I wrote about Social Security (satirically, of course) in 2001. You can read the article here. It’s amazing how little about the debate has changed. Now, with another election coming up, the issue is being raised again, and George Bush is still flouting the same “plan” he gave us four years ago. The difference now, of course, is that he’s been president for four years, with the support of both houses of Congress, and he’s done nothing about it. Yet somehow Bush still creates the impression that he says what he believes. Take a look at today’s New York Times poll:
In addition to the perception of Mr. Kerry as a liberal, 60 percent said that he told people what he thought they wanted to hear, rather than what he believed. By contrast, 59 percent said Mr. Bush said what he believed, one of the biggest differences Mr. Bush has sought to draw with his opponent.
You can come up with a hundred different examples of Bush saying one thing and doing another, yet people still think there’s some conviction behind what he says. I won’t even get into the Iraq thing. So how are we to know whether Bush really backs this disastrous Social Security plan, or whether he’s just saying it to appease the reactionary/libertarian block? Maxspeak has a nice post on this topic where he analyzes the possible “real” Bush position on Social Security:
1. Bush has no plan for transitional finance of benefits and was just lying about intending to launch those private accounts.
2. Bush plans to cut Social Security benefits, in order to protect them.
3. Bush has a plan, or more likely several options, but declines to reveal them. Ergo, secret plan(s).
4. Bush thinks the revenue shortfall will be made up for through control of The Spice, once the Sleeper awakens. His mentat Karl Rove figured it out.
Though the Sci-Fi reference in Maxspeaks’ fourth point draws a complete blank for me, this looks to be Bush’s best chance for a viable Social Security plan. I don’t think Kerry’s “plan” of doing nothing until we’re really in trouble is much of a plan either, but at least it’s viable. Kerry, as a lifelong legislator, is well aware of the American penchant for having its cake, eating it, then buying another one on credit so they can have that one and eat it, too.
An honest assessment of the Social Security situation is that we pay way to much payroll tax, now. It’s the most regressive tax imaginable. The way to really make Social Security work for all Americans is to move back the retirement age and reduce the payroll tax. But that “honest” plan has less than a snowball’s chance in Sleeper-Spice World of happening.