The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Thursday, March 17, 2005

GAME RESET - SOCIAL SECURITY

I needed some time away from blogging. There was a lot I needed to do, both musically and educationally, and I was getting a wee bit overwhelmed by the daily news cycle. I couldn't work myself up enough to cover each of the in's and out's of the social security debate, for example. But I'm back now, so let's see how things stand at the moment:

The Social Security debate has seen relatively little movement lately, in part because both sides are trying to find openings on minor aspects of the debate. One example is the idea of who has and hasn't presented a plan. The President, for example, has not laid out a plan, and has even said so, while at the same time other supporters of privatizers try to erode support for the Democrats' point of view by arguing that they haven't presented a plan.

From the privatizers' perspective, this nonsense looks like a stalling tactic. Bush and other proponents of private accounts have not yet figured out how to sell them to the American people, so they're sending out trial balloons in the hope that they can wrestle a Rovian 51% out of the debate. What's interesting is that some of these balloons have been quite shocking given the administration's position: Two weeks ago Treasury Secretary John Snow floated the idea that the White House would accept a Social Security reform plan that did not include privatization. Of course, they backed away from this one within 12 hours, as it wasn't at all helpful to USA-Next's attempts to paint AARP, many of whose members are part of The Greatest Generation, as nothing but a bunch of troop-hatin' gay-marriage supporters. (Of course, the couple used in the ad was none too happy about it, and has since sued for defamation). So as you can see, these trial ballons seem to go both ways.

The good news for supporters of preserving SS is that the "crisis" language seems to have disappeared from the debate altogether. What happens next? For the time being, more op-eds in both directions, more trial balloon statements of various forms from the privatizers, and probably more of the same from a rather united Democratic caucus on the issue. If the current battle lines hold, a bill based on the loose framework proposed by the administration won't go far in Congress, if it's even introduced at all.

Make no mistake, though: The administration is committed to private accounts. Social Security is the cornerstone of the FDRian welfare state, and the Rove-Norquist vortex has a strong interest in breaking the backs of progressives while Republicans hold all three branches of government. And they don't give up on these things: After four years of failed attempts to open the Artic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration (an industry euphemism meaning "drilling"), Republicans have succeeded in inserting the drilling into the 2006 budget, which will be debated in the coming months.

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