The key differences between 2005 and 2009

THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN 2005 AND 2009…. In the loosest sense, there are some general parallels between George W. Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security and Barack Obama’s effort to reform the health care system. We have presidents, fresh off a campaign victory, working with a Congress led by their party on an ambitious domestic policy matter that has been important to their party for many years.

But the parallels more or less end there. Unfortunately, there’s been some commentary of late arguing progressive opposition to Social Security privatization is similar to the opposition we’re seeing now. Marc Ambinder said earlier this week, “Democrats know the rulebook. The tactics being used against them by Republican and conservative groups were perfected by the party when it set out to defeat President Bush’s Social Security privatization proposals.”

Paul Krugman highlights the key differences between the two.

Seriously, I’ve been searching through news reports on the Social Security town halls, and I can’t find any examples of the kind of behavior we’re seeing now. Yes, there were noisy demonstrations — but they were outside the events. That was even true during the first month or two, when Republicans actually tried having open town halls. Congressmen were very upset by the reception they received, but not, at least according to any of the report I can find, because opponents were disruptive — crowds booed lines they didn’t like, but that was about it.

After that, the events were open only to demonstrated loyalists; you may recall the people arrested at a Bush Social Security event in Denver for the crime of … not being Bush supporters.

So please, no false equivalences. The campaign against Social Security privatization was energetic and no doubt rude, but did not involve intimidation and disruption.

Agreed. In some ways, recent events are the opposite of what we saw in 2005. When Bush and his allies presented their idea, opponents of privatization were desperate to have a detailed debate, confident that even a cursory discussion about reality would make it obvious that Bush’s proposal didn’t make sense.

We’re looking at the opposite situation now — opponents of reform need to shout down and end discussion before their bogus arguments are left in tatters. An open, honest debate is, as far as these activists are concerned, the enemy.

Sure, there were protests during both policy debates, but opponents of Social Security privatization tended to be outside town-hall meetings. In Bush’s case, that was mandatory — only people who agreed with him were allowed to attend public events.