Unfinished Business; Social Security, Immigration, Energy, Amtrak
Byline: Barry Casselman, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
My list of some important issues to be resolved by President Bush and Congress will probably simultaneously please and outrage most readers.
That is because my list does not fit into a neat Republican or Democratic agenda, nor does it fit into current conservative or liberal ideology.
The Republicans control the White House and both houses of Congress, and that places a lot of blame on them for not dealing with many of these issues, but the Democrats, with sufficient votes to block most initiatives, must share the blame.
Here is my list: First, elected officials are not facing the inescapable realities and future consequences of not fixing the Social Security system and the public/private pension fund systems. There are short-term political consequences to fixing these systems in the long-term, and most politicians choose to delay solutions to avoid likely criticism from interest groups.
On this issue, Mr. Bush has been much more right than wrong, although his Social Security privatization plan for younger Americans could be improved. Opponents to any such plan, however, are demogoguing the issue, especially with older voters who actually stand to lose nothing in the plan.
But this is only part of the problem. Private and public employee pension funds are even in more immediate trouble. Again, public officials, in the face of overwhelming evidence, are putting off the problem, which only makes the consequences worse.
Second, elected officials are procrastinating the reform of our health-care delivery system.
Most Democrats persist in calling for a so-called single-payer system which, while laudable in intent, is simply unworkable without new deficits that would dwarf the untenable deficits we now have. The inefficiency and waste of the present system, however, cannot be maintained.
Again, both sides are trying to intimidate the other with simplistic appeals to interest groups.
Third, the immigration issue has come to the forefront of this year's midterm elections. Mr. Bush, Sen. John McCain and many Democrats have put forward the most realistic solutions, i.e., seal the border and find a long-term way for most "undocumented" workers to become legally part of their newly chosen home country. Certain conservatives have labeled the latter part of this program as "amnesty" and have contended that it is nothing less than rewarding illegal behavior. But these same conservatives found no "amnesty" in allowing refugees from Cuba into Florida. …