It’s Time To Call It Quits On Social Security Reform

Getting Social Security reform done was ambitious and worth trying, but from Day 1, it was going to be a tough sell. Americans — like most people — are usually only inspired to make significant changes in policy when there’s a crisis of some sort and even those of us who think something needs to be done today will admit that it’s going to be more than a decade until the program starts going into the red.

Furthermore, the President just isn’t gaining any traction on the issue. While support for private accounts usually crosses the 50% mark, apparently the American people don’t trust Bush to handle it, because the approval rating for how he’s handling it seems to be mired in the thirties despite the fact that he has been promoting his plan for 3 months.

Of course, most of this isn’t his fault.

The people who are receiving Social Security or about to start collecting checks are understandably very suspicious of any changes to a program that put money in their pockets. Furthermore, the Democrats have been extremely disciplined on the issue and as far as I can tell, Bush isn’t going to get any support across the aisle for any plan that he proposes, under any circumstances. On top of that, Republican members of Congress are always skittish about making any changes to Social Security because as it is, in every election, no matter what happens, the Democrats try to demagogue them as heartless monsters who want to kill the program and send everyone over 65 into the streets. Anything that makes the Dems’ propaganda job easier makes them nervous.

So while I applaud Bush for taking on the issue and think making sure the program stays solvent is vitally important, I think it’s time for Bush to accept that it just isn’t going to happen, emphasize that his plan won’t lead to benefit cuts for people currently receiving Social Security to minimize any political damage in 2006, and quietly let the plan die. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t have a vote, but it’s time to accept that the mountain is a little too high to climb at this point and move on to other things.

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