Saturday, May 07, 2005

Kristof: The Catholic Church, AIDS, and Condoms

The Pope and AIDS: "Let's hope that Pope Benedict XVI quickly realizes that the worst sex scandal in the Catholic Church doesn't involve predatory priests. Rather, it involves the Vatican's hostility to condoms, which is creating more AIDS orphans every day.

Nobody does nobler work throughout the developing world than the Catholic Church. You find priests and nuns in the most remote spots of Latin America and Africa, curing the sick and feeding the hungry, and Catholic Relief Services is a model of compassion.

But at the same time, the Vatican's ban on condoms has cost many hundreds of thousands of lives from AIDS."
As a Catholic , I still must agree with Kristof's sentiments here.

Robert Novak: "Dean's Debacle"

Robert Novak: : "Democratic National Committee (DNC) fund raising under the chairmanship of Howard Dean shows a disappointing $16.7 million raised in the first quarter of 2005, compared with $34 million reported by the Republicans.
That tends to confirm dire predictions by old-line Democratic fund-raisers of a fall-off in money if Dean became chairman. He had promised to bring in heavy individual contributions, as he did in his 2004 campaign for president. But the DNC in the first quarter received only $13 million from individuals, compared to $31 million for the Republican National Committee (RNC).

A footnote: A recent DNC fund-raising appeal promised to send field workers to North Carolina, which does not have a major statewide election until 2008. "

More on Chilean Social Security

More from John Tierney Place Your Bets - New York Times:
"Chilean workers kept mentioning to me. The best part of their private accounts, they said, was that they'd put 'la plata donde mis ojos la vean' - the money where my eyes can see it. They knew they might lose some of it in the stock market, but they preferred that to watching it all disappear into politicians' hands...
President Bush offered a progressive compromise last week to Democrats: protect the poor while moderating the growth of benefits for higher-income workers. Democrats refused to bite, denouncing his "cuts" without offering a plan of their own, and members of both parties wondered why any politician would jeopardize his party's chances in 2006 by tackling an unpleasant future problem.

You can call the Democrats irresponsible obstructionists, but they're just following the first rule of politics: get re-elected. It's the same rule followed by the politicians from both parties who have spent the baby boomers' retirement money. Why set aside money for 2017 if it could be used to woo voters and campaign contributors for the next election?"
A well written column making multiple points in favor of PRAs. I miss Bill Safire but I am really liking the start John Tierney is having with the NY Times.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Law Schools Litigate Against Military Recruitment

From a law professor at Stanford University: But the Scouts, Your Honor - Law schools wield a ruling on gay scoutmasters against the military.:
"On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would review the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, which denies federal funding to universities that won't allow the military to recruit on campus. The law sounds like a throwback to 1968, something that would affect a handful of radical schools on the fringe of the academic mainstream. In fact, the 31 law schools that sued to overturn it include some of the most prestigious in the nation...

The Solomon Amendment makes that price extremely steep. If any department of a university excludes the military, the entire university loses all federal funding. (We could call this the "shock and awe" clause.) Harvard, Yale, and the University of Southern California, for example, each have said they stand to lose $300 million or more in research funds according to the terms of the statute unless their law schools open the door to JAG.

In the suit that the Supreme Court will hear next term, these schools and others argue that the Solomon Amendment interferes with their First Amendment rights of expression and free association, by requiring them to help an employer that discriminates.

But does it violate the First Amendment to require universities to accommodate the military in their career placement services? Here gay-rights advocates have an unlikely ally—a 2000 Supreme Court decision that said the Boy Scouts could keep out gay scoutmasters. In Boys Scouts of America v. Dale, the court held that a New Jersey law that required the scouts to admit members without regard to sexual orientation violated the group's First Amendment rights.

So, the Solomon Amendment, a law that protects discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, may be undone by Dale, an opinion that protects discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

Victor Davis Hanson: "Democratic Suicide"

It's Friday and it's Victor Davis Hanson on National Review Online: Dr. Hanson's sub-title to this explains his remarks this Friday: "When will the Dems start winning again? When they start living and speaking like normal folks."

