Bush’s Social Security Plan: Dead or Alive?

March 2, 2005

This morning we read that even Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had just about proclaimed partial privatization dead for this year. That’s tough for me to swallow and I find it troubling that Senator Frist would indicate a willingness to throw in the towel so quickly. Having said that, I’ve been disappointed with the administration’s utter failure to articulate its plan to make it understandable to the average American — or even to the intelligent American. Now, this afternoon, we get a little better news.

Reuters is reporting that the Bush administration is planning a 60-day, 60-city blitz to “turbocharge” their Social Security overhaul campaign. This is good news, indicating that while Republican congressmen may be, characteristically, quick to give up, the President, is once again showing his tenacity and his commitment to his agenda. This is a very good sign. But I have a humble suggestion:

Please Mr. President and aides, figure out a way to make this subject understandable. It’s not rocket science, but it is easily confused by those with a vested interested in making it confusing, i.e., Democrats. You must answer once and for all the charge that your plan will increase the national debt by between a trillion and two trillion dollars. Is that true or will it be more than offset in the long run? Or is it false altogether? Or is it partially true and partially false? It is maddening that they haven’t done a better job answering these fundamental questions.

Obviously, the Bush administration doesn’t think the president’s plan will negatively impact the national debt or the deficit, because this whole issue of Social Security reform is purely and simply about the the fiscal issues. That is, if Social Security is insolvent our national debt and deficits are both detrimentally impacted because, as of now, Social Security expenditures and other federal expenditures come out of the same pot. So for Democrats to suggest that President Bush’s plan will increase the national debt and our deficits and that their alternative of denial and inaction won’t exacerbate those problems is outrageous on its face. But someone in the Bush administration needs to make these things understandable.

They need to get the Ross Perot flow charts out and go on national TV if necessary. Forget going to cities to campaign until you’ve covered the basics — making your plan’s components fundamentally understandable and clear. It is inexcusable that they’ve failed to do so and more so that they’ve allowed the Democrats, who are clearly walking the low road here, to occupy the moral high ground. This is poor public relations. Time to correct that if you take the issue as seriously as you appear to.