March 03, 2005

Social Security Reform Will Come

It's almost inevitable. Besides the fact that economics is on the side of reform and against the status quo-conservatives (a not-insignificant factor) the weight of public opinion is shifting to reform.

Old people are conservative, populist, and like the old way of bigger government programs. Democrats like to fancy themselves progressives and forward-thinkers but in most of the ways that count, they are not. That's why old people love FDR, that's why most of the people backing Gephardt's campaign were old, and that's why old people jump at the merest mention of cutting their welfare... errr... Social Security and Medicare.

Young people have an interest in changing the system now so that it will be better prepared to care for them later. Young people are leaning heavily to the Republican position of reforming Social Security, especially private accounts. It might be difficult to include private accounts right now but as time goes on the support for reform will gather.

First of all, young people will go older, and the Democrats/conservatives will die off. As the anti-reform Democrats die, the pro-reform Republicans (at least on this issue) will become comparatively more numerous. The demographics will shift on this point, then, because even if some of the reformers turn into conservatives with age, more of them will be reformers than the previous generation.

Second, as the system draws closer and closer to bankruptcy, the urgency of the problem will press upon us all. More and more percentages of every age bracket will have any interest in change, and progressivly older and older people will realize they won't get their promised due. Old people will be less interested in screwing young people once they realize they too are going to get screwed.

At this point, it's either a massive tax hike, a massive benefits cut, or both. The first would be economicaly disastrous, the second politically impossible. As the politicians realize these choices are coming, they will start pushing early solutions; since a politician in his 40s or 50s has to keep his eyes on a political horizon thirty years away, they will definitely start to care by the 2040s or 2050s. However reform will be much more popular by then as the GI generation dies and allows us to extricate some of these damnable New Deal programs from throttling the neck of this economy.

This is a very long-term view of the process, and I think the natural cycle of politics will have made reform much more popular within a few years - I think we'll get some sort of plan within two years, so that it doesn't backlash onto the GOP's candidate too horribly in 2008. But even if things go quite awry, I'd say the tide of generations supports reform. It's too bad so-called progressives are spedning so much energy to defend an age-old, anti-innovative government program.

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