March 14, 2005


The Missing Proposal (Sebastian Mallaby, March 14, 2005, Washington Post)

Last year Democrats impaled themselves on the Iraq war. They were so anxious to denounce the invasion that they failed to acknowledge the most basic point of all: that, having waded into Iraq, the United States could not leave prematurely. By attacking the Bush policy relentlessly, Democrats sounded negative. By refusing to say clearly that they would finish the Iraq job, they sounded irresponsible.

Now Democrats risk making the same mistake on Social Security. They are so anxious to denounce private accounts that they fail to acknowledge the most basic point: Social Security has a serious deficit. The Post reported Friday that nearly every Democratic senator refuses even to contemplate the Bush proposals. But the Democrats have no proposal of their own. They sound negative and irresponsible.

This is a mistake, first, because it's bad for the country. [...]

A progressive Democratic Party would introduce its own Social Security reform bill. It could be based on the package designed by Gene Sperling -- a mix of benefit cuts, tax hikes, and add-on personal savings accounts targeted at poor and middle-income workers. The progressives could point out that their plan fixes not only the Social Security deficit but also the national savings deficit, since add-on personal accounts involve extra contributions from workers and extra tax collection by the government.

But progressive Democrats should also admit the truth about Republican proposals: They're a heck of a lot better than leaving Social Security's deficit to get worse.

The problem for Democrats is that Mr. Bush would take that offer in a heartbeat and they don't want to change SS at all because it has become a totem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2005 6:56 PM

Right. The Dems can't take *any* offer on SS, because the least little change will inexorably lead to a collapse of SS as it currently is. Problem is, you can't hold back a dam collapse no matter how firmly you stick your finger in the hole.

Posted by: ray at March 14, 2005 8:03 PM

The Democrats believe that they need to keep poor people poor, or else they will vote for Republican candidates. So ideas like poor people having savings accounts, private social security accounts, etc., run counter to their perceived political needs.

Posted by: Steve at March 14, 2005 11:18 PM

The good news is that next to SS, ANWR was the highest totem of them all; and it looks like the latter is going to get finally voted through during this legislative session. The bad news is that it took almost three decades.

Posted by: Moe from NC at March 15, 2005 7:19 AM

The Democratic Party is all tactics and no strategy.

Posted by: Brandon at March 15, 2005 8:25 AM

"national savings deficit" HA!

Posted by: BJW at March 15, 2005 11:54 AM