Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Cynical Idealism in Social Security Debate

This is a rather long piece for the Wall Street Journal but is a must read if you are interested in the strong philosophical opinions held by democrats and republicans over the future of entitlement programs in America.

OpinionJournal: "President Bush is now endeavoring to redress the looming embarrassment of Social Security's obligation to pay more than it will take in. The semantic argument about whether this shortfall constitutes a crisis, a problem, or a banana daiquiri is pointless. The gap must be closed, either by reducing the program's obligations or increasing its revenues. The president's approach calls for restraining the growth of Social Security benefits, while compensating for that reduction by letting younger workers divert a portion of their taxes to build up their retirement savings. The logic is that while blackening the skies with criss-crossing dollars is a zero-sum game, participating in capital formation through investments is not. Wealth can be multiplied, not just divided.

Few Democrats or leftists of any stripe have come forward to applaud Bush's pragmatic, experimental social policy. Yet, they can't confess that their "principle," that government must always grow and never shrink, is something they pulled out of the air. Nor can they draw on the credibility they built up the last time a welfare state program was scaled back. In the Clinton-era debate over welfare reform, we were told (in The Nation) that Aid to Families with Dependent Children was crucial to "the fragile state of grace that suggests we are our sisters' and brothers' keepers. That is what community is fundamentally about." And we were warned that ending AFDC "will destroy that state of grace. In its place will come massive and deadly poverty, sickness, and all manner of violence. People will die, businesses will close, infant mortality will soar, everyone who can will move. Working- and middle-class communities all over America will become scary, violent wastelands."

Show us, please, all those hellish wastelands that have sprung up in the last nine years--and then tell us why we must not make any changes to Social Security."
I try to rarely say must read but this is a must read. Excellent writing, clear, truthful, not zing nor zen but insightful.

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