Real Reform for Social Security
By DAVID BROOKS
Before we get lost in the policy details, let's be clear about what this Social Security reform debate is really about. It's about the market. People who instinctively trust the markets support the Bush reform ideas, and people who are suspicious oppose them.
People who instinctively trust the markets support the Bush reform ideas. People who realize instinct isn't a sound basis for economic policy oppose them.
The people setting the tone for the opposition to the Bush Social Security effort depict the financial markets as huge, organized scams where the rich prey upon the weak. Their phrases are already familiar: a risky scheme, Enron accounting, a gift to the securities industry, greedy speculators preying upon Grandma's pension.
That's the tone being set by those who would really prefer we not bring any substantial information into the discussion. People who would prefer you act on instinct in an area where you, frankly, haven't the experience to develop sound instincts.
What you hear these days is not liberalism. It's conspiracyism. It's the belief that the Bushite corporate cabal is going to do to domestic programs what the Bushite neocon cabal did in the realm of foreign affairs. It's the belief in malevolent and shadowy forces that will grab everything for their own greedy ends. This is Michael Moore-ism applied to domestic affairs, and it will leave the Democrats only deeper in the hole.
What you hear these days is not liberalism. It's pragmatism. Having seen the Bush cabal manipulate and lie to an all too willing public successfully, it would simply be foolish to think these same guys won't use the same tactics to the same end.
I don't deny that many business and Wall Street types would like to capture the system for their own benefit. As Theodore Roosevelt observed, every new social arrangement begets its own kind of sin, which has to be punished by law.
ALL of them would like to capture the system for their own benefit. It's called being responsible to your shareholders…even if there's only one.
But as Roosevelt and his great hero Alexander Hamilton understood, corruption is the price we pay for economic freedom, and the benefits of that freedom vastly outweigh the costs.