January 17, 2005

Third Rail


An individual should have the right to fully control his retirement plans, so steps toward privatizing the government-enforced Ponzi scheme known as Social Security are welcome. What little is known of President Bush's partial-privatization proposal is encouraging if modest. But a growing chorus of criticism at the very idea of privatization already has some Republicans scared.

From the Star Tribune (free registration): Republicans wary as Bush forges ahead.

A week into President Bush's renewed campaign to overhaul Social Security, many Republicans are wary of signing on to any plan that could have political costs in 2006. ...

Democrats, sensing blood in the water, are charging that the White House plans to trade lower guaranteed benefits for future retirees for personal savings accounts with possibly higher but uncertain rates of return. They hope that idea will prove politically toxic in the run-up to the midterm congressional elections next year.

With the AARP, the powerful senior lobby, siding with the Democrats in the early rounds, some Republicans are urging the Bush administration to come out quickly with a clear formulation of the problem -- and then a plan that they can defend.

But I doubt there's any plan that these Republicans would be eager to defend, because what they probably fear most is the moral battle underlying a fight to de-socialize Social Security. Do Republicans have the guts to stand up for the right of an individual who creates his own wealth to invest it as he sees fit? Are Republicans willing to say that it's wrong to force one generation to pay for the livelihood of another? I hope so, but it's not likely judging by the pragmatic attitudes expressed in the above article. Such moral issues are what make Social Security the "third rail" of American politics. And it looks like Republicans have already forfeited the high ground to Democrats.

UPDATE I -- January 18: Our typo in the cartoon has been fixed. Thanks goes to Thomas O. Miller, who is not only a good speller but an excellent designer and sci-fi/fantasy illustrator. Be sure to check out his work at Atomic Art.

UPDATE II -- January 19: This cartoon appears in today's (Wednesday's) Investor's Business Daily.

Posted by Forkum at January 17, 2005 09:44 PM