THE SOCIAL SECURITY NON-CRISIS REVISITED….So is President Bush planning a “January Surprise” to privatize Social Security, as John Kerry says? His spokesmen say that’s nonsense:

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Bush, said Kerry lifted a “made-up” quote from a reporter hostile to Bush “to make a false, baseless attack.” Schmidt said the president never used the word “privatized” because his plan would not privatize the system.

The president has only endorsed allowing younger Americans to put a small percentage of their Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts…Experts say this would, in essence, partially privatize the system.

I get it. He’s not going to privatize the system. He’s just going to partially privatize the system. That makes me feel better.

It’s a remarkable thing. Out of all the possible problems to address in America, Social Security is probably not even in the top ten. It’s solvent for at least the next 40 years, and possibly the next 50, even if we do absolutely nothing. Some very minor adjustments on either the tax or benefit side would keep it solvent forever. (For example, the Social Security Advisory Board says that even if you addressed the problem solely by tax increases, you’d only have to raise the current payroll tax from 6.2% to 7.1%. That’s not exactly Armageddon, but of course you don’t learn that until page 21 of this report, which on page 3 talks about Social Security’s “looming financial shortfall.”)

So why do Republicans waste time pushing private accounts? Because lots of people ? especially young people ? are convinced Social Security won’t be around by the time they retire. But why are they afraid it won’t be around? Because Republicans keep peddling scare stories about how Social Security is heading toward bankruptcy.

It’s a neat circle. It’s also untrue. Republicans want private accounts for purely ideological reasons, not because they actually solve a problem. If Democrats and Republicans really wanted to “fix” Social Security, they could do it in about a week of good faith effort ? and then move on to other, more real, problems. Now that would be a campaign promise worth listening to.