Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Privatizing Social Security - Check

If George Bush has a "to-do" list, privatizing Social Security would be on it, right below "attack Iran". It seems that he snuck the privatization idea into the federal budget, without any fanfare or public debate about it:

If you read enough numbers, you never know what you'll find. Take President Bush and private Social Security accounts.

Last year, even though Bush talked endlessly about the supposed joys of private accounts, he never proposed a specific plan to Congress and never put privatization costs in the budget. But this year, with no fanfare whatsoever, Bush stuck a big Social Security privatization plan in the federal budget proposal, which he sent to Congress on Monday.

His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010 and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years.

If this comes as a surprise to you, have no fear. You're not alone. Bush didn't pitch private Social Security accounts in his State of the Union message last week.

First, he drew a mocking standing ovation from Democrats by saying that "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security," even though, as I said, he'd never submitted specific legislation.

Then he seemed to be kicking the Social Security problem a few years down the road in typical Washington fashion when he asked Congress "to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," adding that the commission would be bipartisan "and offer bipartisan solutions."

But anyone who thought that Bush would wait for bipartisanship to deal with Social Security was wrong. Instead, he stuck his own privatization proposals into his proposed budget.

This is how the government is run these days: through backroom deals and secrets and, as we have observed in the past, by giving the politicians a 1700 page proposal to read a few hours before they have to vote on it.