The Do-Nothing Party

Sunday, May 8th, 2005 3:14 pm by carter

I did not watch President Bush’s press conference last week, but I read the transcript. Like many people, I was surprised to hear Bush offering, in effect, to means test Social Security. Here is what he said:

I believe a reformed system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off.

I don’t agree with this approach at all, but I saw this as a huge concession to the Democrats in an effort to actually do something about fixing Social Security. After all, this is a “fix” that the Democrats have been pushing for years. Probably like President Bush, I was naively optimistic that this concession would spur the Democrats to engage in a debate on the merits.

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was obvious to me a few days ago when I was listening to a press conference of House Democratic leaders on C-SPAN Radio. One of the “leaders” was Charles Rangel, who represents Harlem. When asked about means-testing Social Security, he responded that he was against it. And why? Because to means-test Social Security would stigmatize low-income workers whose benefits were growing faster. He further said that this would turn Social Security into just another welfare program. I was astounded. It was only then that I realized that Social Security will not be reformed during this presidency.

This obstructionist approach by the Democrats reaffirms what I have thought for the last two or three years, which is that the Republicans party is now the party of ideas, and the Democrats can only play defense and are just trying to hold on to the status quo. President Bush will get the credit he deserves for trying something bold and big, but this credit will have to come from the historians.

David Brooks of the New York Times has a really good op-ed piece about this subject entitled Calling Democrats’ Bluff, and he gives some further examples of the Democrats’ hypocracy on the subject of Social Security reform. I think their strategy, such as it is, is destined to backfire. We’ll see.

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