Friday, December 17, 2004

Social Security scare-mongering

Jonah Goldberg has a column up on National Review online about Social Security. Truth be told it is not one of his best, but he does make this fair point:
It seems every time I turn on the TV or the radio, I hear some opponent of reform whining that we're tinkering with FDR's "legacy." Who gives a rat's patoot?
I have heard this refrain more than once, and he's right. Just because it came from the over-mythologized New Deal era does not inherently make the social security system good. If the status quo ought to be maintained, make reasoned arguments as to why.

Here is how one reader responded to Jonah:
When you get over attacking liberals maybe you can get around to disccusing some of the details of reforming Social Security. Such as transition costs of 2 trillion, when we have huge deficits. Or how can you trust the Bush administration to administer the reform when they have made a mess of everything they've done, especially in Iraq. And why would any adult listen to your propaganda when you and your ilk were so criminally wrong about WMD.
I find this response quite illuminating because it is quite indicitive of the liberal response to efforts at reform. It does appear that the main liberal talking point on social security is to bring up the red herring of WMD. "Bush lied to us about WMD, and now he's lying about social security." I normally dislike using overbroad caricatures of the left, but many of the left-wing blogs have expressly stated their intent to use this argument to discredit the administration. Josh Marshall blew a gasket earlier this week, taking a moment away from his Bernie Kerik obsession, to call Bush, essentially, a lying liar.

Even more amusing is the lead sentence:When you get over attacking liberals maybe you can get around to disccusing some of the details of reforming Social Security. It would be nice if liberals would be willing to do the same. Other than Michael Kinsley and our very own mouldfan, it appears as though the left is disinterested in engaging is substantive debate on the issue, and instead are in the midst of starting an emotion-based pr war. Even Publius, someone I generally respect a great deal, revealed the essence of the Democratic strategy. While I normally try to be rational, as a matter of political strategy, there's a very simple strategy that the Democrats should adopt - DEMAGOGUE THE HOLY SHIT OUT OF THIS PROPOSAL. Scream. Accuse. Attack. Crush them with it. Do as you have had done unto you. Maybe you might win something. He is not alone. Far from it. There is a concerted campaign to draw attention away from the real issues and play on people's fears. Funny, as this was what the left accused the Bush campaign of doing.

There are perfectly rational arguments against reform, and Kinsley and mouldfan have made them. There are also perfectly rational arguments that reform is necessary - one example being here. Hopefully we can have a healthy debate on this topic without resorting to blatant demagoguery. And that of course applies to both sides.

If I have to keep pumping 12% of my paycheck into some system, it would be nice to know I might actually get that money back. If the system as currently constituted cannot continue, then we need to scrap it, or at least reform it, pure and simple. But we will not be able to make that decision until we have a rational debate on the topic, and we will not be able to have that debate if one side so frightens the electorate that a discussion can't even get started.


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