Social Security Reform Could Be Clinton's Legacy

December 30, 1998

One of the biggest problems that Republicans in Congress have had in dealing with President Bill Clinton for the last four years has been the lack of a significant Clinton agenda. It has meant that Republicans really haven't had any Clinton-backed legislation they could hold hostage and trade for support of their initiatives. This year, however, they may finally get their chance.

Looking back over six years, it is hard to see anything that Clinton really wanted from Congress after his first year. He did want his budget package and health care legislation in 1993. But the former really was a continuation of Republican fiscal policy, even though it passed without a single Republican vote, while the latter was defeated by a Democratically-controlled Congress.

One may argue that there really hasn't been that much that needed to be done legislatively the last six years. The economy has performed better than anyone expected, with millions of Americans growing rich in the booming stock market and inflation and unemployment both at undreamed of lows. But still there are things that need to be done -- taxes are far too high and need to be cut, our military has been hollowed-out and is in dire need of rebuilding, and the Social Security and Medicare systems are in desperate need of reform, to name a few.

Clearly, Social Security is the one big area where the possibility of a breakthrough exists. Since he has put himself into the box of saying it must be "saved" before anything else is done with the surplus, Clinton has a strong incentive to work with Republicans in this area and open the system to some degree of privatization. It would leave a legacy far better than the one he has now.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, December 30, 1998.

 

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