Even worse, as a matter of policy, by taking personal accounts off the table, Republicans may be boxing themselves into a very bad corner. There are, after all, only three options for Social Security reform: raise taxes, cut benefits, or switch to personal accounts. While benefit cuts are defensible economically, they are not likely to prove any more politically popular than personal accounts, probably less so. Democrats are already organizing to fight any reductions. And, if Republican opposition to the Medicare cuts under Obamacare is any indication, no one should expect an overabundance of courage in fighting to cut Social Security benefits.
Therefore, if Republicans are not willing to embrace personal accounts, they will be left with . . . tax hikes, which has been the Democrats’ goal all along.
One reason the Democrats have been so successful in expanding the government year after year is that they have the courage of their convictions. They lose on an issue time after time, but they keep coming back until they win. Take national health care: After Hillarycare went down to defeat in 1993, the Left didn’t give up. And today we have Obamacare. Republicans lost on Social Security and curled up into a fetal position, begging for mercy.
Factcheck.org rates the president’s statement that Republicans want to privatize Social Security as “mostly false.” Before too long, we may come to wish that this time he had been telling the truth.
– Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution.