Joe Scarborough has a Rovian theory why Bush, in his April 28 press conference, said “he would favor a system that tilted Social Security benefit payments in the future toward the lowest income retirees.”

Rove is “setting Democrats up for the kill in 2006,” claims the MSNBC host on his “Scarborough Country” blog. “Rove and Bush know their vision of reform was dead on arrival. Now it’s time to clean up the carcass.”

Instead of letting Democrats paint the program as a plan to punish workers while rewarding Wall Street next year, the White House has targeted the rich for sacrifice.

Bush proposes saving Social Security on the backs of the wealthy. He knows neither Republicans nor Democrats will touch it. It costs him nothing.

And next fall, when Democratic leaders like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi try to attack the President and his allies for their failed Social Security plan, class warfare will be off the table.

That’s because George Bush played that card at his press conference last week.

Scarborough quips, “It took me a few days to decode the White House strategy. The funny thing is it will take Harry Reid two years. Game, set, match once again to Karl Rove.” reports:

According to the Associated Press, while Bush was still speaking White House officials handed out written material saying the type of change he had in mind could be accomplished with a “sliding scale benefit formula.” That would mean lower payments for future retirees of middle and upper incomes than they are currently guaranteed — a fact Bush himself did not mention in his 60-minute session with reporters.

“Bush’s proposal would let benefits grow as already promised for the poorest Americans but cut promised benefits for those making more. The proposal marked the first time Bush has offered any specific recommendation to change the retirement system since he proposed allowing younger workers to divert some of their taxes into private retirement accounts,” said Knight Ridder News Service.

“Hoping to jump-start negotiations with lawmakers and win over skeptical Americans, Bush said he wanted to ensure that “future generations receive benefits equal to or greater than the benefits today’s seniors get” but offered no details. A Bush aide said later that future benefits under this proposal would continue to grow but at a slower pace,” said the report by Reuters..

Democrats were quick to respond. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid tonight released the following statement on President Bush’s Social Security plan:

“Democrats have traveled across the country to hear from the American people on how we can strengthen Social Security for current and future generations. What we heard was overwhelmingly clear — Social Security has meant retirement and economic security for millions of American families.

“As the President completes his own 60-day tour, we had hoped that he would take the concerns of the American people to heart, and abandon his misleading plan to privatize Social Security. His privatization plan would slash guaranteed Social Security benefits and burden future generations with trillions of dollars of new debt largely borrowed by China and Japan.

“All the President did tonight was confirm that he will pay for his risky privatization scheme by cutting the benefits of middle-class seniors. President Bush cannot escape the fact that privatization will weaken Social Security at a time we should be strengthening it.

“Democrats stand ready to strengthen Social Security on a bipartisan basis so that all Americans receive the guaranteed benefits they have earned. We urge the President to begin considering proposals that strengthen Social Security in a way that does not gut benefits for middle-class families and does not place retirees at the mercy of the stock market.”

Text of Bush’s press conference.

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