November 5, 2004


Privatized Accounts Moved to 'Fast Track' (Warren Vieth and Janet Hook, November 5, 2004, LA Times)

President Bush on Thursday set the stage for a monumental legislative battle by placing Social Security reform at the top of his second-term agenda, even though he acknowledged that no long-term fix would be pain-free.

Although he did not embrace a specific blueprint, Bush said the starting point for discussions was a set of recommendations that in all likelihood would run up the federal debt and reduce government-paid benefits for workers who chose to set up private retirement accounts.

"There will be costs," the president told reporters during his first postelection news conference. "But the cost of doing nothing … is much greater than the cost of reforming the system today."

Members of Congress and independent policy analysts said the president's remarks signaled a willingness to spend his newly won political clout on an issue so sensitive that leaders had long been reluctant to grapple with it.

"He is getting ready for bold action on Social Security. He's getting people prepared," said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), an advocate of private retirement accounts.

"It's going to be an enormously bloody fight," predicted Michael Tanner, director of the Project on Social Security Choice at the libertarian Cato Institute. "But the political climate really has changed, and it is possible to do this now…. It's on the fast track."

We've often referred to the President as a riverboat gambler, so consider this: despite facing the most difficult re-election of any eventually successful president in modern history he is also the first president to run on an ambitious second term agenda. The comparison to Ronald Reagan, who ran on good feelings, is especially revealing. Mr. Bush is who conservatives wanted Ronald Reagan to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 5, 2004 9:23 AM

He's got a year to do Social Security reform. That's going to be tough, especially if he's also got to get a SCOTUS nomination through the Senate.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 5, 2004 10:13 AM

The real celebration will come when the Guillotine blade drops on the IRS.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 5, 2004 11:10 AM


A SCOTUS appointment gives Bush an unlimited barrel of chips to bet with.

"Ok, kids, in exchange for me not nominating Robert Bork, you pass SS reform, comprende?"

"Ok, kids, in exchange for me not nominating John Ashcroft, you approve Estrada, Brown and Pryor."

"Ok, kids, in exchange for me not nominating Orrin Judd, you approve my shiny new Mars rocketship!"

Posted by: Timothy at November 5, 2004 11:42 AM