Monday, August 15, 2005

Social Security Lessons

Paul Krugman provides a useful reminder in the NY Times today:

Social Security turned 70 yesterday. And to almost everyone's surprise, the nation's most successful government program is still intact.

Just a few months ago the conventional wisdom was that President Bush would get his way on Social Security. Instead, Mr. Bush's privatization drive flopped so badly that the topic has almost disappeared from national discussion.

But I'd like to revisit Social Security for a moment, because it's important to remember what Mr. Bush tried to get away with.

Many pundits and editorial boards still give Mr. Bush credit for trying to "reform" Social Security. In fact, Mr. Bush came to bury Social Security, not to save it. Over time, the Bush plan would have transformed Social Security from a social insurance program into a mutual fund, with nothing except a name in common with the system F.D.R. created.

...privatization seems to be dead for the time being. The Democratic leadership in Congress defied the punditocracy - which was very much in favor of privatization - by refusing to cave in, and the American people made it clear that they like Social Security the way it is.

But the campaign for privatization provided an object lesson in how the administration sells its policies: by misrepresenting its goals, lying about the facts and abusing its control of government agencies. These were the same tactics used to sell both tax cuts and the Iraq war.
Well put. And while I don't say this too often, I think the Democrats deserve a great deal of credit for holding firm on social security. In this case, they won a significant victory that will provide real benefits for a majority of Americans. That's something you don't usually see.

Oh, and lest I forget, the AARP did an admirable job, too. In fact, I doubt the Democrats would have stood as tall as they did if they didn't have the backing and organizational aplomb of a bunch of knowledgable, angry seniors. Kudos to them, because people my age swallowed the GOP Kool Aid completely.