But one of the virtues of the HuffPost story is that while it emphasizes the particular financial interests of the elite business class, it also briefly captures an important point about the fiscal debate that Slate’s Matthew Yglesias wrote about last month—Important People absolutely despise Social Security, and they see paring it back not as a necessary evil but an affirmative goal. Here are Wilkie and Grim:
But in the past week, in order to make their case to the millions of Americans who don’t work for them, CEOs fanned out into television, to convince the rest of the country that slashing the social safety net is the only way to reduce the deficit.
In an interview aired Monday, Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein said Social Security “wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30 year retirement after a 25-year career.” The key to cutting Social Security, he said, was simply a matter of teaching people to expect less.
“You’re going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people’s expectations of what they’re going to get,” Blankfein told CBS, “the entitlements, and what people think they’re going to get, because you’re not going to get it.”
— When Sam Petulla wrote for CJR in December about the challenges facing the reporters who are trying to understand the inner workings of the Obama campaign’s data-mining program, he spoke to a couple of journalists who are leading the way on that effort, including ProPublica’s Lois Beckett.
Beckett is back now with a must-read story that pulls back the curtain a little more on some decidedly low-tech data-gathering, and also carries a click-inducing headline—“In Minnesota, Democratic Grandmas Gather Data About Their Neighbors.” Here’s the lead:
In Minnesota, Democratic volunteers scour their local newspapers each morning for letters to the editor with a political slant. They pay attention to the names of callers on radio shows. They drive through their neighborhoods and jot down the addresses of campaign lawn signs.
Then they feed the information into a state Democratic Party database that includes nearly every voter in Minnesota.
Some of the states’ few dozen data volunteers are so devoted that they log into the party database daily from their home computers. Deb Pitzrick, 61, of Eden Prairie, convinced a group of her friends to form the “Grandma Brigade.” These women, in their 50s, 60s and 70s, no longer want to knock on doors for the Democrats. Instead, they support the party by gathering public information about other voters.
Beckett’s article includes a judicious discussion about privacy concerns. (The chair of the state’s Democratic party acknowledges modern campaigning is “a little big brother”; one of the leaders of the “Grandma Brigade” counters, “Is it any different than having Best Buy have [this information about] you?”) And it notes a tension that was central to Petulla’s piece for CJR—while the Obama administration and some in Congress are bringing new scrutiny to the commercial data-broker industry, “the administration has been silent on what if any rights voters should have regarding the data gathered about them” by campaigns. But most of all, it’s a great bit of reporting, and an excellent read.