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calendar   Monday - May 02, 2005

Monday Morning News Bytes

Sometimes the news bites and somedays it just bytes. Or nybbles. Either way it’s the little bits that give us the big picture .. eight bits at a time ....

The Solvency Trap
President Bush calls the Democrats’ bluff on Social Security.

Monday, May 2, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

Give President Bush credit for tenacity. Facing nearly total Democratic opposition and low poll numbers, he nonetheless raised the ante on Social Security last week. The President embraced “progressive indexing” of benefits, in the hope of breaking up the political logjam.

As a policy matter, this at least challenges Democrats to honor their own principles. For months they’ve been saying they really do want to do something about Social Security “solvency,” which means shoring up its inevitable financing shortfall. By adjusting the formula for future benefits based on income, Mr. Bush has now embraced the “fairness” claims that Democrats say they hold dear. So are they serious or not?

On first response, not. Democrats immediately opposed Mr. Bush’s proposal--the brainchild of Democratic financier Robert Pozen--as “big benefit cuts.” AARP lobbyist John Rother proved his organization’s lack of sincerity by calling it “an unnecessary and unfair benefit cut on the middle class.”

Sigh. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan and other Democrats once acknowledged, current policy increases real, inflation-adjusted benefits over time. That’s because benefits are tied to growth in wages, rather than to increases in prices (which rise somewhat more slowly). Though Democrats invoke FDR, this wasn’t his idea; guaranteed annual increases were introduced in 1972 as politicians of both parties competed for elderly votes. Reversing this blunder would still protect all seniors from inflation and also go a long way toward addressing Social Security’s financing shortfall.

But Mr. Bush is going further and proposing to keep wage-indexing for the bottom 30% of all workers, which means their benefits will actually increase by about 40% by the time they retire. Other workers would see more of their benefits price-indexed on a gradual basis as their income rose. And in any case, the indexing adjustment would apply only to the current program’s benefits; whatever higher returns workers get from private accounts would be theirs to keep. If Bill Clinton were the President proposing this, Democrats would be doing “fairness” cartwheels.

(thanks to Neal Boortz, Matt Drudge & James Taranto for the leads on these stories)


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 05/02/2005 at 09:46 AM   
Filed Under: • Democrats-Liberals-Moonbat LeftistsEconomicsHildabeastInternationalMedia-Bias •  
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