Now that President Bush has finished his 60-day storm-the-nation sell-a-thon for big changes in Social Security, it’s going to be very interesting to see what finally happens to the 70-year-old program.
According to nearly every poll, the President has been singularly unsuccessful in getting the public to view things his way regarding Social Security.
His pet project–private investment accounts within the Social Security system–seems to be dead in the water. Never very popular to begin with, they become even less so when it is explained to people that their benefits would be cut in proportion to their contributions to private accounts. This fessing up was not done at the beginning of the 60-day barnstorming and was only mildly acknowledged near the end when it became clear that the President’s desires were gaining no traction whatsoever.
My guess is that private accounts will be dropped entirely from any ultimate proposal. This, however, will not stop victory from being proclaimed, no matter how small any changes to the program eventually are.
The President’s problem has been that he oversold the solvency woes of Social Security–remember how soon it was allegedly going “bankrupt?”–but finally had to admit that his pet proposal for private accounts would do nothing to address the solvency issue. Others had to acknowledge that in fact private accounts would make the solvency issue worse by diverting funds from the program that would otherwise be going into it.
One of the arguments you constantly hear from proponents of Social Security change is that the way the program is now, it’s just not fair to our children and grandchildren. Thus, giving them the opportunity to risk some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market is the only fair thing to do.
I have two objections to this argument.