Paul Krugman's column echoes many of the arguments we've bantered around in the past few days. Take it away, Professor:
Furthermore, it's all too likely that any compromise that created private accounts would turn into a Trojan horse that let the enemies of Social Security inside the gates.
This might happen almost immediately, as a result of the legislative process. As you may have noticed, moderates don't run Congress. Suppose that a moderate senator thinks he has struck a deal for fully funded private accounts that don't directly undermine traditional Social Security. Almost surely, he would be kidding himself: by the time the conference committees were done with the legislation, the funding would be gone or greatly reduced, the accounts would be bigger, traditional benefits would have been cut, and the whole thing would have turned into a privatization wish list.
Even if that didn't happen, private accounts, once established, would be used as a tool to whittle down traditional guaranteed benefits. For example, conservatives would use the existence of private accounts, together with rosy scenarios about rates of return, to argue that guaranteed benefits could be cut without hurting retirees.
In short, anyone who wants to see the nation return to fiscal responsibility, wants to preserve Social Security as an institution or both should be opposed to any deal creating private accounts. And there is also, of course, the political question: Why should any Democrat act as a spoiler when his party is doing well by doing good, gaining political ground by opposing a really bad idea? (Hello, Senator Lieberman.)
The important thing to remember is why the right wants privatization. The drive to create private accounts isn't about finding a way to strengthen Social Security; it's about finding a way to phase out a system that conservatives have always regarded as illegitimate. And as long as that is what's at stake, there is no room for any genuine compromise. When it comes to privatization, just say no.
There. Is. No. Compromise.