Social Security is not the key fiscal problem facing the nation. Payments to its beneficiaries amount to 5 percent of the economy now; by 2050, they’re projected to rise to about 6 percent. Over the same period, federal health care costs will increase six times as much.
But if you do want to fix it, sez Orszag, the catfood commission had some ideas you can use as a starting point (and the next proposal could be worse, so use the opportunity.)
The main flaw in the proposed Social Security plan is that it relies too little on revenue increases and too much on future benefit reductions. A reasonable objective would be a 50-50 balance between changes in benefits and changes in revenues. But the way to bring reform into better proportion is to adjust the components of this proposal, not to fundamentally remodel it.
Two years into his presidency, Barack Obama remains a remote, even mysterious figure. It’s not that he isn’t familiar. If anything, he is over-exposed, a common sight on TV, speaking about this or that. But for all his constant presence, he is oddly irrelevant. He isn’t a failure: Obama’s mid-40s approval ratings, while lower than Dwight Eisenhower’s ever were, are at least twice as high as those of Congress. But he’s not a success, either. Although Obama has passed a massive health-care bill and finance reform in the last year, both bills are unpopular, among many experts as well as the citizenry—most of whom (the experts as well as the citizens) barely understand what the bills contain.
The mysterious inability to explain what he's doing is killing him politically.
In retrospect, the roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America’s problem as one of process, not substance — we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.
This promise of transcendence may have been good general election politics, although even that is questionable: people forget how close the presidential race was at the beginning of September 2008, how worried Democrats were until Sarah Palin and Lehman Brothers pushed them over the hump. But the real question was whether Mr. Obama could change his tune when he ran into the partisan firestorm everyone who remembered the 1990s knew was coming. He could do uplift — but could he fight?
So far the answer has been no.
Speaking of fighting, EJ Dionne:
The lame-duck session of Congress that kicks off this week will test whether Democrats have spines made of Play-Doh and whether President Obama has decided to pretend that capitulation is conciliation.
After nearly two weeks of introspection, President Obama's top advisers have concluded that the "shellacking" Democrats took on Election Day was caused in large part by their own failure to live up to expectations set during the 2008 campaign, not merely the typical political cycles and poor messaging they pointed to at first.
Obama isn't a failure, but Axelrod is.
Karen Davis, Commonwealth Fund:
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion over the 10-year period from 2010 to 2019. The savings potential increases substantially in the following decade, cutting the deficit by an estimated $1.2 trillion for 2020 to 2029.
You know you are not serious about the deficit if you are not serious about health reform. See the Republican Party. The Davis piece is part of a deficit reduction discussion. But where's the discussion on jobs and economic stimulus?
Comments are closed on this story.