Then Senate Minority leader Harry Reid said no. “Reid told the Post-Gazette editorial board that he had enough votes in the Senate to block President Bush’s proposal to introduce private savings accounts as an alternative to the existing federal retirement plan,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in April of 2005. “‘It’s dead,’ Reid said. ‘The president just hasn’t acknowledged it yet.’”
Reid offered no alternative approach back then, and he hasn’t since. As recently as March he declared he opposes making any changes to Social Security. “Two decades from now, I’m willing to take a look at it,” he tol MSNBC. “But I'm not willing to take a look at it right now.”
Now, one can argue that Bush’s plan wouldn’t have worked. But it’s unfair to say he didn’t try. Samuelson tries to skate past that by writing, “[Bush’s] effort at Social Security ‘reform’ was doomed from the start, because it included personal investment accounts that were bound to arouse ferocious opposition.” But as Harry Reid shows, the left’s position was -- and remains -- that it will accept no changes to Social Security and will politically attack anyone who proposes any such changes.
Meanwhile, “Clinton rebuffed all efforts to get him to act,” destroy” the program. Good politics. Bad policy.”
That’s still true today.
Recall that the Republican House of Representatives this year passed an in-depth Medicare reform measure. “The plan would cut spending by $6.2 trillion over the next 10 years compared to spending levels in the president's 2012 budget request,” ABC news explained, and “also reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion, but takes decades to balance the budget.”
The left responded. Not by opening talks, but by saying no. “It is a flag we’ve planted that we will protect and defend. We have a plan. It’s called Medicare,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi insisted. Don’t look for compromise there.
“In next year’s campaign, the ex-presidents would act as a two-man truth squad,” Samuelson imagines, explaining the need for reform and encouraging active politicians to sign on. But as long as one side of the entitlement debate insists there’s no need to change anything at all, there’ll be no magic in this proposed tour.