Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Bad News is Good News?

The Moose comments on the state of the social security debate.

This is not going the way the White House expected. The skepticism about the President's privatization plan is profound. Both the pols and the polls reflect the unease about radically transforming the most popular government program. It is one thing to talk abstractly about personal accounts and an "ownership society". It is entirely another matter to address issues like two trillion dollars in transitional costs and curbing benefits.

That is not to say that privatization is dead. It is possible that the Bushies will press forward with only limited public support and attempt to impose party discipline upon wayward Republicans. But even with the Ways and Means Committee Chairman among the naysayers, it is hard to conceive of how the White House is going to pull this rabbit out of the hat.

This bad news for the White House, however, could be good news if the Bushies play it right. The Administration could just view this outpouring of skepticism as valuable feedback on a trial balloon. Just imagine how much aggravation could have been avoided by the Clinton Administration if it had floated its health care plan and then changed course before it was actually introduced.

The President could indicate that while he wants private accounts as a feature of social security, the political culture cannot handle it at this time. He could then advance an "add on" savings alternative and a bi-partisan compromise on restraining the growth of the program.

Learning the bad news now that privatization is unpopular can actually bring good news if the Bushies are ideologically flexible. However, the Moose hears from his elephant friends that the Bushies are likely to stick to their guns.

And that may be good news for the donkey.
-- Posted at 8:33 AM | Link to this post | Email this post