Here’s Kevin Drum in the Washington Monthly:
There are only two ways to significantly improve Social Security's finances: benefit cuts and tax increases. Bush is too gutless to propose either one, so he's desperately trying to sucker someone — anyone — into proposing them first. Nobody with half a brain should oblige him.Drum’s cynicism is matched only by the spinelessness of the Democrats. Suppose that a Democratic Congress was discussing the reform of a major Republican-led program such as No Child Left Behind or the Space Defense Initiative. It would be inconceivable that the GOP would be silent on the issue. The Democrats, however, know there’s a problem with Social Security; Drum admits as much. Yet they’re unable to formulate a position on what is arguably the cornerstone of Democratic ideology.
While it’s true that a specific piece of legislation has not been forwarded, the Bush administration has made no secret of some of the details of a reform plan. Here’s Allan Hubbard, the White House director of the National Economic Council:
Hubbard said raising the payroll tax remains "off the table'' as a way to address Social Security's long-term funding shortfall. Raising the $90,000 cap on yearly wages subject to Social Security taxes will be considered, Hubbard said.There you go: no payroll tax rate increases, but the cap on taxable income could rise. Also, an indexed benefit cut designed to protect the benefits promised to lower-income Americans. That’s a plan. Those are solutions. If nothing is done, automatic benefit cuts of 27% (for everyone) kick in when the trust fund is depleted in 2041.
Hubbard said Bush likes an idea put forth by Democratic economist Robert Pozen that supports private accounts as part of a plan that imposes benefit cuts on the wealthy while maintaining the current structure for the poor.
Tackling the issue now takes courage; ducking it is cowardice.