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Honest George Will...

The Red Team on this site and elsewhere have mostly been following the lead of George Bush in attacking Social Security: recently phrases like “Ponzi scheme”, “crisis”, “failure”, “unsustainable”, and even “economic fascism” have been tossed out with reckless abandon. A little fact-checking shows that this assessment is (at the very least) wildly pessimistic. It doesn’t take much of a cynic to suspect that the current push to “fix” Social Security is driven less by any real sense of “crisis” than by politics.

I found it quite refreshing to see a posting this morning by a prominent conservative who's actually willing to tell the truth about his views on social security: George Will. Thanks, George.

George Will starts by noting that the current Red-Team view seems to be that "people must be frightened into accepting sensible Social Security reform". He then rejects that view, and instead lays out a quick, fair, and unbiased summary of Social Security's finances. My personal favorite factoid on this is Paul Krugman's observation that in 2042, when Bush says it will be "bankrupt", SS will be paying for 80% of its expenses from revenues. In 2006, the US government can pay only 66% of expenses from revenues. So 30 years from now, SS will be less "bankrupt" than Bush's government budget is right now.

George Will gives a similar assessment. He emphasisizes that really, nobody knows where Social Security and the economy will be in 2042, and suggests "today we may be less distant from the enactment of Social Security (1935) than we are from a real solvency crisis in the system." He then adds a paragraph about the real crisis, which nobody seems to be talking about: "a Medicare prescription drug entitlement that by itself adds to Medicare's solvency crisis a sum much larger than the entire Social Security system's shortfall." (His emphasis, not mine.)

In the end, Will gives an argument for Social Security reform: "the philosophy of freedom...personal accounts will respect individuals' autonomy and competence and will narrow the wealth gap." Great! freedom, autonomy, and equity - I appreciate those goals, Mr. Will, and I think they're worth pursuing. Now let's talk about whether they're really achievable this way, and if they're worth the $2,000 billion dollars the Social Security reform might cost. Hey, maybe there's some reasonable compromise here.

Good old George! I may disagree with him but at least it's an honest disagreement on priorities and values - not just an exersize in fact-checking, dissecting misleading statistics, and otherwise shoveling total bullshit. If only more Republicans would have the honesty and decency to actually say what they think, instead of spending their energy on manufacturing crises to hide their plans behind, the world would be a better and cleaner place. Posted by William Cohen at January 20, 2005 2:24 PM