Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Ron Paul: Mitt Romney's Unlikely Secret Weapon

| Mon Sep. 12, 2011 9:58 PM EDT

If you watched Monday's the CNN/Tea Party debate, you could be forgiven for asking what the septuagenarian Texas congressman Ron Paul has against his home state governor, Rick Perry. It's pretty simple, actually. Paul is channeling the same grievances that tea partiers in Texas have attacked Perry with for years. Specifically, that his executive order mandating the Gardasil HPV vaccine for adolescent girls was an invasive power grab by big government; that he increased spending over his decade as governor; that he's raised the state's level of debt; and that he's raised taxes (Paul says he's experienced this firsthand).

If this sounds familiar, it's because this is the same line of attack that was launched against Perry in 2010 by Debra Medina, the nurse and former county GOP chair who finished a surprising third in the Texas gubernatorial primary. (I previewed this line of attack back in August.) There's more there that Paul likely believes but neglected to mention (the much-maligned Trans-Texas Corridor, which he and others viewed as a harbinger for a future North American Union, for instance.) And it's not the first time; if anything, it was just a more substantive reprise of the back-and-forth between Perry and Paul at last week's debate, which culminated in this photo.

Paul won't win the Republican nomination. But Romney might, and if he does, he'll have Paul to thank (at least in part). That's because Paul is able to make the case that Perry is really just a Big Government wolf in sheep's clothing with a level of credibility that pretty much no one else has. Tea partiers, which is to say the conservative base, don't really gravitate naturally toward Romney. Paul's attacks make the gap between him and Perry seem that much smaller.

Herman Cain's Chilean Model, Explained

| Mon Sep. 12, 2011 8:56 PM EDT

For the second consecutive Republican president debate, pizza mogul and talk radio host Herman Cain has suggested the "Chilean Model" as a way to fix Social Security. Never mind that it's Medicare, not Social Security, whose runaway costs pose a long-term threat to the nation's fiscal health—what the heck is the Chilean Model? And do we want it?

As it happens, we've been down this path before. It was 2005, and then-President Bush was floating a proposal to privatize Social Security—to ensure, he explained, that it would still be there for future generations. Bush turned to the Chilean model, which itself was a product of the Chicago School of Economics, brought to South America by economist Milton Friedman. Here's how Barbara Dreyfuss explained it in a MoJo piece that year:

With labor's political power in check, [former labor minister José] Piñera focused on privatizing the pension system. He saw as his biggest obstacle the "tenacious belief that Social Security could and should be an effective vehicle for the redistribution of wealth." The new system, adopted in 1981, required all new workers to sign up for private pension accounts and offered financial incentives for those in the public retirement system to switch.

The transition was expensive and funded by slashing government programs, selling off state-owned industries, selling bonds to the new pension funds, and raising taxes. Privatization costs, which also included a government subsidy for workers unable to accumulate enough in their private accounts to guarantee a minimum income in retirement, averaged more than 6 percent of Chile's gross domestic product in the 1980s and are expected to average more than 4 percent of GDP each year until 2037.

But while the reform's supporters argue it has been a major success story, officials both inside and outside Chile now increasingly question whether the high costs and modest investment returns have doomed Piñera's original promise: a decent retirement income for workers at a savings for the government. Last year, the World Bank, which until recently encouraged countries to privatize pensions, published a highly skeptical report on private retirement systems in Latin America; Truman Packard, one of the report's authors, says the bank has told the Chilean government that it must spend more to subsidize the private system and "increase its role in preventing old-age poverty."

The full piece is worth your time. Check it out.

Anti-Gay Heavy Metal Pastor Pens Open Letter to Obama

| Fri Sep. 9, 2011 3:35 PM EDT

Minnesota heavy-metal evangelist Bradlee Dean is currently suing Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, and the Minnesota Independent for $50 million for accurately quoting his statements that homosexuality is a criminal activity with no place in public life. We first wrote about him because of his ties to Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has spoken at fundraisers for Dean's ministry, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, and prayed for the group to multiply tenfold and spread across Minnesota like "burning incense." Shortly thereafter, he was invited to deliver the opening prayer at the Minnesota State House—an opportunity he used to allege that President Obama was our first non-Christian president. Hey, it's a theory that's out there.

Anyway, while he prepares for what is sure to be the trial of the century, Dean has decided to write an open letter to President Obama. It begins:

Courtesy of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide InternationalCourtesy of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide InternationalDean goes on to promote his ministry, which involves traveling to public schools on the taxpayer dime to encourage students to find Christ, and takes the President to task for his appointment of a gay man, Kevin Jennings, to a post as Safe Schools Czar. It's our generation's "Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania," but not, really. The full text, via Dump Bachmann, is here.

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