Monday :: Mar 7, 2005

Force The White House Settle On A Social Security Plan Before Negotiating With Them


by Steve

Democrats have gotten off to a good start in pushing back against the White House effort to privatize Social Security. But it is clear that Bush is quite prepared to wage a day in and day out battle to draw Democrats out and secure some bipartisan support for private accounts. Remember that restoring solvency to the program isn’t Bush’s aim; his goal is to undermine the program with the Trojan horse of private accounts, which do nothing if not exacerbate the solvency problem even further. The Administration has now said that no matter what is discussed now, private accounts must be part of the final package. And it also appears from reading The Note this morning that the White House and GOP feel that they are making progress in breaking up the Democratic resistance.

In an effort to break the Democrats into factions and break up the solid wall of resistance, Bush is letting the GOP float several alternatives for private accounts. Looking like street corner whores eagerly competing for the available johns that come down the street, several GOP senators are now hawking their own version of Social Security reform, all under the watchful eyes of the madam in the White House, who is waiting to see which Democratic senators can be drawn into which house of ill repute so that the wall can be broken and the dirty deeds be done to undermine Social Security. Lindsay Graham has his own plan, and he has been discussing it with several Democrats for weeks now. Now Chuck Hagel has put forward his own plan, which would do several unpopular things such as raise the retirement age and adjust benefits for longevity, as well as allow younger workers to redirect their payroll taxes into private accounts, thereby undermining the current program and requiring trillions in new debt.

In order for Democrats to win this battle, they must immediately realize that there is a concerted effort to pick off several of them, one at a time, until Bush can cobble together what he needs to put private accounts in place. As such, Harry Reid needs to regain some discipline within the Senate Democratic caucus and get his membership to agree on some basic principles. To do this though, Senate Democrats need to acknowledge that Bush really has no plan at this point, other than to push for the undermining of the current program by insisting on private accounts. Senate Democrats seem to be hanging together on the principle that diverting current payroll taxes into private accounts does nothing for solvency and is a nonstarter.

Is it too much to ask for Senate Democrats to agree on the following basic principles?

First, stop responding to the latest solicitation from a GOP senator/street corner whore trying to entice you into supporting their plan. Tell the GOP that when the president and the GOP have their plan ready, then and only then will you talk. Democrats should not get lured into discussions with various GOP senators/street corner whores who are only trying to pick you off and factionalize the opposition.

Second, at least adopt the principle that there will be no financing of private accounts through redirected payroll taxes, as this will only exacerbate the existing solvency problems the system faces.

Third, there should be no financing of private accounts with new debt. If Bush wants private accounts bad enough, he and the GOP must identify how they, and I mean they, are going to pay for it. This means that the GOP must identify which part of Bush’s first-term tax package is to be rolled back to pay for the accounts, so that the public can decide for itself if it wants that revenue for private accounts or for deficit reduction. Remember, the public turns very sour on private accounts when they are informed about the debt necessary to finance them. Bush should not be allowed to get a pass on how much these accounts will cost.

Fourth, the system’s solvency problems should be dealt with through changes to the current program (raising the retirement age, changing the indexing of benefits, and/or raising the ceiling for payroll tax withholding). In no case will these changes to the current program be used to pay for private accounts.

There needs to be a simple and focused position on basic principles like these to maintain the opposition to the White House, and to keep Democratic senators focused on separating out the need to fix the system’s solvency problems from the GOP’s desire to undermine the system with payroll tax-funded private accounts. Private accounts should be an add-on, and not a Trojan horse poison pill for the Social Security safety net. If Bush and the GOP are so enamored of the concept, then let them show Democrats first how they plan to pay for them separate from the current program.

Democrats should just keep it simple and focused. They should tell their GOP counterparts and the White House "show me your single plan, and how you plan to pay for it aside from new debt, and then we’ll talk."

Steve :: 1:10 PM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!