Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Third Rail of American Politics

You touch it, you die.

So it continues for Social Security, even as Republicans unveil a new plan to, as a part of their “Pledge to America,” to cut discretionary spending and “end economic uncertainty.” Conspicuously absent in their “Pledge” was any address to entitlement programs like Social Security.

(Here's one at Politico right up our alley: "Pledge Promises Fight, Gridlock".)

Not all Republicans felt the need to dodge the rail; some were ready to attack it head-on. Young, ambitious Republic legislators like Paul Ryan support a different plan – a “Road Map” that addresses Social Security as part of the plan. His plan would allow employees under 55 to voluntarily invest a third of their payroll taxes into accounts managed by the Social Security Administration. But many Republicans are defending themselves against this agenda, especially those who are trying to pick up a seat previously held by Democrats.

Politico notes, “Most of these candidates have no problem rejecting trillions of dollars in other government spending. But they realize that senior citizens are the most dedicated midterm voters, so you can’t mess with Social Security – or Medicare, for that matter.”

This year, for the first time since 1983, more money will be paid out in Social Security than collected.

So what does this mean for legislators like Paul Ryan – and others supporting ambitious reform plans like the “Road Map” – who are seeking to take on the difficult problems facing America?

What changes to the system would need to occur to have a reflective, thoughtful discussion about the BIG problem of Social Security in America?


  1. Certainly, presidential leadership is a prerequisite to a serious discussion. Bush tried, but the privatization was a non-starter for Democrats and Republicans got cold feet, so his efforts went nowhere. Perhaps a Democratic president addressing the issue with a Republican Congress would have a greater likelihood of success (which is what happened under Reagan, the last time social security was reformed (at least the House was democratic).

  2. Social Security is going to become the 'easy' entitlement to fix once everyone gets their head around Medicare. The baby boomers affect both, but Medicare is a far bigger problem because its growth rate has been going up triple inflation (or more) while social security benefits are indexed to inflation.