In a recent meeting of local activist Democrats, I was struck by one particular set of complaints. Opposing Bush's social security plan in public is difficult, they said, because there is no alternative "solution" on the table for us to champion that will take care of the "problem," which is acknowledged by all even if we take it out of the realm of "crisis."
It leaves me wondering what it takes to get the press, and in turn the people supposedly on our side, to recognize and pounce on the President when he makes an about-face. In what seems to me to be enormosue news, the White House is no longer claiming that changes they are proposing in the program would do anything whatsoever to repair problems in solvency. So, in truth, not only is there no crisis, but the changes on the table are not a solution for whatever difficulties the future offers. And they are apparently no longer even designed to be one.
In a significant shift in his rationale for the accounts, Bush dropped his claim that they would help solve Social Security's fiscal problems — a link he sometimes made during last year's presidential campaign. Instead, he said the individual accounts were desirable because they would be "a better deal," providing workers what he said would be a higher rate of return and "greater security in retirement."Why do we have to scroll to the end of the story to get to this news? Why is it not the headline? As Josh Marshall is saying often, and well, Democrats most certainly do offer an alternative, that of keeping social security intact, as opposed to dismantling it. Even the President himself says that his changes would fundamentally shift the program from a "defined benefits" to a "defined contributions" approach. Assuming (as the White House now does) that this shift would do nothing to address the non-crisis of future insolvency, why would anyone vote for it?
A Bush aide, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, was more explicit, saying that the individual accounts would do nothing to solve the system's long-term financial problems.
That candid analysis, although widely shared by economists, distressed some Republicans.
"Oh, my God," one GOP political strategist said when he learned of the shift in rhetoric. "The White House has made a lot of Republicans walk the plank on this. Now it sounds as if they are sawing off the board."