Marketing Social Security reform

MSBNC — Social Security: A Daring Leap — President Bush makes his proposed private accounts sound like the opportunity of a lifetime. But the fine print shows they pose great risk for you—and the nation. Newsweek’s Alan Sloan takes a look at the numbers behind the push for Social Security reform and finds there has been more success in marketing the reforms rather than proposing reforms that equitable reform it.

If the president really wants to fix Social Security rather than pick a political fight — and the Democrats feel the same — it wouldn’t be difficult. They’d compromise by putting more money into the system by raising wage taxes a tad, taking less out by increasing the retirement age and trimming benefit formulas and setting up private accounts funded by wage earners, not by government borrowings. Put a few willing negotiators in a room and a deal’s done in a month. I won’t hold my breath, though.

Bush has marketed the pants off the Democrats by setting the terms of debate. Do you want to pay higher taxes or lower taxes? Clearly, lower. Do you want to pay estate tax or not? Do you want private accounts, or don’t you? He’s done a fabulous job of showing the goodies—and of hiding the costs. People, naturally, have opted for the goodies. The Bushies are in full sales mode, including sticking recordings on Social Security’s phone lines preaching that the system has to change. In the name of empowering my kids, he’s asking them to pay full freight for my retirement and for trillions in new borrowings, while forking over the same wage taxes for lower benefits. If he can sell this one, the Marketing Hall of Fame should start planning his induction ceremony.

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