Sheer Insanity

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So at long, long last House Republicans have put forward an actual “plan” for Social Security, and lo, it does nothing, absolutely nothing, to address the “problem” that President Bush claims is going to crush this country under a swarming mass of senior citizens:

For six months, Republicans have traveled the country as fiscal Paul Reveres, sounding the alarm about the coming collapse of Social Security. Polls showed that although voters did not warm to President Bush’s proposed solution, he made substantial headway in convincing them the retirement system is headed for insolvency.

But when House leaders finally rolled out their Social Security plan this week, it did nothing to address the problem that lawmakers and the president have convinced the public is looming as baby boomers retire.

You can read the gritty details of the House bill here. The main thing to keep in mind is that this McCrery-Shaw plan would expand deficits in the short term without even pretending to fix the long-term shortfall that Bush keeps hammering away on. As Chief Actuary Stephen Goss says, “The total debt held by the public is increased indefinitely.” Indefinitely! It’s not a serious solution. It’s not even sane. The only possible purpose of passing such a thing, that I can see, would be to turn Social Security into such a debt-ridden morass that voters finally get sick of it some 10-15 years down the road and ask for the whole system to be abolished. But even that seems unlikely. No, I honestly can’t understand why even the House GOP would even try to pass such insanity, unless the whole game here is to put forward a proposal so crazy that it gets Democrats to think, “Oh my god they’re going to destroy the country,” and hence forces them to come to the negotiating table.

And yet somehow, pundits are still insisting that Democrats need to come up with their own plan for saving Social Security. No. There is no problem with Social Security—it’s plain that even the Republicans believe this, otherwise they’d be putting forward a serious proposal for fixing that problem. So the proper thing to do is to do nothing and go attend to more serious issues like health care or the soon-to-be-accelerating general budget deficit, and not, as the GOP House leaders would like to do, smash apart and destroy Social Security.

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