Monday, August 23, 2010

Can Obama get Social Security reform after the election if he demagogues the issue today?

Time Magazine's Mark Halperin writes on the dilemma facing President Obama: the economy stinks, the Democratic party's poll ratings are in the toilet and they face an election in less than three months. Desperate times demand desperate actions, in this case traditional scare tactics that voting Republican will mean the end of Social Security.

The problem for Obama, of course, is that the budget is also in terrible shape and not looking to get much better on its own. He needs a big achievement on that end to restore faith in federal finances and he needs Republicans to get there. Even the left acknowledges that Obama seems to want a deal on Social Security reform after his fiscal commission reports at the end of the year.

The question is whether Obama can cut that Social Security deal after the election if he demagogues the issue before the election. I doubt it. Republicans would like to do something on Social Security and the terms the commission seem to be discussing – mostly benefit reductions and increases in the retirement age, though tax increases loom as well – are better than you could generally expect.

But Republicans aren't particularly invested in President Obama's success, to say the least, and at the personal level I can't see why GOP members of the commission would feel particularly compelled to strike a deal if they feel the President handled the issue poorly in the period leading up to November. The personal plays into the political, and the President should understand that he's going to need personal trust on both sides to make reform work.

1 comment:

Bruce Webb said...

Throw me in THAT briar patch!

Social Security has not and will not add to the deficit for years, if ever. Some people have spent years trying to confuse people between "deficits" and so-called "unfunded liabilities". If all attempts to sell a crisis sold on the latter in a supposed attempt to address the former via the aptly nicknamed Catfood Commission fail Tower of Babel style then so much the better.