Presidential Candidates on Social Security

(See here) a piece that appears on MSNBC that was written by Larry Rohter and originally appeared in the New York Times.

It appears both of our Presidential candidates are willing to take on the third rail (Social Security reform) in their bids for office.

First, I would like to credit Barack Obama for getting this issue out into the open. It was Barack who first presented concrete proposals for Social Security reform all the way back to during his primary campaign for the Democratic nomination. I also wish to point out that only at Barack Obama's official campaign website can one easily find where he stands on the issue. When you visit the John McCain campaign website you can not find a direct link and I came away with the impression that he is reluctant to address the issue.

However, when John McCain is pressed on the issue and forced to address it, his position seems to be reasonable. Perhaps even more reasonable then is Barack Obama's. Please note that the piece I linked to points out that, at most, Barack's proposed tax increases on the wealthy only solves, at most, about 45% of the projected future revenue shortfall problem for Social Security. His proposals do not address the remainder. John McCain seems to be willing to accept some tax increases on the wealthy as long as it is only a portion of a final plan that includes addressing the remainder.

I'll give Barack Obama points for courage in opening up the debate while proposing tax increases (only on the wealthy) will be needed. I'll give John McCain credit for begrudgingly accepting that, yes, additional taxes on the wealthy might be required but for then insisting that other measures such as reduced benefits and/or later retirement must also be considered as part of a complete solution to the anticipated Social Security revenue shortfall.

One nagging fear I have is that John McCain seems to want to place his foot in the door of privatizing Social Security while endorsing the idea of private accounts. Seems to me there is no need for "private accounts" since we already have IRA's and 401K's. If someone feels a need to strengthen the existing IRA or 401K system, there is no need to endorse the "new idea" of private accounts unless it is aimed at keeping the door open for starting to destroy Social Security.

However, I do not think a Democratic majority in either branch of Congress (or both branches?) would accept even the beginning of privatization. It also seems that both candidates might be willing and capable of taking on this issue and actually provide the leadership necessary to come up with a long term solution to the problem of looming Social Security insolvency.

The last sitting President we had who was able to provide this type of leadership was Ronald Reagan. Now both candidates promise that they too are capable of touching the third rail, providing the leadership, forcing Congress to deal with the problem and walking away from the experience strengthened.

It is about time our government tackles this problem. It seems that perhaps both candidates are willing to shoulder the responsibility for providing the leadership, making the tough choices, and help our nation come to a resolution of the problem.

Glorious day, oh glorious day!


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