May 24, 2005

Democratic SS Plan: Medicare Bailout

Lefty bloggers argue that the Democrats should go beyond stonewalling and give Social Security reform the silent treatment. Instead, they would change the subject to talk about massive changes they want to make to Medicare. Specifically, some say they should stop going to hearings on the issue until Republicans drop personal accounts.

Of course, the voters didn't elect the Senators to not go to work. Such tactics are seldom very popular. After all, the Democrats are already in the minority, and the mandate on the Senate was even clearer than the mandate the President received. That's not a good time to start waging all-out war. The problem, as I see it, is that a group of people with strong opinions, little vision and serious anger are trying to turn every issue in a mega-confrontation.

Too many voters are interested in seeing reasonableness, compromise and progress on issues for super-stonewalling to work. And if the Democrats go from saying no to saying nothing then the Republicans dominate the issue. As it stands the Democrats are making sure that they don't rally around any counter-proposal to Bush's plan. But if the President is the only one putting a plan out there, he's going to have a serious advantage.

The polls show that a majority of people support personal retirement accounts, they just for some reason don't like what Bush is talking about (which is likely due to media influence, I'd say). The power on the issue is on the side of personal accounts, and the Democrats are over-estimating the support personal accounts holds from the GOP base. They're believing their own lies reprinted in the newspapers and polling reports and thinking that Republicans are about to crumble on the issue. But the support is underestimated by the press and the polls and the issue has serious traction among the public - especially the young.

The Democrats are trying to avoid the issue because they know they risk alienating the young or the old and because it's an issue where they're likely to lose. People as a whole in this country want personal retirement accounts, especially the young, and that's going to cost the Democrats.

The best Democrats can hope for is to address the real and chronic problems in Social Security with their trusty tax hikes. If they remove the dangers of bankruptcy then they weaken the urgency of establishing personal accounts. That won't stop the country and the young from wanting personal accounts, but it would weaken GOP arguments.

By totally backing themselves out of the debate and just saying no to everything, they avoid getting a criticized plan. But by failing to address the real problems of Social Security, they leave the door wide open for a popular initiative, personal accounts, to step up and do the job.

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