Friday, February 27, 2009

Washington Post chides Obama on Social Security

In an editorial today on President Obama's first budget, the Washington Post said:

Long-term fiscal stability will require more than getting rising health-care costs under control, as important as that is. Mr. Obama's statement Tuesday that the country should "begin a conversation" about Social Security was disappointingly anemic. The conversation has been going on for a long time. It is action that has been, and remains, missing.

Click here to read the who piece.

1 comment:

Bruce Webb said...

Yes the conversation has been going on for a long time, in fact all the way back to Alf Landon and the Presidential campaign of 1936.

The question is whether this conversation has been well intended and/or well informed. And my answer is 'no'. Much of that conversation has been traditionally driven by libertarian arguments against the whole concept of Social Security (i.e. Friedman calling it 'immoral') and much of the rest of it being driven by concepts like 'sustainable solvency' which mostly reduce to not wanting the General Fund to have to 'subsidize' Social Security going forward (which 'subsidy' for the next four decades equates to 'repayment of borrowing').

Very little of that conversation has been driven by a true desire to actually produce a better numeric result for future retirees. Despite a lot of talk about equity between races or between generations the solutions presented seem to reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator, i.e. phase in benefit cuts now so there will not be much uproar in 2041. Or insert 'ownership society' in the front in only to remove it with varying requirements for annuitization for lower income workers.

The Post's argument is just another variation on one I hear all the time "No one my age believes Social Security will even be there for them. So lets go ahead and 'reform it'. Well sorry just because you managed to work the refs (WaPo) and the audience (workers under 50) with a disciplined message delivered over 25 or alternately 72 years doesn't mean that defenders are obligated to just throw in the towel.