EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the January 31, 2005, issue of National Review.
People think that Social Security reform is an incredibly complicated and difficult subject. But it’s not, really. The program’s benefits are rising faster than its revenues, which means we’re going to have a lot of trouble paying for those benefits. The program also offers young people a lousy deal. The solution is, first, to keep future benefits from growing so fast. But acknowledging that benefits have to shrink doesn’t make the program a better deal for young workers. So, second, something should be done that lets them build up retirement savings to make up for it. Which means their taxes should be cut a bit, too, on the condition that they invest the money they get for retirement. That, in a nutshell, is the reform President Bush seems inclined to propose. There: Was that so hard?
It’s not the reform itself, but the politics of reform that is difficult, and may well sink Bush’s proposal in Congress. And it’s politics that has generated much of the confusion over basic facts in the Social Security debate.
Most Democrats already oppose Bush’s reform, and they have many reasons for opposing it–starting, in many cases, with the genuine conviction that it is a bad idea. But it is very hard to have respect for people who are trying to discredit reform by minimizing the program’s problems….
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