Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Inevitable...until it's not

When President George W. Bush was elected after having touched the "third rail" of social security, it seemed a certainty that some form of privatization was inevitable.

There were many democrats and moderate Republicans who were offering alternatives that granted the principle of including the "market" in social security. Some had ideas such as the government doing the investing for the whole system, most had some typle of social security "plus" acccount, but private accounts with more flexibility (of some kind) was a good bet.

Then came the disastorous economy of the past few years and now there isn't any credible talk of private accounts. Now everyone seems on-board with the idea of social security as an insurance policy against poverty and tough times rather than an investment vehicle.

It was difficult to make that point in a rising market, it is a no-brainer in today's market.

Yet, the left of the Democratic Party had this one correct. They made the proper arguments during the most difficult times.

Where are the committed conservatives? I know about the Heritage Foundation types or the really safe members of Congress. But where are the true believers who got into politics to do the right thing for America?

It is sad to see such lack of integrity.

As a newliberal, I was initially open to the idea of partial privatizion. I became convinced against the idea but did and still do advocate for personal accounts that can be inherited.

If we can come up with a way to guarantee that during tough times the government won't bail out the people who lost some of their retirement, I would be in favor of more freedom for people making more choices. But the reality is that people want all the private gain, and will always find a way to believe the losses really aren't their fault.

So what we will wind up with is a social security system more expensive and more burdensome in the future if we allow stocks and other investments.

As Americans we need to build a stronger sense of character that accepts personal responsibility for our decisions. There will always be a way to credibly blame someone else, but we need to retain the focus on what we could and should control within ourselves.

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