This comment from Jabley on on my first McCain post deserves a full reply:
To his credit, it sounds as if much of the talk centers around â€œnegotiating,â€ not cramming the Bush plan down the countryâ€™s throat. Itâ€™s pretty much accepted that support for Bushâ€™s plan as initially-conceived is insufficient to win approval; I perceive this effort to be more of an attempt to keep Social Security alive as a political issue rather than an attempt to win Bushâ€™s precise plan. Clearly McCain understands that there will have to be a meaningful middle ground on this issue and I think the â€œcome to the table with usâ€ talk demonstrates as much.
Here’s why I disagree with this line of reasoning.
1) There is no Bush plan. To speak of negotiating is absurd when Bush won’t commit to anything. Any criticism against the Democrats for not having a plan of their own is easily answered with that classic, “You first!”.
2) The elements that we know are in the Bush “plan” are non-negotiable. Bush and his allies may refer to “saving social security” or “just making sure it’s solvent” or “giving people more control”, but these are not what their plan is. Their plan is privatizing the system, plain and simple. Note that Bush and Cheney and others have all recently stated that their ideas will do nothing to address solvency. If that is true (and it certainly is), why exactly do you think they want things to change?
3) Their is no meaningful middle ground. There are either add-on accounts or not, there are either carved out accounts or not, you either address the solvency issue or not, you either leave Social Security as an insurance system or transform into a fancy 401(k), etc.
4) It is not that Bush’s plan as initially conceived has failed to win support. It is that the very elements that are central to his “plan” are unpopular. In every setting, the more people are exposed to his plan, the more they dislike it. The more the true costs are known, the more they dislike it. And it is not the “negotiable” parts of his plan that people dislike, it is the central concepts themseleves. That isn’t going to change, because Bush’s “plan” isn’t going to change in any meaningful way.
“Just let me president. Please, please let me be president.”