NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 23, 2005

The best arguments for Social Security personal accounts are actually being made by opponents, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

In a recent issue, the New Republic's Jonathan Chait passionately argues that Democrats should resist any temptation to support President Bush's reforms because they would be extremely popular and successful. As a result, Chait warns liberals that as support for expanding personal accounts builds in Congress, it would decrease for traditional Social Security. Personal accounts therefore represent an existential threat to FDR-style big-government liberalism.

Furthermore, says Chait:

  • Once a group of voters has been given a property right by Washington, they will never allow it to be taken away; thus, the individual rights will be a ratchet, one that can be expanded but never contracted.
  • Supporters of personal accounts understand that any concessions they make now to help create accounts can be legislated away in the future, while personal accounts can not.
  • Waiting until the last minute to fix Social Security is not such a bad idea; in 1983, Congress waited until the very eve of insolvency to act, and a very responsible bipartisan solution emerged.

Essentially, Chait is arguing that liberals must oppose personal accounts because people would like them, be able to save better for retirement and think less of Big Government, all the while pretending that there is no problem with Social Security.

Indeed, says IBD, the real reason why liberals oppose personal accounts is because they are scared of what it could mean for liberalism, not what it could mean for Social Security.

Source: Editorial, "An Existential Threat," Investor's Business Daily, March 16, 2005; and Jonathan Chit, "Blocking Move: A Principled Case for Obstruction," New Republic, March 21, 2005.


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