Definitely read the back and forth between Andrew Samwick, Max Sawicky, and others about Social Security. It has been a very enlightening dry run of some of the debates that will rear their ugly heads come January. It also goes to show that liberals are not going to win the fight to preserve the system if they focus on beating back the arguments of "responsbile" privatization supporters. These people are fun to argue with because they are not private account demagogues, but their musings about when a deficit is a deficit and why it really does make sense to think about how Social Security finances will behave during the last days of earth (it's not pretty, that's for sure) will only serve to distract from the real fight.

The real fight is with the Bush administration and people who want to destroy any government responsibility for older poor people. They think the government should have nothing to do with the pension business and they treat this is an article of faith more holy than everything except cutting taxes. So, my apologies now to the open-minded thoughtful conservative leaning economists who really do want a nice debate and who might give up on the private account thing if it really didn't add up. You have almost nothing in common with the motives and politics that will bring about Social Security reform under George W. Bush. We can't have this conversation with you because your political bedfellows don't want to negotiate or think critically about long term liabilities. They want to mess the system up because they think it is immoral.

As liberals, we must argue that A) you don't screw with a government program as successful, efficient and enduring as Social Security lightly; B) government must have a role in ensuring that old people are not destitute and that this is a very different question than encouraging saving opportunities; and C) social insurance is a vital part of American life. It has been 70 years since the New Deal proved how we could create a humane society through mutual trust, broad compromise, and common goals, and coalitions like that come about only once a century.

Liberals don't seem to fully believe privatization is a real threat yet, probably because the math doesn't work. But make no mistake, Bush is deadly serious about making history with this. Liberals need to talk about why we believe in the promise of the program, and why it is fundamentally American in a way that private accounts are not.


Post a Comment

<< Home