Here’s an AP piece titled, “Analysis: Bush Shifts from Social Security.” The thrust of the writer, Tom Raum’s point, is in the first paragraph:
Running into heavy resistance to his Social Security overhaul, President Bush has started emphasizing other parts of his domestic agenda and is promoting his foreign policy goals of defeating terrorism and spreading democracy.
But I fail to see where the balance of the article supports his conclusion, leading me to the conclusion that it is merely wishful thinking on Raum’s part.
In the article Raum details how President Bush is facing opposition from his own party on many items in his domestic agenda — a point I’ll readily concede since it was the basis of my last column. But Raum then leaps from that to this:
Failure to generate more public support for his plan for individual investment accounts for Social Security seems to have thrown the rest of his agenda off stride.
Raum then cites examples of issues on which the president is facing setbacks, like energy plan and his tax cut extension.
Yes, we are aware of that, but where’s the proof that Social Security difficulties are leading to difficulties in these other areas? I think, instead, he’s facing similar opposition on various initiatives, but reject that his efforts to achieve personal accounts for Social Security have caused his entire agenda to stall. Where’s the nexus, Tom? I think there’s plenty of opposition to all of his programs to go around, no thanks to moderates and populists in his own party, as I’ve said. But this is no reason for him to abandon his efforts to partially privatize SS.
But Senator Charles Grassley’s comments are troubling and validate a point I made earlier. Grassley says that Congress should focus on the solvency of the SS system rather than personal accounts. Why, might I ask, are those two goals mutually exclusive? Indeed, the White House must think otherwise or it wouldn’t be promoting private accounts as one of the central features of its plan to restore solvency to the imminently bankrupt system. But it affirms the point I’ve made over and over, i.e., the White House isn’t selling its private accounts. It isn’t answering the charge that trillions of dollars of transition costs to private accounts will defeat their own purpose. They have to have an answer for this, but they aren’t communicating it.
Instead of the White House worrying about spending too much capital on personal accounts — which I truly doubt that it is — it ought to be concentrating on better explaining the full range of benefits of private accounts, including how they will affect the overall numbers and solvency of the system. But let’s not fool ourselves: no matter what he does, Democrats, the mainstream media and far too many in his own party will reject him. As usual, he’s going to have to carry the laboring oar.