"We are in unsure times amid a controversial war. Yet the American people are not swayed by the universities, the major networks, the New York Times, Hollywood, the major foundations, and NPR. All these bastions of doctrinaire liberal thinking have done their best to convince America that George W. Bush, captive to right-wing nuts and Christian fanatics, is leading the country into an abyss. In fact, a close look at a map of red/blue counties nationwide suggests that the Democrats are in deepening trouble.

Why? In a word, Democratic ideology and rhetoric have not evolved from the 1960s, although the vast majority of Americans has — and an astute Republican leadership knows it.

So the Democrats need a little more humility, a notion that the country is not so much an us/them dichotomy, but rather all of us together under siege to maintain our privileges in a tough global world — and at least one spokesman who either didn't go to prep school or isn't a lawyer.
A Democratic "minority" appointment to a cabinet post at education or housing is one thing; a Republican belief that the best candidates for secretary of state, national security advisor, and attorney general are incidentally minorities is quite another.
So ossified rhetoric about the "aged" in the social security debate — increasingly now not so much the Greatest Generation of WWII and the Depression as the first cohort of the self-absorbed baby boomers — is self-defeating. George Bush is appealing to a new group that really is threatened — the under-35's who cannot afford a house, have student loans, high car and health insurance, and are concerned that their poor therapeutic education will leave them impoverished as China and the rest of Asia race ahead.
The problem with Democrats is that Americans are not convinced that they will ever act in any consistent manner...Whatever we think of George Bush, we know he would do something real — and just what that something might be frightens into hesitation — and yes, fear — many of those who would otherwise like to try something pretty awful.
When we see Democrats speaking and living like normal folks — expressing worry that the United States must return to basic education and values to ensure its shaky preeminence in a cutthroat world, talking of one multiracial society united by a rare exceptional culture of the West rather than a salad bowl of competing races and tribes, and apprising the world that we are principled abroad in our support of democratic nations and quite dangerous when attacked — they will be competitive again.

Since they will not do that, they will keep losing — no matter how much the economy worries, the war frightens, and the elite media scares the American people. "

Read all of Dr. Hanson's work you can find, please.

"From Spin City to Fat City"

OpinionJournal - Wonder Land: "Science, of its nature, is always confusing. Medicine is uncertain. But public-policy formation in the U.S., especially as concerns health policy or the environment, whether obesity or the melting of the polar ice caps, admits to very little confusion. We claim to know. But in fact we usually don't know...

Public officials will always ride in the slipstream of an evident crisis. But there is a cautionary tale here. The informational world we inhabit has become a volatile mixture of news, rumor and often incomplete science. This or that threat, need or cause comes at us constantly. But there may be a limit to how often politicians can lower a bucket into the well of public credibility, asking people to alter their behavior and pay handsomely for the privilege--as here, or climate change or fuel alternatives. There might not be much left when the authorities most clearly must ask people, for example, to prepare for an avian flu pandemic before it arrives from Asia.
When the 400,000-dead obesity study unraveled, the CDC's director called it a "lesson in humility." In a world that is evermore complex, busy and costly, it would be a good thing if the people in Washington with the power to impose solutions to the problems of life on all of us made their new watchword "humility." Fat chance. "

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sen. Joseph Biden on Bush Foreign Policy

"Credit Bush's rhetoric not his actions" by Sen. Joseph Biden: "In speaking about the Middle East, President Bush recently said 'a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction.' For the Middle East, historically bereft of democracy and clotted with autocrats and despots, the promise of a better life is raising expectations across the region.

Some Democrats, after nearly a century of efforts to inject the ennobling quality of universal freedom and human rights into the heart of our foreign policy agenda, seem uneasy about this president's recent focus on the idea. President Bush spoke with great eloquence in his second inaugural address about expanding freedom, and I was a little frustrated by the reception it received from some of my Democratic colleagues and friends around the world. The headline from the leading Green newspaper in Germany was 'Bush Threatens More Freedom.' Democrats at home were more circumspect, but for many, it seems that distaste for the messenger obscured the truth of the message...

History is on democracy's side. In 1775, there was not a single democracy in the world. After our revolution there was one. Now, there are 119 electoral democracies; 62 percent of the world's governments. And, as the number of democracies increases still further, pressure will mount on the tyrannical outliers. We may be witnessing this very phenomenon as we speak today. Whatever obstacles lie ahead—and they are considerable—surely this historic shift should be enough to lift the hopes of Americans across the political spectrum, regardless of which party holds the White House. "

Disadvantages of Fighting America

Chrenkoff: Must see photos of Al Qaeda operatives before and after attacks on America - from Arthur Chrenoff's blog courtesy of Instapundit.

