This leaves Mr. Bush with the problem of having to overcome the special interests with the loudest voices inside the Democratic Party--seniors, labor unions (which benefit when large bureaucracies control individuals money) and politicians looking to gain by demagoguing an issue. Democrats like the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who offered serious ideas on reform, are gone or have gone into hiding. Former senator Bob Kerrey lamented this fact in The Wall Street Journal yesterday and said it will prove to be a mistake for the party. I'd go further and say that unless the Democrats start to offer serious ideas, the party will help to cement a long-lasting Republican majority as the GOP saves Social Security on its own.First Bush has to convince people that now is the time to try to reform Social Security. He can't let critics get away with the calim that there is nothing wrong with the system. Maybe he can get Bill Clinton to tour with him and explain why he thought that there was a problem in the 90s. I'd like to see Democrats explain why Clinton was wrong when he said this.
But until those serious Democrats return, President Bush is left with the reality that the only way to save Social Security is to pursue a partisan bill, while continuing to take his message to the people. By stirring up the voters, the president may get as many as two dozen Democrats to come along in the House and the half dozen he needs in the Senate. But he'll get that only if the doesn't cede ground on the fundamental reform--large personal accounts, funded and controlled by individuals. Partisanship gets a bad wrap, but sometimes it's essential.
On Feb. 9, 1998, Mr. Clinton delivered a speech at Georgetown University devoted to "sav[ing] Social Security for the 21st century" and explaining "why it is so important" to do so.
Referring to a then-recent poll revealing that "young people in the generation of the students here felt it was far more likely that they would see a UFO than that they would draw Social Security," Mr. Clinton warned seven years ago about "the looming fiscal crisis in Social Security." He acknowledged to the students that "every one of you know that the Social Security system is not sound for the long term."
Elaborating, Mr. Clinton argued: "This fiscal crisis in Social Security affects every generation. We know that the Social Security trust fund is fine for another few decades. But if it gets in trouble and we don't deal with it, then it not only affects the generation of the baby boomers . . . when they retire; it [also] raises the question of whether they will have enough to live on by unfairly burdening their children, and, therefore, unfairly burdening their children's ability to raise their grandchildren." What did Mr. Clinton think about this? "That would be unconscionable," he said, "especially since, if you move now, we can do less and have a bigger impact." That was seven years ago.
Mr. Clinton then listed the consequences of failing to address "the looming fiscal crisis in Social Security." Addressing the students, he said: "If [we] don't do anything, one of two things will happen — either [Social Security] will go broke and you won't ever get [the benefits you are promised]. Or if we wait too long to fix it, the burden on society of taking care of [the baby boomers'] Social Security obligations will lower your income and lower your ability to take care of your children to a degree most of us who are your parents think would be horribly wrong and unfair to you and unfair to the future prospects of the United States."