Monday, January 24, 2005

The Real "Third Rail"

This is another overview of the Republican resistance to Bush's proposed Social Security overhaul, and the common theme of these defections indicates the greatest danger to privatization. The threat is the right's inability (and unwillingness) to challenge the real "third rail" of American politics: the altruist theory that the essence of morality is to sacrifice the productive for the sake of the needy.

Republicans like Newt Gingrich are scared to death that they might be accused of decreasing the amount of government handouts—and President Bush can't inspire them with courage, after he twisted their arms to support 2003's prescription drug bill, which was itself a massive expansion of the welfare state designed to appease altruism.

"Bleed My Lips?" John Fund, Wall Street Journal, 1/24/05

"Newt Gingrich and former Club for Growth president Steve Moore caution against a plan under consideration by the White House that would bring the Social Security program into future balance by having benefits rise only as much as prices do, instead the current practice of having them rise as fast as wages do. While economists of all stripes endorse such a move, it would provide Democrats with a club to attack the very concept of reform. 'Any effort to change benefit formulas virtually guarantees stalemate,' Mr. Gingrich told me. 'If you allow them to create a slogan that includes 'benefit cuts' in it, they're going to prevail.'...

"Most Republicans in Congress understand the long-term political benefits of promoting an 'ownership society' that enhances individual responsibility and looks less towards government for societal solutions. They agree with White House aide Pete Wehner, who says that reform would rank 'as one of the most significant conservative governing achievements ever.'... But that will happen only with the greatest of foot-dragging unless the White House changes the nature of its relationship with Republicans in Congress. From Speaker Dennis Hastert down to lowly sophomores, the Congress is filled with members of the 'Bleeding Lip Club.' For four years, they have all bit their lips as a 'Lone Ranger' White House dictated the details of every major legislative item. The 2003 threats and strong-arm tactics that the White House ordered to push through the prescription drug bill (which ultimately had little political benefit for most members) was the last straw for some."

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