Saturday, January 22, 2005

Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom in Washington seems to be that privatization is a "dead horse." No one is really out there talking about creating private accounts within Social Security by diverting payroll tax money. Democrats in Washington have drawn a line in the sand to create private accounts on top of Social Security. Call it the "third way" political jujitsu that Clintonites are famous for; winning the fight then retreating anyway. Truth be told, I'm sort of in favor of creating a national 401k plan, I just haven't seen anything that shows where this would be funded from. At the end of the day, if we keep it away from the payroll tax, I'll put it in the win column. But all of this makes one wonder why Bush wanted to piss on the third rail of American politics in the first place. Was it hubris? Did he really think he had a mandate and thus could just force privatization on us? Was Karl Rove, evil super genius that he is, responsible for getting private accounts through with bipartisan consent it seems by taking power from the reaction to Social Security? I mean, that would explain why they haven't actually proposed a plan yet. There was no plan, just a lot of strategic leaks to jump start the debate. Predictably, Democrats held the line, more or less, on not messing with SS, but they wanted to be all strategic and they didn't argue keeping SS intact on moral grounds. Just on the fiscal one. I'm inclined to think that it is possible, but not very likely. One, they're still at it. Two, CATO and other right-wing think tanks are still planning on putting money behind an ad blitz. Three, they've stopped using the term "privatization." And four, the rhetoric they've been using has been to create fear that SS will collapse. Crisis-mongering then just giving up will make them look like they are impotent, and they don't want that for another 4 years. I think they are still going to go for it, but I think they will lose and I think it will cost them in '06 for overreaching. Unless they pull a miracle out of their ass, Congressional Republicans are going to want to start exerting some control over the agenda. They are, after all, conservatives.

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