Tax Receipts Exceed Treasury Predictions

"The Treasury Department this week reported there would be a $54 billion swing from projected deficit to surplus in the April-to-June quarter, after an unanticipated gush of tax payments poured into the Treasury before the April 15 deadline. That prompted private forecasters to lower their deficit projections for the fiscal year that ends in September...
...many forecasters said the budget deficit appears to have crested.

"I think it has turned the corner," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's, the credit rating agency. "My guess is 2004 will have been the worst year."

For that fiscal year, the government recorded a $412 billion deficit, the largest ever in nominal dollar terms, although not as large as some of the deficits of the 1980s when measured against the size of the economy."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"Lessons for Iraq From Gettysburg"

"GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- The most famous battlefield of the American Civil War might seem an unlikely place to look for lessons about Iraq...

The Civil War, like the invasion of Iraq, was a war of transformation in which the victors hoped to reshape the political culture of the vanquished.

What lessons does this dismal history [of Southern Reconstruction]convey for U.S. forces in Iraq? First, what you do immediately after the end of hostilities is crucial, and mistakes made then may be impossible to undo. Don't attempt a wholesale transformation of another society unless you have the troops and political will to impose it. Above all, don't let racial or religious hatred destroy democratic political institutions as in the post-bellum South. Giving up on reconstruction led to a social and economic disaster that lasted nearly a century. That's a history nobody should want to repeat, least of all the Iraqi insurgents. "

Claudia Rosett: 'Happy Days Are Here Again'

"It's always risky to celebrate security and good times, especially in an age when there is no way to rule out that along with the usual perils of life, we will suffer another terrorist attack. But this spring, more than 3 1/2 years after Sept. 11, it does seem that since that day America has weathered a rough passage awfully well...

...we have entered in era in which America--more than at any time since Ronald Reagan's presidency--speaks the truth and appreciates the worth of its own system, which is what has made it both powerful and free. More tough tests lie ahead. But I think it is worth taking a moment, in spring, to note how well we have weathered those of recent years."

Suicide Bombers

Tom Friedman: "the Arab-Muslim world is reaping something it sowed. Way too many Arab intellectuals and religious and political leaders were ready to extol suicide bombing when it was directed against Israelis. Now they are seeing how this weapon of nihilism - once sanctified and glorified - can be used against their own societies...But these bombings are also signs of the deeper struggle that the U.S. attempt to erect democracy in Iraq has touched off. My friend Raymond Stock, the biographer and translator of Naguib Mahfouz and a longtime resident of Cairo, argues that we are seeing in Baghdad, Cairo and Riyadh the modern incarnation of several deeply rooted and interlocking wars...

"The Iraqi election was a total shock to the militant jihadist forces in the Arab-Muslim world," Mr. Stock noted. "They warned Iraqis that 'you vote - you die,' and instead millions of Iraqis said back to them, 'We vote - we decide.' " And the thing they are deciding on is not to be pro-American, not to be pro-Western, but to try to build their own Arab society in a way that will be open to modernism and interpretations of Islam that encourage innovation, adaptation and progress. "

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

NC Budget Woes

John Hood's Daily Journal: "The next time you hear something like this from your state lawmaker - 'we've done all we can do to trim the state budget, so the only question is how we're going to raise additional revenue' - you now have the following reasons to snort."

Here are a few of his examples:

"• The cafeteria at the Legislative Building in Raleigh spends about $620,000 more than it collects each year from diners. That is, the taxpayers subsidize the meals of lawmakers, staffers, reporters, and lobbyists. Nice deal for them.

• The state spends about $1.6 million a year enforcing certificate-of-need needs on state hospitals and medical practices that do little more than suppress competition and drive up prices. So we pay higher taxes in order to pay higher medical bills.

• Current plans will allow about $112 million a year from the national tobacco settlement to flow to three “trust funds” outside the normal budget process – two of which are clearly being used by political insiders to fund pet economic-development frivolities. Why should these dollars, supposedly paid to compensate taxpayers for smoking-related costs in Medicaid and the state employee health plan, not being used to defray costs in Medicaid and the state employee health plan?

