Monday, March 07, 2005

Social Security, A Program for All Times

Yesterday on Meet the Press Joe Klein supported changes in Social Security arguing that Social Security is suited to the industrial age but not well suited to the information age. I had a tough time making any sense out of this argument. While much has changed, some of the basic principles of investing and retirement saving remain the same. It still makes sense to have a constant source of income to fall back on first, and then to use extra money to invest in riskier ventures, such as the stock market, in the hopes of greater gains. The increased deficit brought about thanks to Bush's reckless economic policies further makes it unwise to consider options which further increase the deficit.

Trying to figure out what he meant by this, I ran a search on Klein's articles on Social Security. I found many mentions of the change from the industrial to information age, but each was written under the assumption that such a change was a clear reason for a change in Social Security. The closest I could come to understanding Klein's logic came from this recent column in Time:
The day after the President's speech, the party's congressional leaders gathered at the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial to carp. How 70 years ago! "Progressive" Dems—and I use the term advisedly, since liberals seem more interested in preserving the past than in discovering the future—are right to admire Roosevelt. But the Roosevelt they worship is a bronze sculpture, frozen in time. The real F.D.R. was a gutsy innovator. . .

(The article concludes with:) There is, then, a profitable discussion to be had between "ownership" Republicans and "third-way" Democrats about transforming the stagnant bureaucracies of the Industrial Age. Republicans refused to play during the Clinton presidency; the stunned and churlish Democrats are refusing now. It will be interesting to see whether Bush, at the height of his powers, actually tries to break the impasse.
The logic seems to be that an idea from 70 years ago is ready for change simply because things have changed over 70 years. That, in itself, makes no more sense than it would to say we should abandon breathing air as this is what we did 70 years ago.

Perhaps Klein makes this argument better in another column, but after reading several I am unable to find anything more meaningful. Unless Klein can come up with a better argument, moving from the industrial age to the information age is no reason to abandon a system that works.

Related Stories:

Last Week's Meet the Press: Morning News Good and Bad
Social Security and the Young, or Beware the Great Deceiver


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