~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I O 93 93/93 I O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Location: LaGrange, Kentucky, United States

The opinions and interests of a husband, analyst and Iraq war veteran.


Monday, March 07, 2005

Cutting to the chase...

Ann Althouse (she writes in such intimate terms about such down to earth topics that I find it difficult to truncate her down to just "Althouse" the way I often do with Reynolds, Kaus, Drum, and the rest. Just a side note...) asks why no politician can explain the arguments for (or against) social security reform in just a few, simple, clear sentences. I share her frustration.

The answer is that politicians are adverse in general to (publicly) conceding a point to the other side of the idealogical divide. It gives the opponent political ammunition and why would any politician do that? Social security reform is a practical issue, like AIDS prevention, like tax reform. It is my opinion that no serious, non-partisan debate over these issues is even possible because of the political baggage they carry.

Specifically, she's upset that Sen. Mitch McConnell failed to utter aloud the punchline to Tim Russert's "gothcha" joke on Meet the Press. Russert asks: "What does private personal accounts do to fix the solvency problem?"

Obviously it doesn't fix the solvency problem. But why on earth would Mitch say that on television? It's a loaded question.

The facts of the matter are these (my attempt to sum up SSR in just five, simple, clear sentences):

- Social security is headed for insolvency. Clinton said so and Bush agees. Since a well-thought-out solution sooner is better than an emergency solution later, Bush has put out a call for bi-partisan suggestions that he hopes will include private accounts because of the benefits to today's young Americans.

- Private accounts aren't the whole of the solution. Later payout schedules or increased payroll taxes (most likely a combination) are necesary to retain solvency. (Personally, I favor reduced spending in order to avoid either of these, but I know for a fact that it simply will not happen. There is no such thing as a budget cut in Washington.)

- The social security program relies on two parties: The payers and the payees. Bush is bringing up private accounts as a way of engaging the payers in the debate over reform. (Probably a doomed gesture seeing as how young people don't vote. Noble of him, though.)

- There are umpteen plans already out there that examine the problems and suggest a fix. (The Social Security Agency is filled with actuaries and computer geeks, fergodsake! Tell me that the only federal agency to be completely prepared for the Y2K computer snafu didn't see this coming!)

- The trick will be to get one or two legislative figures, willing to endure career-ending opposition, to endorse one of the existing plans and sell it. Sell it accross the isle, sell it to the young, sell it to the old. We need salesmen.

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