Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Democrats Finally Have a Social Security Plan

May 4(17), 2005
At long last, a Democratic member of Congress has stepped forth with a comprehensive, well thought out, and practical plan to handle the social security problem. As President Bush made his way across the country to (unsuccessfully) lobby the American people around his proposed Social Security privatization plan, Democrats called out passionately against the idea.
Privatization, they say, would effectively create an entirely new system, ripping apart the old Democratic innovation that has become a staple of so many Americans’ later lives. Unfortunately, the Democrats were struggling to put together a solution of their own, which led top Republicans to label them, “The Party of, ‘No.’” The Republican line of reasoning was, “Privatization may be unpopular, but it’s the only thing out there on the table.” A mythical Social Security, “crisis,” has been used to feed a feeling of urgency concerning the issue, and it is likely that panic alone is responsible for the few Americans who support privatization in the first place.
Naturally, Republicans would have loved a chance to dismantle Social Security; what better victory could there be for laissez-faire policy than to strike down a cornerstone of the Democratic modernization of America, an institution that has helped innumerable poor elderly make ends meet and maintain their dignity?
Just this last week, Senator Robert Wexler of Florida unveiled a plan to manage the future Social Security shortfalls and ensure that the fund is preserved for many more generations. The Democratic senator proposed a 6% tax increase on incomes of $90,000.00 a year or more. The slight increase in taxes would affect only a small percentage of the population and would raise considerable revenue to be used in the maintenance of Social Security and other much-needed government programs.
Senator Wexler deserves enormous praise for his industriousness and ingenuity in formulating an entirely plausible and workable proposal. This could very well be the key to the Social Security problem.
Senator Wexler described the plan, saying “It's the lifting of the taxable earning cap. That certainly is. It will raise substantial money. And the reason for doing it is to avoid benefit cuts, to avoid privatization schemes, to avoid having to increase the retirement age for Americans. What we see on the one hand is the president offering a plan which requires significant benefit cuts. And what I wanted to show the American people was that we could resolve the Social Security shortfall without benefit cut, without raising the retirement age and without engaging in risky market privatization projects.”
Touché.
He was then asked his opinion on the current Democratic Congressional policy of not negotiating Social Security at all with President Bush until the Commander-in-Chief took privatization off of the table. This is really quite a stubborn and inefficient line to take, a position that is rather Republicanesque. Democrats have criticized President Bush for refusing to negotiate with Kim Jung Il of North Korea until the rogue nation promises to abandon its nuclear weapons program, but everyone knows that such a thing will never happen. Similarly, it must be common knowledge among groups with even a rudimentary understanding of politics that no headstrong Republican, much less the same arrogant president who engages in foreign wars for purposes of economic gain and personal bravado, would ever dream of acquiescing to such a narrow Democratic demand.
In all honesty, most Democratic leaders probably wouldn’t take kindly to a similar request from a Republican. It is amusing to picture Harry Reid’s furious reaction in a reversed situation.
Wexler was diplomatic, remarking simply, “I don't think the American people win if the Democratic Party by default does not address the Social Security shortfall. We have spent months showing the American people that the president's plan will require benefit cuts, it requires a risky privatization scheme, it diverts one-third of Social Security's revenue away from Social Security. And I think we add to our credibility by offering an alternative, particularly one that does not require benefit cuts. The American people want to know, how do the Democrats stand on Social Security. And now that Congress has begun its hearings, I think it's important that Democrats speak up.” How very well put.

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