• The state income-tax code currently offers special credits for gleaned crops (worth more than $4 million a year), recycling facilities and transportation ($9 million), dry-cleaning equipment ($600,000), and use of the state ports ($4.5 million) among other items."

Pozen Explains Progressivity and Proposes a High Earner Compromise

OpinionJournal: "Although President Bush's proposal for progressive indexing of Social Security preserves the scheduled benefits of all low-wage workers as well as all workers retiring before 2012, the critics have lambasted its 'benefit cuts' for middle- and high-wage earners. These critics suggest that reductions in scheduled benefits can easily be avoided by raising payroll taxes.

Judging any reform plan relative to scheduled benefits is misguided. The schedule represents the benefits we have promised but do not have the money to deliver. That is why Social Security has a long-term deficit with a present value of $3.8 trillion. If the litmus test of a reform plan is not cutting scheduled benefits for any significant group of workers, then no viable plan to restore Social Security's solvency will pass muster...

More fundamentally, any increase in the payroll tax base must address the issue of political support for Social Security. Critics of progressive indexing have alleged that it will erode political support for the system among high-wage earners because their benefits would grow more slowly than under the current schedule. Yet these same critics are the ones urging substantial increases in payroll taxes for high earners. Will the political support of high earners be more likely to erode if they face a large hike in their payroll taxes for the rest of their working careers, or if they receive less than the current schedule of Social Security benefits when they retire in 20 or 30 years? The answer is obvious."

Mr. Pozen also floats an idea of a 2.9% social security surtax on earnings above $90,000 and concludes his article with the following:

"If Congress is attracted by a package of Social Security reforms combining a milder form of progressive indexing with a 2.9% surtax on earnings above $90,000, it must provide high earners with retirement benefits attractive to them. One possibility would be to devote 1.45% of the surtax to Social Security solvency, and to allow the other 1.45% to be allocated to a personal account invested in market securities. Since such an account would not divert existing taxes away from Social Security, it would not involve any increase in government borrowing. In short, the combined approach would let both parties win--Democrats would get a mix of higher taxes and progressive benefit changes, while Republicans would get personal investment accounts and constraints on benefit growth. And the solvency of Social Security would be restored for all American workers. "

Tierney: Laura Bush Talks Naughty

Comments are on political culture wrapped around reaction to Laura "Leno" Bush:
"...the question Democrats asked in astonishment when they saw Mr. Bush's vote totals: Who are these people?

The favorite Democratic explanation is that the red staters are hicks who have been blinded by righteousness, as Thomas Frank argues in 'What's the Matter With Kansas?' He laments that middle-class Kansans are so bamboozled by moral issues like abortion and school prayer that they vote for Republicans even though the Republican tax-cutting policies are against their self-interest.

But middle-class Americans don't simply cast ballots for Republicans. They also vote with their feet, which is why blue states and old Democratic cities are losing population to red states and Republican exurbs. People are moving there precisely because of economic reasons - more jobs, affordable houses and the lower taxes offered by Republican politicians.

They're not moving for the churches, and they don't vote for Mr. Bush simply because he reads the Bible every day. One of the main reasons they like him is that he gets bashed so often. When Jon Stewart sneers at him, they empathize because they're used to being sneered at themselves. "

Sunday, May 01, 2005

First Lady Steals the Show

Laura Bush Posted by Hello

The New York Times > Reuters > News > 'Desperate Housewife' Laura Grabs Stage from Bush: " First Lady Laura Bush grabbed the stage from President Bush at the White House correspondents annual dinner on Saturday and confessed to all his early bedtimes had turned her into a ``desperate housewife.'' ``I've been attending these dinners for years and just quietly sitting there,'' the First Lady told the audience. ``Well, I've got a few things I want to say for a change.''

One of her main targets was the president's bed time.

``I said to him the other day, 'George, if you really want to end tyranny in this world, you're going to have to stay up later,''' Laura Bush said. ``Nine o'clock and Mr. Excitement here is in bed, and I am watching 'Desperate Housewives' -- with Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife.''

Laura Bush also ribbed her husband for his notoriously rowdy youth, but said they were meant to be together.

``I was a librarian that spent 12 hours a day in the library. Yet somehow I met George.''
The roasting continued as comedian Cedric the Entertainer took the stage, even though he conceded that ``I thought I could follow the president. The first lady is something different.''

