Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Social Security Phaseout - Officially DOA?

Reading between the lines of a story in this morning's Washington Post, I think it's safe to say that any push in the near term for Social Security "reform", as a prelude to phaseout, is dead. The GOP touched the third rail, and in this past week's recess meetings in home states, congress members were given an earful.

Eschaton points to a couple of polls released yesterday that very clearly show that as details of Plan Bush from Outer Space have become known, public support has been dropping at a rate approaching terminal velocity. Then, comes this story from WaPo:

Social Security Vote May Be Delayed :

The Senate's top Republican said yesterday that President Bush's bid to restructure Social Security may have to wait until next year and might not involve the individual accounts the White House has been pushing hard.

...That a politician as closely allied to the White House as Frist would even raise the possibility of putting off the proposal until next year -- possibly dooming it -- was an unexpected blow to the administration...

The Democrat leadership siezed on this issue, and even in the face of a lot of media blustering about "compromise", made it clear that anyone, GOP or Democrat, supporting BushCo tinkering with Social Security would wear that support like a hair shirt in the 2006 midterm elections.

Now, it's up to the Dems to make it stick. Make no mistake about it, SS is still a sticky issue - while a lot of pols on both sides of the aisle were cagey about support / nonsupport of Plan Bush, quite a few cast their lot very early on with President Bush. Come 2006, it's time to remind voters in those districts that their congresscritter wanted to put Grandma Millie on the street. And that's how it has to be framed.

At this point, Bill Frist and Denny Hastert simply want this issue to go away. Social Security has become a 500 pound political anvil around the neck of their majority in both the House and Senate. Believe me, they know the demographics around this issue, and they are scared to death right now. That's why Frist had to drive the equivalent of a stake through the heart of this plan today, as opposed to letting the debate continue to fester for months or even become fleshed out. He and Hastert do not, under any circumstances, want their membership to be forced to, on record, pick a side in this fight.

I want to make one thing crystal clear - no matter what you hear in the MSM in the next days and weeks regarding the death of Social Security phaseout, it is not a dead issue. Maybe dormant for a year or two, but not dead.

And one last thing - the reason this idea has been blown out of the political stratosphere is not because of any serious work that the MSM has done in actually analyzing what few pieces of the plan were actually available. A few mainstreamers like Paul Krugman took this plan apart and showed it for the smoke-and-mirrors-rich-get-richer boondoggle that it is/was. But it was bloggers, in particular Josh Marshall and Duncan Black, who latched onto the Social Security phaseout issue and made it their life's work to expose the charade.

That's the story I'd like to read tomorrow morning.