Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bush Backpedaling on Social Security Privatization? Bush OKs Republican Senator's Plan To Offer Reform Legislation, Minus Private Accounts

Is President Bush prepared to OK Social Security reform without his beloved private accounts?

At a White House luncheon with Republican Senators yesterday, Robert Bennett of Utah told President Bush that he would soon propose a bill without the accounts.

But if you think it's shocking that a Republican Senator would break away from the Bush gameplan, hold onto your hat.

According to an article in the June 22 edition of The Hill, Bennett said that Bush told him to “go ahead” with the bill.

As Jon Stewart might say: "Wha?"

***

Bush did not comment on the pending legislation. The White House told reporters that Bush's comments indicate he welcomes a discussion of options.

Other Republican Senators attending the luncheon downplayed Bennett's pending proposal.

Larry Craig of Idaho said the president “remained very upbeat on his approach” and noted that Bennett’s conversation with the president did not take place in front of the entire delegation.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-PA), who has been Bush's main lackey in the Senate on privatization, said Bush's response to "go ahead" was not an endorsement of Bennett's alternate proposal.

***

Bennett, however, seemed optimistic that his alternative plan had a better chance of passage than the president's.

"Democrats and some Republicans say, 'We will not vote for anything that includes personal accounts,' and that seems to have slowed the whole thing down," Bennett told the Salt Lake Tribune. "My reaction is, that shouldn't slow the whole thing down and let's find out how serious people really are when they say, 'Yes, there really is a problem, but I don't like personal accounts.'"

***

The idea that it might be easier to pass Social Security reform without privatization has gained steam of late. Even the author of the reform plan Bush has embraced has suggested as much.

Robert C. Pozen, a Massachusetts investment company executive, called on Bush last month to consider giving up the centerpiece of the his Social Security proposal — the individual investment accounts funded by payroll taxes, also called 'carve-out accounts.''

"Given the lack of bipartisan support for carve-out personal accounts, the president should not insist on carve-out accounts if the Democrats support an overall legislative package for Social Security reform that is otherwise satisfactory to him," Pozen said.

***

Bush hasn't been able to get traction with his privatization plan, in spite of a whirlwind tour of "town hall" meetings -- essentially infomercials in which hand-picked audiences listen to hand-picked questioners in order to hear the President offer answers using hand-picked information.

The president tells people that Social Security will be "bankrupt," ignoring a Government Accountability Office study that showed that even with no changes, the system would pay out 70% of benefits in 2052. Then after telling his hand-picked audiences that the system will go bankrupt, he touts the privatization plan. What other conclusion could the audiences draw but to assume privatization addresses solvency? One problem, the White House has admitted the plan is "revenue net neutral" over 75 years. Just another minor detail Bush fails to mention during his barnstorming tour.

But even with all that misinformation, the Bush "town hall" meetings haven't worked. Poll after poll has shown tepid response to the privatization plan. If anything, the more the president repeats himself on privatization, the less popular the plan becomes.

Perhaps, finally, Bush is realizing that his plan will never get passed, and move ahead with real Social Security reform.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That makes 11 Senators who have backed away from the president's agenda, right?

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12, if you include Voinovich of Ohio, who spoke out on Bolton.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:47 PM  
Blogger OTTMANN said...

This makes me think that the Bush plan will prevail, and democrats will be scratching their heads again.

You'll never figure Bush out.

Here's a hint: Bush lets people make their own mistakes by telling them to go ahead. He knows those mistakes will be rejected by the people. For example, Voinovich has proven to be a mistake that will be corrected in the next election if he doesn't come around.

"Jabbs" ?... why that's hillaryarious!

2:20 AM  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

As I've written a number of times, I have a lot of problems with the idea of private accounts as envisioned by Bush. He'd be smart to drop it. But I have to give him credit for having the nerve to take on Social Security reform in general. Somebody's got to do it.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When was the last time a politician actually had the cajones to address Social Security in a substantive manner?

I guess we should just sit back, and accept the fact that the majority of politicians in Washington DC simply do not have the political will to do so, being more concerned about nasty ads being run against them, instead of addressing the long term solutions to the impending SS crisis.

Higher taxes can cure everything!

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of the commentors above appear to have forgotten that the private account idea DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help the Social Security pending financial crisis. In fact the trillion plus cost to implement the plan would increase the problem, not reform it.
How short people's memories are. That's exactly the way Bush likes it so we can forget his failed promises and failed expectations on social security, Iraq, no Child Left Behind, and other issues.
Bush's actions show he does not care about social security reform for the average American. If he did, he would have been advocating a workable plan to fix social security, instead of the unrelated private accounts idea which he mislead people to believe would be a fix.
What Bush cares about is pushing a devastatingly costly private accounts idea because it would benefit his rich corporate friends.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You will note that I did not address at all whether or not private accounts would either hinder or enhance the long term viability of social security.

Though i am incredibly in favor of private accounts, I know that the resistance to changing this relic of an institution will likely not allow them to become possible, at least not in this politically charged climate.

So, since you are so interested in the long term viability of the system, other than raising taxes on the workers of today and tomorrow, are there any other ideas or solutions that you may have to stabilize this venerable institution ?

10:06 AM  

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