Retirement Policy at the Social Security Administration."

True enough, and I accept the blame. In my defense, that fact is not clear from his current bio on the Cato web site, which is a link in my post.

More importantly, his having left Cato a while back changes nothing about his slant and his beliefs, or the likely consequences of appointing him Deputy Director.

Lee Russ

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