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Third Rail Returns


The supposed political story of 2005 is the president’s run of hard
luck. And the conventional litany of slip-ups always features the
president’s failure to reform social security. That so-called failure will
someday be seen as a badge of honor. The real failure here was the
Democrats’, who will ultimately be shamed by their sacrifice of the
nation’s welfare to political calculation. Had the Democrats offered a
plan on social security, we’d have gotten the beginnings of entitlement
reform: a compromise of some sort that would have established personal
accounts, cut expenditures, and probably slightly raised social security
taxes as well. That might have opened up the way to more. Yes, there was
a political hope in the president’s plan for personal accounts, but the
point is he was willing to compromise in order to establish them. We can’t
solve the entitlement problem unless both parties are willing to
compromise. And the Democrats refused to play. It’s easy to criticize
Europe’s short-sighted refusal to scale back the welfare-state in
preparation for the coming demographic tsunami. But we’ve failed too,
thanks to the Democrats.

The political and economic consequences of the Democrats’ fateful decision
to stonewall on social security will be large. It’s unlikely that any
American president will attempt serious entitlement reform for many
years. Raise the retirement age? Which party is going to propose that
now? A crisis will have to hit before we get meaningful reform, and by
then it will probably be too late. I’ve seen a number of articles recently
about the coming retirement crunch. Funny how MSM stopped running those
pieces for the duration of the social security battle.


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