THE EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL SECURITY….Mark Schmitt kindly pretends that there’s not much point in adding to something if I’ve already said it (thanks, Mark!), but then goes ahead and adds to it anyway. You should read what he has to say if you want to understand why things have changed on the Social Security front in the half dozen years since Bill Clinton was president.

To summarize, Mark makes two points:

  • Back in 1998, Social Security’s problems seemed worse than they do today. Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot argued back then that the long-term financing of Social Security wasn’t that big a deal ? and they were right ? but no one else agreed with them.

  • The budget was in surplus and Medicare’s problems weren’t as clear as they are now. Social Security really did seem like the most serious fiscal problem to be addressed at the time.

Today, Social Security is a smaller problem and the deficit and Medicare are much bigger problems. That means Social Security is a distant third on the list of long-term financial problems to be concerned about, and that’s why Bush’s fixation on it for ideological reasons strikes so many of us as reckless and foolhardy.

But go read Mark’s entire explanation. It’s very good.