Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hangin' with the Wrong Crowd

There's a bizarre op-ed piece by David Broder in today's Wash Post.

The first distressing note is that Broder has apparently been hanging around the wrong crowd (and has also apparently been drinking from the cup of the group's own version of kool-aid). Here's what he has to say about the DLC:

It is not hard these days to find intelligent critiques of the budget policy and fiscal record of the Bush administration. Conservative and liberal think tanks alike grind out fresh analyses of the risks in the chronic refusal of the Republicans who govern the country to pay the bills they are amassing here and overseas.

Nonpartisan budget groups -- especially those with a historical attachment to budgetary prudence -- have been even tougher on the president and his allies on Capitol Hill for their seeming nonchalance in letting the debt of the federal government climb so rapidly on their watch.

What has been harder to discern is what the opposition Democrats would actually do to remedy the situation that may well confront them if their party comes back to power in the 2008 election. The other day, the thinking branch of the opposition -- centered these days in the Democratic Leadership Council and its allied organizations -- offered at least the start of a response.

First, if the DLC is the "thinking branch" of the Democratic Party, we are all in deep trouble indeed.

But it gets worse.

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, another of the DLC panelists, said the principle on which Democrats should approach the next campaign is a simple one: "Anything worth doing is worth paying for." Carper said that implies restoring the old budgetary rule of pay-as-you-go for both tax cuts and spending programs -- something Bush and the congressional Republicans have refused to do.

It also implies a greater readiness on the part of Democrats to reexamine the entitlement spending that poses the long-term danger of unsustainable deficits.

This message was spelled out by Maya MacGuineas, a panelist from the New America Foundation and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. As one who has worked with Republican moderates as often as with Democrats, she was particularly insistent that Democrats must ante up for any bipartisan solutions to become possible.

Specifically, the Democrats who have profited politically this year (as in the past) by opposing any change in Social Security must, she said, recognize the necessity of reforming the country's retirement system before it becomes an impossible economic burden on working-age Americans.

MacGuineas urged the Democrats to begin examining ideas she and others have put forward that would not simply reduce future benefits or postpone the age at which retirees could claim them but would instead adapt the whole social insurance concept of the 1930s to the realities of a new millennium.

Her concepts include mandated programs of individual savings for the predictable expenses of child-rearing, education and retirement; social insurance for the costs of catastrophic but unforeseeable medical bills; and some guarantee of safety-net income for people who, through no fault of their own, lose jobs or retirement benefits because of broad economic changes.

Boys and girls, men, women, children, and pets of all ages, what the blog does Social Security have to do with the current exploding budget deficit? More specifically, what does reducing Social Security benefits (and privatizing the program as conservatives have also been seeking) have to do with the gaping budget hole created by the multiple Bush tax cuts (including the proposed elimination of the "death tax") and the unnecessary war in Iraq?

As you consider your answer to that question, pay special attention to the comment from MacGuineas that I put in bold print: mandated programs of individual savings for predictable expenses of retirement. What does this statement mean? It means that Social Security, the nation's premier public retirement program, shouldn't be thought of as insurance in general, or social insurance in particular. No. It should be thought of as a "predictable expense" for which individuals should be responsible for their own damn selves. And what does that mean? It means MacGuineas thinks Social Security could and should be scrapped. That's what MacGuineas thinks Democrats should be buying into and what Democrats should come to the alter of "bipartisan" bargaining prepared to jettisone in order to help rescue the country from the budget and fiscal catastrophe that the Republicans have spent five years creating. Make sense to you? Didn't think so.

Doesn't make sense to Steve Gilliard either:

MacGuineas is a Vichyite fool. Why the hell [sic] would Democrats endorse plans widely rejected as unpopular? No, personal savings plans don't work if you have a crappy job.

Why would the Dems offer a plan before they hold power to enact it?

We don't need any bipartisan solutions. We need a Democratic House and Senate and offering to screw people over on social security is not going to win any votes.

Bush made this mess, let him clean it up as best he can.

Exactly so.

But back to my original question? What does Social Security, Social Security "reform", or entitlement "reform" have to do with the budget mess the Republicans are creating?

It so happens that the Senator has done some thinking on this, and he'll be back later to discuss the odd and pernicious juxtaposition between Social Security and on-budget operating expenses made by conservatives.

2 comments:

mondale/ferraro foreva! said...

"Boys and girls, men, women, children, and pets of all ages, what the blog does Social Security have to do with the current exploding budget deficit? " - what a classic line! bulworth for president baby!

mondale/ferraro foreva! said...

"Boys and girls, men, women, children, and pets of all ages, what the blog does Social Security have to do with the current exploding budget deficit? " - what a classic line! bulworth for president baby!