Dealmaking on Social Security

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Keith Hennessey considers the possibilities, concluding that the only possible bipartisan deal would cut future spending but omit personal accounts carved out of payroll taxes (which Republicans want) or tax increases (which Democrats want).

The president therefore has two challenges: How does he convince enough congressional Democrats to support a deal they won’t like because it doesn’t raise taxes, and how does he mitigate the attacks from those on the left who deny a serious and immediate problem even exists?

This would be easier for the president if a center-left coalition were feasible, but the substance of Social Security reform has always lent itself to a center-right coalition that excludes a small conservative fringe and cleaves the left in two.

Naturally, I agree. I’d raise one other point: Democrats have for much of the last dozen years favored personal accounts “added on” to Social Security rather than “carved out” of it. A deal could probably have been made a few years ago that included these accounts as a way to sweeten the deal for the Democrats. But I’m not sure the Democrats are as interested in the idea as they were before the crash.

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