Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Read their lips: No new ideas

For those of you who didn’t catch Meet the Press Sunday, it featured a debate on the President’s Social Security plan between Sens. Dick Durban (D-IL) and Mitch McConnel (R-KY). You can get the full transcript here.

The Dems are stonewalling the president on his Social Security plan, but they seem unable to derive any thoughts of their own this.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Durbin, if the president took private and personal accounts off the table, would you then sit down and have on the table raising retirement age, raising the cap on payroll taxes, perhaps cutting benefits in out years? Would you be willing to put that on the table?

SEN. DURBIN: If the president takes privatization off, if he makes a commitment to the future of Social Security, we're ready to sit down on a bipartisan basis and put everything on the table.

Here’s Harry Reid’s quote from a news conference in Las Vegas:

SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV): We're willing to work with the president for the Social Security in the out years when we recognize there are some problems 40, 50 years from now. We're happy to work with the president in that regard, but not until he takes privatization off the table. We are not going to negotiate with ourselves until the president takes privatization off the board, period.

Russert exercises a classic reporteresque style and calls Durbin out on flip-flopping on this issue. However, Russert stopped short of saying the Dems have no ideas other than being exactly opposite of what the president is proposing.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you Dick Durbin in 1998. This is when Bill Clinton was president. This is a press release you issued: "...due to the increasing number of `baby boomers' reaching retirement age, Social Security will be unable to pay out full benefits beginning in 2032, but the sooner Congress gets to avert this crisis the easier and less painful it will be." How could it be a crisis in '98 under Bill Clinton but not a crisis in 2005 under George Bush?

SEN. DURBIN: Well, even then, 2032 is the year that we projected. Now, it's 2042, so it's in stronger position today than it was then. But let me just say, I think we should do something, and I believe most Democrats believe we should, on a bipartisan basis, do something sensible that is dedicated to the long- term survival of Social Security. Privatization accounts, and I think the president now realizes, it, they're non-starters. People in his own party, Chuck Grassley and others are telling him, "Let's get way from that conversation." Last week, did you hear the president when he went up to New York and out to Indiana? Now, he's talking about the safety net of Social Security. He's starting to sound like a Democrat. We understand it's an important safety net. Let's make our first commitment to the long-term solvency and permanency of Social Security.

As a conservative, I don’t expect the Democrats to be for individual retirement accounts; their political philosophy doesn’t permit resourceful solutions. Yet, they haven’t been able to really make any great arguments against it. I would think that if you were use blockade tactics to stifle the president’s agenda, then it might be useful to have the backup plan be your own agenda. This is where the party has become an empty shirt. The Democratic message appears to be a form of denial. Essentially that everything is fine as it is; that a crisis doesn’t exist. Durbin’s remarks are in line with the DNC message:

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that we currently have a crisis with Social Security?

SEN. DURBIN: I wouldn't use the word crisis. Untouched, Social Security will make every single payment for the next 37 years to every retiree, maybe 47 years. But beyond that, unless the economy grows well and grows us out of the problem, we need to address it. And there are ways to address it in sensible, commonsense approaches today that will play out in 40 or 50 years.

To them, they have 37 years until the problem expires. Congressional Democrats look more like college students writing a mid-term essay the day before it’s due than legitimate policy makers. In the least they should recycle an old Clintonian plan and mend the system as it exists. Clearly this party has lost its ideological framework for sound policy.

I’ll maintain that if we whip enough votes with Congressional Republicans – a much easier task then convincing D’s to do something – then we can pass it out of the House in the least. The Senate might be more of a challenge but having a GOP majority in both Houses makes this pretty attainable.

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