LOOKING GLASS JOURNALISM….Some days I just want to scream. On Saturday, Nick Kristof criticized Democrats for not getting on the Social Security reform bandwagon:
But what if we paid for Social Security reform by keeping the inheritance tax? Or by undoing Mr. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Rescuing Social Security strikes me as a good use for that money ? while paying for it with debt would not secure our children’s future, but mortgage it.
I’m in favor of private accounts constructed along the lines that Bush suggested. But the accounts ought to be in addition to the basic benefit, not as a replacement for about half of it. Democrats are crazy to oppose private accounts. They really do empower you.
The present Social Security structure highly taxes labor income, which in turn discourages job growth. (Whatever you tax, you get less of.) Reducing taxation of labor income ought to encourage job growth, which is in the interest of society. The initial round of opposition to the Bush proposal seems to score only the costs ? spending by Congress, etc. ? not the benefits. If only costs are weighed, all plans for anything are bad ideas!
For the love of God, can we stop this? Democrats would be delighted to rescue Social Security by keeping the inheritance tax or undoing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s Republicans who won’t hear of it. Democrats are also happy to support add-on private accounts. You can hardly swing a dead cat without hearing some Democrat saying so. But that’s not what George Bush is proposing. And I imagine Democrats would be open to the idea of reducing the payroll tax and replacing it with something more progressive, too. But Bush’s plan contains nothing of the kind.
As happens so often, the journalistic community has decided that they’re required to say that both sides are being equally irresponsible, regardless of the facts. The way to do this, apparently, is to (a) condemn Democrats for opposing a plan they all acknowledge is a bad one, and (b) then condemn them further for not supporting their own favored alternatives, even though they know perfectly well that the obstacle to these alternatives is not Democrats but Republicans.
It’s George Bush who’s insisting on a private account plan that even his own people admit won’t do anything to shore up Social Security’s finances. It’s George Bush who’s insisting that the only cures he’ll consider are ones that include huge ? but quiet ? benefit cuts. It’s George Bush who has publicly refused to even consider proposals to increase Social Security revenue in any way. It’s George Bush who has run up the unconscionable deficits that are far more responsible for our deterioriating finances than anything in the Social Security system.
The facts: Social Security has modest problems that are many decades out. They could be easily solved with small benefit cuts combined with small tax increases. A bipartisan solution could be hammered out in a few days if it weren’t for one person: George Bush.
The problem isn’t that Democrats aren’t willing to negotiate. The problem is that Democrats don’t have anyone to negotiate with. That ought to be the story.