Is President Bush prepared to OK Social Security reform without his beloved private accounts?
At a White House luncheon with Republican Senators yesterday, Robert Bennett of Utah told President Bush that he would soon propose a bill without the accounts.
But if you think it’s shocking that a Republican Senator would break away from the Bush gameplan, hold onto your hat.
According to an article in the June 22 edition of The Hill, Bennett said that Bush told him to “go ahead” with the bill.
As Jon Stewart might say: “Wha?”
Bush did not comment on the pending legislation. The White House told reporters that Bush’s comments indicate he welcomes a discussion of options.
Other Republican Senators attending the luncheon downplayed Bennett’s pending proposal.
Larry Craig of Idaho said the president “remained very upbeat on his approach” and noted that Bennett’s conversation with the president did not take place in front of the entire delegation.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-PA), who has been Bush’s main lackey in the Senate on privatization, said Bush’s response to “go ahead” was not an endorsement of Bennett’s alternate proposal.
Bennett, however, seemed optimistic that his alternative plan had a better chance of passage than the president’s.
“Democrats and some Republicans say, ‘We will not vote for anything that includes personal accounts,’ and that seems to have slowed the whole thing down,” Bennett told the Salt Lake Tribune. “My reaction is, that shouldn’t slow the whole thing down and let’s find out how serious people really are when they say, ‘Yes, there really is a problem, but I don’t like personal accounts.'”
The idea that it might be easier to pass Social Security reform without privatization has gained steam of late. Even the author of the reform plan Bush has embraced has suggested as much.
Robert C. Pozen, a Massachusetts investment company executive, called on Bush last month to consider giving up the centerpiece of the his Social Security proposal — the individual investment accounts funded by payroll taxes, also called ‘carve-out accounts.”
“Given the lack of bipartisan support for carve-out personal accounts, the president should not insist on carve-out accounts if the Democrats support an overall legislative package for Social Security reform that is otherwise satisfactory to him,” Pozen said.
Bush hasn’t been able to get traction with his privatization plan, in spite of a whirlwind tour of “town hall” meetings — essentially infomercials in which hand-picked audiences listen to hand-picked questioners in order to hear the President offer answers using hand-picked information.
The president tells people that Social Security will be “bankrupt,” ignoring a Government Accountability Office study that showed that even with no changes, the system would pay out 70% of benefits in 2052. Then after telling his hand-picked audiences that the system will go bankrupt, he touts the privatization plan. What other conclusion could the audiences draw but to assume privatization addresses solvency? One problem, the White House has admitted the plan is “revenue net neutral” over 75 years. Just another minor detail Bush fails to mention during his barnstorming tour.
But even with all that misinformation, the Bush “town hall” meetings haven’t worked. Poll after poll has shown tepid response to the privatization plan. If anything, the more the president repeats himself on privatization, the less popular the plan becomes.
Perhaps, finally, Bush is realizing that his plan will never get passed, and move ahead with real Social Security reform.
This article first appeared on Journalists Against Bush’s B.S. (JABBS)Powered by Sidelines