Thursday, February 03, 2005

Social Security Reform, Bah Humbug!

I'll have much more to say about the SOTU later. But two things:

I'm as happy as anybody that the Iraquis had their elections. Nobody should begrudge them the triumph of that. And yes all of those who voted were incredibly brave people. Congratulations.

However, I'm still not hearing an exit strategy for us. Although I don't want to rob anybody of the triumph of that election, the truth is Vietnam had many, many elections and we still stayed there for ten years longer than we should have.

And about Social Security. Our President keeps insisting on calling it a crisis and scaring people that the system is going to be bankrupt and unable to pay out benefits if something radical and risky isn't done faster than immediately.

But plenty of voices are arguing that that's not so. The system will not be bankrupt for 75 years. That's the estimate of the Congressional Budget Office, which is considerably more non-partisan than the White House or even the Social Security Administration, which after all is filled with Bush appointees. Plenty of actual experts challenge the notion that there is an impending crisis. Yes, the system needs fixing. But far less than the radical overhaul that Bush is pushing.

To those who insist on remaining scared and inducing panic in others by calling it a crisis, I have one question. Is this Social Security crisis somewhere over there with the Iraqui weapons of mass destruction this administration assured was an imminent threat?

Bush may have "political capital" from his one percentage point victory in November, but it seems he and his administration have long ago squandered their credibility capital. Dare I bring back a phrase from the sixities? Sure I dare. These people have a credibility gap.

Here is a link to the New York Times. When you get to the main page, there is a link on the right to a bunch of articles explaining it far better than I could (sorry I couldn't link you to the specific site, but every time I tried, the link would not work, whether I cut and pasted it or retyped it myself.) There is a depth of discussion, including articles on how privatization has not worked at all in Chile. People there are not getting the returns they were promised when they switched over. And that program is supposedly very similar to the one being considered to reform our Social Security System. And according to the Los Angeles Times, besides being riskier than the present system privatization does nothing to solve the financial problems. In fact, it adds to the budget deficit and will cost more money. Doesn't help save Social Security at all.

Here's a scary thought. What if Al Gore was right the first time. This is a risky scheme with more of that fuzzy math. Go figure.

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