Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Is Social Security Reform Dead?

David Brooks thinks so (he puts the chances at no better than 1 in 4 of a reform bill passing this Congress). He takes the Republican leadership to task for a poor game plan, but then says, of the Democrats:

Democratic blunders: The Democrats are still traumatized by their own losses. They are focused on past defeats, not future opportunities, and interested in revenge, not governing and accomplishment.

When Social Security reform was broached, the party leaders went to the F.D.R. Memorial, as if the glory days of the 1930's were the guideposts for the 21st century. Meanwhile, the party base has grown militant with rage. The Howard Dean hotheads declare that they hate the evil Republicans, making compromise seem like collaborating with Satan. The militants, bloggers and polemicists have waged a relentless pressure campaign on any moderates who might even be thinking of offering constructive ideas.

The party's greatest failures have come in the past few weeks. Sensing the inadequacy of the first Bush approach, many Republicans have floated brave concessions. Several leading Republicans proposed a big payroll tax increase for the upper class and upper-middle class. Senator Robert Bennett suggested progressively indexing benefits to protect the poor and working class from cost-saving steps.

These offers are more progressive than any Republicans have made before or are likely to make again. But the Democrats played the Yasir Arafat role at Camp David. They made no counteroffers. They offered no plan. They just said no.

Instead, many made demagogic speeches about Republican benefit cuts, as if it is possible to fix the system without benefit cuts. Many ginned up the familiar scare tactics designed to frighten the elderly.

If Social Security reform fails - and obviously I hope this obit becomes obsolete - it will be many years before any sort of big entitlement reform will come up again. The parties will keep playing chicken, and we will soon find ourselves catastrophically buried under our own debt.

Wow...that's quite an indictment...Josh Marshall, are your ears burning yet? (And by the way, why don't you just change the name of your blog to I-Hate-Social-Security-Reform.com? Just a friendly suggestion)...

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