Quitters Never Win

March 3, 2005

I have read in a number of places this morning — The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), and “The Hill” — that Treasury Secretary John Snow:

indicated that the White House could accept a Social Security overhaul that excludes the diversion of payroll taxes to personal savings accounts.

The administration, it is reported, might be amenable to the Democratic alternative to leave Social Security unchanged, but just encourage workers to create “add-on” private accounts alongside the Social Security system. Can you tell me what good it does — on this issue, that is — for Republicans to be in the majority? This is an outrage.

The Social Security system will never be “fixed” unless it is fundamentally restructured and raising payroll tax ceilings, which is just another way of saying raising taxes, is not the solution. That just treats the systems, and it also exacerbates the same problem that Social Security’s looming insolvency presents. Social Security will never actually become insolvent because we’ll just keep subsidizing the benefit payments out of the general revenue. What’s the difference in raising the Social Security taxes and subsidizing benefits out of general revenue? The problems we are trying to address is an overtaxed citizenry and fiscal responsibility. If you raise taxes to prevent the raising of taxes it seems to me that you’ve conceded defeat before beginning to fight. Why can’t Republicans, just once, stand up to the demagoguery and stick to their guns on this privatization issue? If they continue to raise taxes on producers, especially with the deductions being all but stripped for them, it will just be a matter of time before we burden ourselves right out of economic growth. The only thing politicians, as a group, seem to be good at is creating new ways to expand the government, e.g., prescription drug entitlement. I just wonder how people in this country survived before the explosive growth of this “magnanimous” federal government.

Folks, President Bush cannot reform Social Security by himself. He is the first one to have the guts to take on this Third, Fourth or Fifth rail of politics — whichever it is and I’m getting sick of such wonkish phrases anyway — and few people are in their helping him with the heavy lifting. There is no excuse for the administration to be retreating before the battles have even begun. But if he isn’t given some serious support on this personal accounts/privatization issue, we can kiss this reform good bye — and that is a scandal, nothing short of it. It will eventually have to be addressed. We better get with it. I can’t believe Democratic oppostion to anything would deter Republicans. You can assume as a given that they are going to oppose constructive measures like this and allow Republicans to get credit for solving this knotty issue. Time for Republicans to get with the program — NOW!