Thursday, March 31, 2005

Social Security

Here's Mark at Pseudopolymath (a smart conservative & christian blog) on Social Securty reform:
We would like one hand for our legislators to engage in long range planning and think of the future without engaging in partisan short term dogfights....For on the flip side, when the President asks for us to open the question of SS and proposes we consider ways of improving the system in place, what occurs? Partisan warfare erupts. The salient questions isn't why does this partisan warfare occur, but to what end. As I see it, opening up discussion is rarely a bad thing with respect considering long range consequences.

[ed: on reread, I'm talking past Mark's point, but I've been wanting to mention SS at some point. Mark's point, which is well-taken, is that a lot of the rhetoric on SS reform is just political jockeying, and there's definitely something to that]

Given that this is the notorious third rail, partisan warfare is inevitable. I think it also bears mentioning that the way in which Bush posed the problem invited a fiery debate. He didn't say there was a problem and then open a space for brainstorming. He posed a solution that didn't really seem to fit the problem, and which could all-too-easily be chalked up to ideological advancement. Privatization is a good thing, but it's an answer to a question that wasn't asked. By itself, privatization just doesn't address the problem that was raised (per even the most ambitious versions of privatization, it would account for 3-5% of the program, leaving the other >90% of the problem).

That stark mismatch between problem and proposal just screams "hidden agenda."

Still, the conversation has been jump-started by Bush, and that really is a good and necessary thing. Just like with Iraq, good effects will have been secured through really, really dodgy reasoning. Maybe that was a strategic decision (as it clearly was with Iraq [cf: Wolfowitz's acknowledgement that the WMD emphasis was a "bureaucratic" decision]), or maybe Bush has keen instincts and less keen rational faculties, or maybe it was just accidental. Either way, the current discussion is a Good Thing.