Social Security’s attackers claim that they’re concerned about the program’s financial future. But their math doesn’t add up, and their hostility isn’t really about dollars and cents. Instead, it’s about ideology and posturing. And underneath it all is ignorance of or indifference to the realities of life for many Americans.
About that math: Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax ("FICA" on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget. This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.
But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger.
More on Rep. Paul Ryan's Roadmap here, including previous columns from Prof. Krugman.
So, what will they do next?
It's a question that has left congressional Democrats, who have spent the past two years mocking Republicans for lacking an agenda, without a clear plan of their own to promote in the final 80 days of the 2010 campaign.
House Democratic leaders issued lawmakers three sets of talking points that included one package of new legislation, a collection of modest bills designed to revive the manufacturing sector. Senate Democrats have not exactly jumped to embrace those proposals, instead suggesting that between now and Election Day a more detailed agenda might be forthcoming.
Defending Social Security (it doesn't need saving) ought to be on that agenda.
Plenty of commentary here and here on the Obama mosque statement, including my own:
Republicans are looking for wedge issues with voters and always looking to exploit and politicize 9/11. As a native New Yorker who lost friends when the tower fell, I suggest they follow New York’s lead and work on developing more tolerance and try to live up to the ideals of the country they live in. Do they dislike states' rights (the mayor and the zoning board have spoken) and the Constitution so much (they already want to amend the 14th Amendment, now they want to change the 1st to suit their electoral purposes?) That doesn’t change the fact that Obama did the right thing. He makes me proud to be an American (and no more so when I read Walter Dellinger and Walter Russell Mead's comments in the Arena over the weekend.)
An inclusive rhetoric toward Islam is sometimes dismissed as mere political correctness. Having spent some time crafting such rhetoric for a president, I can attest that it is actually a matter of national interest. It is appropriate -- in my view, required -- for a president to draw a clear line between "us" and "them" in the global conflict with Muslim militants. I wish Obama would do it with more vigor. But it matters greatly where that line is drawn. The militants hope, above all else, to provoke conflict between the West and Islam -- to graft their totalitarian political manias onto a broader movement of Muslim solidarity. America hopes to draw a line that isolates the politically violent and those who tolerate political violence -- creating solidarity with Muslim opponents and victims of radicalism.
How precisely is our cause served by treating the construction of a non-radical mosque in Lower Manhattan as the functional equivalent of defiling a grave? It assumes a civilizational conflict instead of defusing it. Symbolism is indeed important in the war against terrorism. But a mosque that rejects radicalism is not a symbol of the enemy's victory; it is a prerequisite for our own.
Alan Abramowitz and Norman Ornstein:
Five myths about midterm elections
Good read, not surprisingly given who wrote it.