Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Real Crisis in Washington: You have to wonder what got under David Brooks' skin for him to write such an eloquent and damning column in yeterday's New York Times. Brooks rightly condemns both parties for not doing what is needed in safeguarding Social Security from the coming Baby Boomer retirement age wave. There are blunders aplenty. First the Republicans. He notes that Republicans misjudged the popularity-even among conservatives- of Social Security and blames them for putting private accounts ahead of the solvency problem:

"More experienced negotiators might have put the solvency issue before the personal-accounts issue. That would have created a consensus on the need for change before we got to the divisive issue of how to fix the system.
But Republican leaders have never really developed the skills required for cross-party horse-trading. Today's Republicans emerged in response to the ideological politics of the 1960's and were forged in the anti-political populism of the 1994 revolution. These anti-political creatures of conviction find sticking to orthodoxy easier than the art of compromise."

I tend to think the seeds for defeat came when Majority Leader Tom Delay rammed through a new redistricting plan in Texas that brought more Republicans to Washington from the Lone Star State at the expense of moderate to conservative Democrats, the very persons who the President needed to get his plan off the ground. However, since those Texas Democrats are gone and since many other "blue dog" Democrats are hesitant to work with the Republicans after seeing how they were defeated, that prospect is unlikely and plays into the hands of more liberal Democrats.

Speaking of Dems, Brooks has this to say:
"Sensing the inadequacy of the first Bush approach, many Republicans have floated brave concessions. Several leading Republicans proposed a big payroll tax increase for the upper class and upper-middle class. Senator Robert Bennett suggested progressively indexing benefits to protect the poor and working class from cost-saving steps.
These offers are more progressive than any Republicans have made before or are likely to make again. But the Democrats played the Yasir Arafat role at Camp David. They made no counteroffers. They offered no plan. They just said no.
Instead, many made demagogic speeches about Republican benefit cuts, as if it is possible to fix the system without benefit cuts. Many ginned up the familiar scare tactics designed to frighten the elderly. "

I remember when John Kerry was running for President, he claimed we could grow our way out of any insolvency problem. Unless he had some kind of crystal ball, he has no way of knowing what the economy will look like in the next few decades. We don't know if there will be a recession or another terrorist attack. The Dems have shown they want to make no changes at all even though there will be a large increase in those using Social Security in the next 5-10 years.

Brooks has one more group he condems. If you want to know who, you might want to look in the mirror:
"Oh, yes, there's one more group to be criticized: the American voters. For the past 30 years, Americans have wanted high entitlement spending and low taxes. From the looks of things today, they - or more precisely their children - are going to live with the consequences. "

He's right on that one. We all want low taxes and we also expect that somehow we will get all we want and need from entitlement programs. I guess there are a lot of us that missed math class or basic economics in school. As much as the politicians are to blame, we have to blame ourselves for not being willing to make and demand the hard choices we need to ensure this system survives.

Like I said before, Social Security will go the way of the Clinton Health Plan: a political victory, but a social loss. The problem will still remain.

How sad.


Post a Comment

<< Home

!-- End .box -->