Question: What is the difference between squirrels and members of Congress? Answer: Squirrels make provisions for the future.
It has long been thought that one of the mental attributes that sets man apart from the lower beasts is his capacity to mentally abstract himself from the moment and contemplate the middle and long-term future. (As consolation for being given that gift, man was also uniquely given the capacity to laugh.) But if the current responses to fixing Social Security and Medicare by senators and congressmen -- both Republican and Democrat -- is any indication, we might want to consider electing squirrels to Congress rather than humans.
There is a building consensus in Washington that any meaningful rectification of Social Security's finances is dead for at least the next year or two. I am not quite prepared to join that consensus yet, but I understand why smart people think that way. Democrats are wandering around Washington proudly bragging that they have never been more united than they are now to kill any Republican-supported Social Security proposal. They note with pride that they are ahead of where the Republicans were in 1993 in their successful project to kill Hillary Care.
To the extent that they have a policy argument, it is that Social Security is not in any trouble that a modest little tax increase can't solve, and that President Bush has his priorities wrong -- he should be solving the problems of Medicare first. As the unfunded Social Security liability is $3.7 trillion (over 70 years), the little tax increase would, by definition be at least $3.7 trillion dollars.
As the Democrats sincerely believe that regular, big tax increases are good for the country, I will concede the possibility that they are in good faith when they propose the world's largest tax increase as a cure for Social Security. But that can't happen until there is a Democratic president and at least 60 Democrats in the Senate, as almost all Republicans would oppose such a tax increase. Given that they are at only 45 senators, with a good chance of losing more in the next election, the Democratic leadership has to know that their policy of total opposition and total obstruction to any Bush bill on Social Security is in effect a formula for inaction for many years to come.
So, absent fairly prompt reform, the baby boomers will have to be satisfied with only $0.72 on the dollar of promised Social Security monthly payments. That is all the existing law promises when the revenues fall short.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.