Robert Novak

This dramatic opening of investment opportunity for all Americans to compensate for the country's demographic changes is no free lunch. According to the Social Security Administration's actuaries, transition costs of DeMint's plan would be $8.2 trillion over the next 75 years. But the same source estimates the 75-year-cost in higher taxes at $26.1 trillion if nothing is done. That's how DeMint claims his plan will save taxpayers $17.9 trillion.

DeMint's second unique aspect is Harold Ford. Since his election in 1996 at age 26 from the Memphis congressional district previously represented by his father, he has been marked as a party leader for the future. He has been talked about as a Senate candidate. After the 2002 election, he challenged Rep. Nancy Pelosi to be House Democratic leader. He is liberal but not ultra-liberal. As measured by the Americans for Democratic Action, his liberal voting record was 85 percent in 2001 and 70 percent in 2002.

Joining DeMint would be a daring act by Ford to show Democratic colleagues that Social Security need not be bound by the restraints of a 1938 economy and social structure. "I applaud Congressman Ford for his bold and courageous stand," DeMint told me. "He is a visionary congressman who understands the need to address the wealth gap in America."

But will he really go through with it this week? I have found Ford to be an amiable young politician with a sparkling personality who never has been averse to publicity. He knew why I was trying to contact him when he declined to talk to me. Harold Ford Jr. risks a lot this week as he decides whether to cast aside partisanship and to open the door of America's wealth to its poorest citizens.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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