He said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has two sides to her, one that's all business and one that has street credibility.

``Condi is the person you see on television with the nice hair, and then there's Leezza, the one with her hair wrapped up on the phone with her girlfriends watching BET (Black Entertainment Television).''

I watched this live on C-Span last night and it was absolutely hilarious. The other zingers in Mrs. Bush's monologue last night included these (loosely paraphrased) that I remember:

"One night we were so desperate that Lynne Cheney, Condi Rice, Karen Hughes and me all went to Chippendale's after George and Dick were asleep. It's was OK because Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor were there to keep it quiet. Lynne got a new nickname that night however and now we all call her 'Dollar Bill.'"

"It took me some time to get used to being part of the Bush family. I had my first clue when we went to a family party and they were giving out prizes. The first prize was a three day stay with the whole family at Kennebunkport. The second place prize was a ten day stay."

"George did buy a ranch in Texas as you know. But I have to tell you George didn't really know much about a ranch. They just didn't teach much about "ranching" at Andover and Yale.''

When George sees a problem on the ranch the only thing he knows to do is go get a chainsaw and just cut it all down. I'm convinced that's why he's gotten along with Cheney and Rumsfeld all these years."

I thought Cedric was good on the bride in Georgia - laughing he said, "...why couldn't that girl saved that poor boy's a**, and instead said, 'Honey, I can't go through with this', but no, she had to get herself kidnapped, cut off her hair and run off to Vegas...'

If you get a chance watch a repeat on C-Span - the best network on television ever.

By the way, I wish we had a "C-Span" coverage of all the state legislatures; I know that would change how the NC Legislature mis-behaves .

The Global Locomotive Loses Steam America's economy: [America's...] "[e]conomic growth, 3.1% for the first quarter, according to an estimate released on Thursday April 28th, may not be quite as fast as the nation has got used to...But it doesn't compare to the economic era between the first oil shock in 1973 and the successful assault on inflation by Paul Volcker, the then Fed chairman, in the early 1980s. That period saw three recessions, double-digit inflation and unemployment mostly in the 6-10% range. Now, America is seeing moderate GDP growth, moderate core inflation (3.3% for the three months to March) and a 5.2% unemployment rate. Even oil prices are less painful than in the bad old days: in real terms, they were nearly twice as high in the 1970s.

But if the hour of doom is not quite at hand, there are still good reasons to worry. Though a 3.1% growth rate would be envied in most European countries, it is probably still below the natural rate at which America’s economy can grow without touching off inflation; that rate is estimated to be 3.5-4%. The rapid pace of America’s economic recovery, and its voracious appetite for imports, have been among the strongest pillars underpinning global growth in recent years. Of the other big economies, only Britain is in relatively good health; France, Germany and Japan are ailing. But should America falter, Britain’s economy is neither big enough nor sufficiently import-hungry to take up the slack.

Still, if the future looks darker than the recent past, this may be because in many ways the recent past has been unusually bright. While Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman, did not quite engineer the “soft landing” that many had hoped for at the height of the boom, he has presided over a slowdown that could barely be called a recession, and a quick recovery. Cheap Chinese imports have helped America avoid the high inflation that would otherwise have been the natural result of the extremely low interest rates enjoyed since 2001. Those low rates have also enabled Americans to increase their spending without increasing their incomes. Tax cuts, financed by foreign investors who buy American bonds at bargain rates, have even put a little extra money in their pockets. After such halcyon days, it is undoubtedly hard to return to modest growth and consumer spending. But barring an oil shock or some other external crisis, Americans can keep their bellbottoms in the wardrobe."

A Look Back at Vietnam: The War We Could Have Won

The New York Times Op-Ed Contributor: The War We Could Have Won: "The Vietnam War is universally regarded as a disaster for what it did to the American and Vietnamese people. However, 30 years after the war's end, the reasons for its outcome remain a matter of dispute...

For all the claims of popular support for the Vietcong insurgency, far more South Vietnamese peasants fought on the side of Saigon than on the side of Hanoi. The Vietcong were basically defeated by the beginning of 1972, which is why the North Vietnamese launched a huge conventional offensive at the end of March that year. During the Easter Offensive of 1972 - at the time the biggest campaign of the war - the South Vietnamese Army was able to hold onto every one of the 44 provincial capitals except Quang Tri, which it regained a few months later. The South Vietnamese relied on American air support during that offensive.

