Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Many Faces Of No

When it comes to the Social Security reform debate, the Democrats should go out and get David Spade to be their celebrity spokesman. If his "always say no" gimmick is putting over Capitol One, it might get some buzz into their latest scheme, obstruction via legislation:

House Democrats intend to propose a retirement-savings plan today that will be their first leadership-backed alternative to Republican plans for a broad retirement-security package, which includes changes to Social Security.

The Democratic plan, called AmeriSave, would increase incentives for middle-class workers to participate in 401(k) retirement accounts and individual retirement accounts. It would also create tax credits for small businesses that set up retirement accounts for their employees. ...

The AmeriSave announcement is designed to partially preempt Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA), who plans to focus on retirement security in September. Bush had proposed adding individual accounts to Social Security for younger workers, but the idea did not win public support. He has now started talking about his plan as "senior security."

Thomas has long said that he wants to deal with Social Security as part of
a comprehensive retirement package that would cover savings, pensions and Social
Security. [emphasis added]

First of all, the WaPo told a whopper in paragraph #3. Social Security private accounts did win public support, especially amongst younger workers. Democrat obstructionism (and Republican chickenheartedness) has been so ferociously pervasive that the public has lost any expectation of true reform being realized.

What's of greater interest here is that this AmeriSave plan, while not objectionable on its face, omits the one thing that would actually qualify it as a Social Security reform alternative: any change to Social Security itself. It tinkers with IRAs here and tweaks qualified retirement plans there, but does nothing to address the looming actuarial catastrophe of the granddaddy of entitlement programs. And that is by design.

It is, in football jargon, a head fake, and a Clintononian one at that since it plays into the opening left by Chairman Thomas' desire to lump Social Security reform into an omnibus retirement bill. Frankly I didn't think those loons had it in them.

So the Dems have now achieved the "nega-trifecta":

1) Talking about the need for Social Security reform without doing anything about it (1990s);

2) Insisting there is no need for Social Security reform, so nothing needs to be done about it;

3) Offering a "retirement security" bill that does nothing to reform Social Security.

House 'Pubbies had better get real specific and real loud about private accounts being the one and only solution to Social Security's viability. Starting small with just the current SS surpluses is perfectly acceptable as long as that foot gets in the reform door before this latest uptick in opposition obfuscation can weld it shut again for another generation - when the "Great Collapse" will be a lot more difficult to escape.

[HT: CQ]