always on, always in.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bush's Misplayed Hand

Bush's Misplayed Hand

American politics has been so corrupted by concepts such as "positioning" and "message discipline" that citizens don't get credit for their ability to decide issues on the merits. But when the public knows and cares a great deal about what's at stake, it is quite discerning about what's true and what's not.

That's why President Bush's troubles on Social Security cannot be explained by some alleged failure of the White House's usually impeccable communications operation. Conventional explanations fail because this is a battle over principle in which the facts matter.

So far the president has made at least four mistakes. He assumed he could convince the country that Social Security faces a crisis requiring urgent action. He thought he could accentuate the positive -- those "personal accounts" really do sound great -- without laying out what they would cost. He counted on getting good-government points by "facing up" to Social Security's long-term problems without proposing any hard steps to fix them. And he figured that some Democrats would fall his way simply because that's what has always happened before.

The "crisis" claim didn't fly because it wasn't true. The president himself has gotten more careful in how he speaks about the long-term shortfall, because the moment he notes that the Social Security trust fund does not run dry until somewhere between 2042 and 2052, the notion of a crisis goes up in smoke.

As for personal accounts, their more forthright advocates acknowledge that paying for them will require either substantial tax increases or borrowing on the order of $2 trillion. Bush has finessed this nasty detail, hoping that such brave Republican legislators as Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Hagel would take the hit for delivering the bad news. The president could later claim success for the enactment of a "package" brought about through a secular version of immaculate conception. But if the president really believes in these accounts, why won't he step up and say how he'd pay for them?


(via |


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one ever thinks a matter involving other people's money is urgent enough to solve now. What you don't realize is that it's your money. More of our money is spent every single year on Social Security than is spent on nearly ANY other Federal government outlay. Social Security spending TODAY is double what defense spending is. You don't call this a crisis?

5/09/2005 08:34:00 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home