November 12, 2002
THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY:Grandma Doesn't Scare Anymore (Wall Street Journal, 11/12/02)
For the second straight election. Running on personal retirement accounts didn't hurt George W. Bush in 2000, and this year it didn't hurt those stalwart Congressional candidates willing to campaign on the idea despite economic anxiety and corporate scandals. Maybe it's time for Democrats to realize they aren't going to win back their majorities by recycling their scare-Grandma campaigns from 1964. That's what they and their labor allies tried this year, to little avail.
Take New Hampshire, where a Big Labor front called Campaign for America's Future assailed GOP Senate candidate John Sununu. One TV spot showed Mr. Sununu, in a beard and dark glasses, hiding behind a bush and hauling Social Security money in brown bags to "gamble on the stock market." Mr. Sununu fought back, stressing that young workers would have a choice of participating in individual accounts, and saying "we shouldn't be afraid of ideas." He won. [...]
The lesson for the future is that Republicans are in a strong position to promote Social Security reform in the next Congress. While they may not pass it given the 60 votes needed to get through the Senate, they can continue to educate the public and frame the debate for 2004.
For his part, Mr. Bush isn't backing down. He used his post-election press conference last week to reassert that, "I still strongly believe that the best way to achieve security in Social Security for younger workers is to give them the option of managing their own money through a personal savings account."
This is an unlosable issue for the GOP. First, privatization is just a good idea economically and socially. Both the free market and the beneficiaries will benefit from hundreds of millions of people making their own decisions about where to put their money (within an admittedly narrow range of options). Second, it happens to be what conservatives believe, that the markets function better than government in the long run and that people should have as much control over and responsibility for their own lives as possible. When you can do something that you believe in and it's the right thing to do, you're in a real win-win situation. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 12, 2002 7:39 PM