Sunday, September 21, 2008

McCain's Stance on Social Security


FactCheck.org has challenged Obama's campaign over his depiction of McCain's Social Security plan. And I think that they're right, that if Obama's campaign is referring to the "Bush-McCain privatization plan", that it's fair to look at the terms of Bush's 2005 privatization plan and criticize the Obama campaign's exaggerations and distortions.

But what are we to make of the void?
While McCain has voted in favor creating private Social Security accounts in the past, and endorsed Bush's 2005 proposal (which never came to a vote in Congress), he is not making a strong push for them as part of his campaign. In fact, a search for the term "Social Security" on the McCain-Palin Web site brings up the following: "No documents were found."
That's true - except it's misleading, as the problem is with McCain's search algorithm. Compare Google's search results.

But they're still mostly right - John McCain's statements on Social Security are sparse and hollow. For example,
Reform Social Security: John McCain will fight to save the future of Social Security and believes that we may meet our obligations to the retirees of today and the future without raising taxes. John McCain supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts -- but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept. John McCain will reach across the aisle, but if the Democrats do not act, he will. No problem is in more need of honesty than the looming financial challenges of entitlement programs. Americans have the right to know the truth and John McCain will not leave office without fixing the problems that threatens our future prosperity and power.
So apparently John McCain will work to "meet our obligations to the retirees of today and the future" except for those "promises that cannot be kept"? That's awfully nebulous. Is there a more coherent statement of McCain's plan?
Politicians refuse to talk straight about Social Security and Medicare: the current Social Security system is unsustainable. Period. A half century ago, sixteen American workers supported every retiree. Today, it's just three. Soon, it will be only two. If we don't make some tough choices, Social Security and Medicare either won't be there for our children and grandchildren or we will have had to raise taxes so dramatically to support them that we will crush the prosperity of average Americans.
Okay, this must be what we're all looking for. So on to the "straight talk":
I will fight to save the future of Social Security and Medicare by reaching my hand across the aisle, but if the Democrats won't act, give me the responsibility and I will. If Congress won't act, I will demand an up or down vote on my plan. No problem is in more need of honesty than the looming insolvency of our entitlement programs. No government program is the object of more political posturing and spin than Social Security and Medicare. Americans have the right to know the truth, no matter how bad it is. I won't leave office without doing everything I can to fix the fiscal problem that, more than any other, threatens our future prosperity and power.
So his "straight talk" is that he'll "reach across the aisle" to demand of Congress a plan he deems acceptable. (Apparently we have to read his mind to know what would be acceptable.) If they don't, he'll offer a "take it or leave it" plan, and if they say, "Thanks, but we'll leave it," he'll ask that they vote on his plan anyway. Whatever his plan happens to be. And since we have "the right to know the truth" about his plan, "no matter how bad it is", he's going to keep every detail of his plan secret.

Wonderful.

Just like his secret plan to capture Bin Laden.

There's plenty of room to savage McCain on the Social Security issue without exaggerating. "McCain says that some of our Social Security benefit promises cannot be kept. But he won't tell us which promises aren't worth keeping, or whether he intends to break the promises made to retirees who rely on Social Security to make ends meet. McCain has promised us 'straight talk' on Social Security, but he doesn't deliver. Is that another of the promises he doesn't plan to keep?"

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