If the United States had provided that level of support in 1975, when South Vietnam collapsed in the face of another North Vietnamese offensive, the outcome might have been at least the same as in 1972. But intense lobbying of Congress by the antiwar movement, especially in the context of the Watergate scandal, helped to drive cutbacks of American aid in 1974. Combined with the impact of the world oil crisis and inflation of 1973-74, the results were devastating for the south.

...Even Hanoi's main patron, the Soviet Union, was convinced that a North Vietnamese military victory was highly unlikely...During the war the Soviets despised their North Vietnamese "friends"...In secret internal reports, Hanoi-based Soviet diplomats regularly complained about the deceitfulness of the North Vietnamese, who concealed strategic planning from their more powerful patron...Soviet archives show that after the war ended in 1975, with American power in retreat, Hanoi used part of its captured American arsenal to support Communist revolutions around the world. In 1980 some of these weapons were shipped via Cuba to El Salvador. This dimension of Vietnamese behavior derived from a deep commitment to the messianic internationalism of Marxist-Leninist ideology...

In 1974-75, the United States snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Hundreds of thousands of our Vietnamese allies were incarcerated, and more than a million driven into exile. The awesome image of the United States was diminished, and its enemies were thereby emboldened, drawing the United States into new conflicts by proxy in Afghanistan, Africa and Latin America. And the bitterness of so many American war veterans, who saw their sacrifices so casually demeaned and unnecessarily squandered, haunts American society and political life to this day."

Michael Kinsley: In Praise of Bush

In Praise of Bush's Honesty (Honest): "Bush was honest and even courageous about Social Security. Social Security is entirely about writing checks: Money goes in, money goes out. As Bush has discovered in the past few months, there are no shadows to hide in while you fiddle with it. The problem is fewer and fewer workers supporting more and more retirees, and there are only two possible solutions: Someone has to pay more in, and/or someone has to take less out...

Even more to Bush's credit, the plan he's backing is highly progressive. Benefits for low-income workers would keep rising with average wages, as now, but benefits for middle- and high-income people would be geared more toward merely keeping up with inflation...

So Democrats now face a choice: Are they going to be alligators on this one? Why Bush has taken this on remains a mystery. There is no short-term political advantage, and there are other real long-term problems that are more pressing. But he has done it, to his credit...

...if privatization is truly voluntary, it can't do much harm. And if that is Bush's price for being out front on a real solution to the real problem, the Democrats should let him have it.

Unless they are complete morons -- always a possibility -- the Democrats could end up in the best of all worlds. They know in their hearts that Social Security has got to change in some unpleasant way. Bush, for whatever reason, is willing to take this on and to take most of the heat. And all he wants in return is the opportunity to try something that will alienate people from the Republican Party for generations to come."

Kinsley is editor of the LA Times and does a Sunday rant in the Washington Post. Remember that in general terms Kinsley hates Bush and everything Republicans (he thinks) stand for - so this is a remarkable column. Kinsley is uncharacteristically right until the last sentence I excerpted above. If Bush gets a toehold on PRAs as part of Social Security reform, Bush will continue to be and will grow as a Republican favorite son.

Washington Post Editorial: 'The Challenge to Democrats'

"For the past three months Democrats have declined to engage in a debate over Social Security. President Bush proposed a way of giving workers the option, but not the obligation, of saving some of their Social Security money in personal accounts. While he was crisscrossing the country in an attempt to prepare voters for unsettling change, Democrats offered no proposals of their own, saying that Mr. Bush should first come forward with a plan to plug Social Security's long-term deficit. In his news conference on Thursday, Mr. Bush took a first step toward offering such a plan. It is time for Democrats to reciprocate....

The[r]e are criticisms that Democrats should voice. But the president has presented ideas that are reasonable enough to serve as the starting point for action. Yes, personal accounts pose risks. But they are also likely, albeit not certain, to enrich the retirement of the majority of workers who opt for them; they should not be dismissed as heresy. Yes, cutting the value of future pensions relative to wages might force some middle-class Americans to save more privately or work a bit longer, but the pain is less than under many other proposals. The Social Security system does need fixing. And the longer Congress ducks it, the more the fix will hurt."