Wednesday, March 23, 2011

White House to sit out Social Security debate

Talking Points Memo reports that "The White House will not prominently inject itself into congressional negotiations on Social Security reform until after key legislators in both the House and Senate unveil their plans to reduce projected long-term deficits, according to administration officials." This isn't surprising, given the political risks involved with engaging on Social Security reform and the desire of some Democrats to use Social Security as an issue in the 2012 elections.

TPM reports that

At a roundtable meeting earlier this month, a senior Treasury official described the landscape to about a dozen reporters and bloggers. The optimal moment for President Obama to substantively weigh in on Social Security reform proposals, the official said, will come when House Republicans unveil their budget resolution for fiscal year 2012 and a bipartisan working group in the Senate unveils its deficit reduction package, assuming they reach an agreement.

Those two proposals will force Republicans to grapple with the tensions between their broad opposition to increasing federal revenues and their professed goal in these discussions of reducing the deficit. It's put them in a bit of a box, the official said, and it's possible they may abandon their efforts, and lay the blame at Obama's feet, before unveiling anything. But if their efforts are serious, Obama's economic team sees an opening -- to take pressure off the non-defense discretionary portion of the budget, and to send a signal to markets that the U.S. government isn't so paralyzed that it can't address larger, looming fiscal challenges.

While it's understandable that the administration would wish to wait to gauge the lay of the land before engaging, this forgets the President's ability to shape the lay of the land by showing leadership on the issue. If the administration makes clear its seriousness to both Republicans and Democrats in Congress – a large group of whom now seem intent on trying to make progress on entitlements and the budget – that may spur these groups on toward compromise and harden their resolve against the inevitable pressures to kick the can down the road.


Bruce Webb said...

Apologies in advance.

I just directed some folk your way telling them that you were in most respects the best of the best on the other side of this debate, and that if they were prepared to be level in their language, sharp in their logic, and solid on their facts that they could test themselves. But that if not that you would hand them their lunch.

So we will see. But heck at least it is traffic.

Andrew G. Biggs said...

Thanks, Bruce. Does being the best on the conservative side mean I'm the most honest conservative, or the best conservative at being dishonest? Don't answer that...