Hopes amid the Stumbling

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 8, 2005 | Go to article overview

Hopes amid the Stumbling


Byline: Peter Ferrara, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush conceded Tuesday what has long been obvious, indeed, predicted by some of the staunchest personal account advocates. His Social Security reform efforts have stalled out. Personal accounts for Social Security, however, are still alive and kicking on the Hill, and can still pass within the next few months.

Mr. Bush to me is a brave and endearing figure of high character, who has been poorly served by others on many fronts. That is the case in his Social Security reform failure too.

The president campaigned in and won two national elections on the still highly popular personal account option for Social Security. He did not talk then about cutting future promised benefits sharply through price indexing of the benefit formula, or delaying the retirement age, or raising taxes by increasing the maximum cap on Social Security taxable income.

Instead, he rightly talked about the new opportunity and prosperity personal accounts would bring to working people. And in 2000, 2002 and 2004, dozens of Republicans won congressional elections following him in this position.

But once he got to Washington, his staff was intellectually dominated by the old-line policy establishment desperate to get Mr. Bush away from the truly revolutionary accounts and back into the old box of tax increases and cuts in future promised benefits. Despite the president's better instincts, his staff misled him back into this swamp of failure.

There is a true scandal here as the staff sold the president the canard Democrats would support personal accounts in return for his support of price-indexing Social Security benefits, which would hugely reduce future benefits promised under current law. As should have been expected, the Democrats have uniformly opposed such price indexing.

The idea the Democrats were pining away for huge cuts in future Social Security benefits was absurd from the beginning. The staff's price indexing debacle was the equivalent to suggesting the president could get Democrats to support sweeping tax cuts if he would only embrace cutting food stamps and public housing.

Earlier this year, the president was even sent out to argue for personal accounts, while ridiculously mouthing the proposition the accounts would not solve Social Security's problems.

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